President's Message

Pause and Reflect: ABA's Good Works Are Precious Gifts That Help Fulfill Our Core Missions

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Photo of Laurel Bellows by Marc Hauser.

Defending the lawyer-client relationship; abolishing barriers and biases; giving voice to clients who cannot speak for themselves—in many ways, the American Bar Association delivers gifts like these to the legal profession every day.

These gifts do not come tied with a bow. Yet they are critical for ABA members who are passionate about representing our profession and protecting the principles that first attracted us to the law.

The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect on how the ABA helps shape the vision of our vocation and improve our legal system. Here are just a few examples of the ways the ABA, as the national representative of the legal profession, fulfills our mission to defend liberty and deliver justice to all.

Fighting for vital legal principles. The ABA, in partnership with local and state bar associations, defends our profession from attacks on attorney-client privilege, the confidential lawyer-client relationship and the traditional state court regulation of lawyers. Without the ABA’s strong advocacy, new federal legislation and rules would have imposed costly, burdensome regulations on the legal profession; usurped authority of the courts; and chipped away at our ability as lawyers to represent our clients effectively and provide them with confidential guidance.

Shining a light on legal barriers. Because of state and federal rules, people with conviction records struggle to integrate back into society. These regulations also make it more difficult for lawyers who represent them. A new ABA website—developed by the association’s Criminal Justice Section—helps practicing lawyers, lawmakers and policy advocates recognize the scope and impact of post-conviction legal guidelines and disqualifications, and will help affected individuals understand their rights and responsibilities. The website will be continuously updated until it contains information for all 50 states.

Addressing gender inequity. The ABA’s Gender Equity Task Force is addressing inequities between the sexes in our profession. Pay and positions are far from equal among male and female lawyers. For example, the percentage of female equity partners in law firms has remained static at 15 percent for at least the last six years. The ABA is tackling this crisis through a multipronged approach that includes developing model compensation policies based on the leading pay and benefits practices in law and business to provide firms with the means of attracting and retaining women.

Exposing flaws in our death penalty system. The ABA’s Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project is the singular source for comprehensive legal and technical information on capital punishment in the states that conduct the majority of all executions in the United States. Through its assessments, the ABA evaluates states on factors ranging from how they collect, test and preserve DNA evidence to how they conduct post-conviction proceedings. The goal is to detect problem areas and help advocates, litigators and decision-makers make informed choices about each state’s highly publicized but underdocumented system for capital punishment.

Exploring new frontiers. The ABA’s Section of Science and Technology Law is taking the legal world into uncharted territory—from outer space to the mobile revolution. The Space Law Committee is helping lawyers navigate a new era in America’s space industry. As the world transitions to the mobile realm—health, payments, e-commerce—the ABA is exploring the opportunities and risks, and providing analysis of the ways these complex technological developments impact our system of law.

Throughout the year, you have done so much for the vulnerable in our communities, and the ABA is proud to assist in that effort. Together, we are first responders when liberty and justice are imperiled.

This season of giving is special for many of us. Please accept my thanks for the many ways that you, as an ABA member, have helped each of us become standard-bearers of our profession. The work we do, and the just future we shape, are precious gifts.

I feel honored to lead such a venerable organization, and I hope you have a joyful, peaceful holiday season.

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