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New president-elect touts ABA's value to 'Main Street lawyers'

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The ABA’s policy and lobbying arms can get a lot of attention, especially after public statements on contentious issues. But ABA president-elect candidate Robert Carlson says the ABA also offers unmatched value to “Main Street lawyers”: practical help with their everyday work, opportunities to keep abreast of top legal news and advocacy for causes important to the profession.

“I sought the nomination for president-elect because I believe in what the association does,” says Carlson, who chaired the ABA House of Delegates from 2012 to 2014. “The ABA has a great story to tell—a long and proven track record of making a difference for practicing lawyers.”

Carlson was formally nominated as president-elect at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami in February.  He will stand for election at the August annual meeting in New York City, where he is expected to face no opposition. If elected, he would become president in August 2018.

Carlson knows a bit about Main Street lawyering: He’s practiced law in his hometown of Butte, Montana, for 35 years, all with the same eight-lawyer firm, Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson. His roots in Montana include serving as president of the State Bar of Montana from 1993 to 1994.

Carlson has also been active in the ABA for years. In addition to chairing the House, he’s been in the House since 1999; chaired its Drafting Committee from 2010 to 2012; served on the Rules and Calendar Committee from 2004 to 2006; served on the Select Committee of the House from 2006 to 2008; and served on the Board of Governors from 2001 to 2004.

Carlson’s presidency would mark a break from recent trends toward female presidents—he would succeed three women in a row—and presidents who come from large law firms.

At the Nominating Committee’s meeting shortly before retiring to vote, members heard from the unopposed candidates for president-elect nominee and for chair of the House of Delegates. Judy Perry Martinez of New Orleans was selected to be the president-elect nominee who would be in line to become ABA president in August 2019.

Asked about the ABA’s role in the national dialogue when issues arise concerning the rule of law, Martinez praised ABA President Linda A. Klein’s approach in choosing the right time and the right tone to respond as the association’s spokeswoman.

“Our role has always been, and must be now, to speak the truth, to speak about the rule of law,” Martinez said in a packed conference room at the Hyatt Regency Miami, adding that she and Klein had spoken about this recently and agreed on the need to be thoughtful and strategic, rather than “responding to every tweet, to every article.”

William Bay of St. Louis was selected as the nominee for chair of the House of Delegates from 2018 to 2020. Asked whether the House should meet once a year rather than twice, he noted that attendance has trended up for midyear meetings and down some for annuals, but said he’s reluctant to cut back to once a year.

There are “issues that come up that we’re going to need to deal with more quickly than once a year,” Bay said, though he added that it’s the right time for input on the matter.

The other attorneys selected by the Nominating Committee are 12 candidates for the Board of Governors, all of whom are expected to be unopposed in August. They are:

  • Fritz Langrock of Vermont (District 1)
  • W. Anthony Jenkins of Michigan (District 2)
  • Allen C. Goolsby of Virginia (District 4)
  • Lee DeHihns III of Georgia (District 6)
  • Randall D. Noel of Tennessee (District 12)
  • David L. Brown of Iowa (District 10)
  • Lynne B. Barr of Massachusetts (Section of Business Law member-at-large)
  • Michael H. Byowitz of New York (Section of International Law member-at-large)
  • C. Edward Rawl Jr. of South Carolina (Young Lawyers Division member-at-large)
  • Tom Bolt of the Virgin Islands (Law Practice Division member-at-large)
  • Judge Eileen A. Kato of Washington (Goal III woman member-at-large)
  • Myles V. Lynk of Arizona (Goal III minority member-at-large).
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