President's Message

Finding the Better Way: Focus for the year will highlight ABA members, veterans, voting, education

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Linda Klein. Photograph courtesy of the Office of the President.

“There’s a way to do it better—find it.”

That motto, which hung on the wall of Thomas A. Edison’s laboratory to inspire his team, captures what we all want for the American Bar Association. We have many challenges facing the legal profession, our institutions and the rule of law. In the ABA we can work together to develop the best solutions to them.

Working together is how I have approached my legal career as well as my work in the ABA. The difference and impact that the ABA makes has become clear from when I joined the ABA in law school at Washington & Lee University, through my time as a summer clerk, a small-firm lawyer, medium-sized-firm lawyer and now a lawyer at Baker Donelson.

My goal in becoming a lawyer was to make a difference and help increase access to justice. As president of the State Bar of Georgia, we helped create the state’s first legislative appropriation for legal services to aid victims of domestic violence. But there was so much more to do. I knew we could do better.

As leader of the ABA, I believe that bar associations have a duty to listen to lawyers and deliver what they need to better serve their clients. Too many lawyers have told me that the burdens of running a law practice prevent them from practicing law. We can do better for them.

The ABA will produce tools and resources for lawyers so they can get away from administration and back to helping clients. Serving our members is Goal I of the ABA, and this year we will make helping our members a primary initiative.

Part of Edison’s genius involved assembling teams of scientists to work collaboratively. This is what the ABA does best: Bringing together the best legal minds to create solutions. My predecessor, Paulette Brown, did it and I will do it too.

Our newly formed Veterans Legal Services Initiative will be led by a distinguished 20-member commission that will develop a holistic, multipronged effort to ensure veterans have access to justice and receive the legal support they deserve. Veterans suffer from problems related to service that many people overlook, including evictions, child-custody disputes, wrongful denial of benefits and credit problems. Many issues can be solved with a lawyer’s assistance. We need your help.

To help veterans access legal assistance, join us in the veterans-specific pro bono activities in conjunction with our annual National Celebration of Pro Bono in October, which we’re extending this year to include Veterans Day. And also new this year, we’ll be mobilizing state and local bar associations and other providers to sponsor veterans’ pro bono events in May to provide a meaningful way to serve veterans around Memorial Day. Please participate and find an event near you. Learn more at

In the coming year, we’ll also mobilize the bar on other important civic initiatives. Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy and the rule of law, and as such, lawyers have a duty to encourage it. The significance of an informed and engaged citizenry is too important to disregard. We can do better.

But much like Edison, we need a team. We are asking not only that you vote, but to ensure your staff is given time to do so too. We also hope you will encourage your clients and community to be involved. We developed a card titled “Will Your Voice Be Heard on Election Day?” which you can customize and distribute. It can be found at The ABA’s elections website at offers valuable information on ID requirements and other voting laws, registration information and material on where to volunteer.

This year, with your help, the ABA will also promote the right to a high-quality education for every child. It’s a full plate and the year will go quickly, so I welcome everyone’s help and guidance. Together, we will do better!

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Finding the Better Way: Focus for the year will highlight ABA members, veterans, voting and childhood education.”

Follow President Klein on Twitter @LindaKleinLaw or email [email protected].

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