Your ABA

Service Call

  • Print.

If you’re a lawyer who has reached that “certain age,” chances are you’ve at least thought about retiring. But if you’re planning to spend all your time traveling, golfing or walking on the beach, new ABA President Karen J. Mathis would like you to think again.

Mathis, who has made service the central theme of her presidential term, is targeting the large population of lawyers who are approaching their retirement years as a potentially vast force for good.

Describing her Second Season of Service initiative, Mathis reckons that the U.S. lawyer population includes some 400,000 baby boomers, many of whom may retire over the next 10 to 15 years.

In concept, her plan is simple: If each one of those baby boom lawyers devotes at least 50 hours to volunteer community service after he or she retires, the impact could be tremendous.

Mathis of Denver believes that is a reachable goal, because of both the nature of the legal profession and the qualities of her generation.

“That is what I love about lawyers,” she says. “We serve because it is our nature to serve. Our nation leads the world in voluntarism, and lawyers lead the nation in selfless service.”

Moreover, says Mathis, a total life of retirement leisure is unlikely to suit many members of the baby boom generation.

“I don’t think this generation is going to sit at home as our grandparents did,” she says. “We want to stay connected to the community.”

And boomers should pick up where their parents’ generation has left off, Mathis adds. “We are the fortunate heirs of the ‘greatest generation,’ ” which grew up during the Great Depression and won World War II, she says. “Now, it’s our turn to become the ‘giving generation.’ ”

Helping Troubled Children

Mathis described her initiatives during a news conference at the ABA Annual Meeting in Honolulu that marked the start of her one-year term as ABA president. Her term will run through the close of the 2007 annual meeting in August.

Mathis said she envisions the Second Season of Service as a Web-based program that will pair retiring lawyers with meaningful volunteer projects.

A second key initiative goes to the other end of the age spectrum. Mathis said the Youth at Risk initiative will be a national service project aimed at helping troubled children stay out or get out of the juvenile or criminal justice system.

The plan calls for the ABA to serve as a clearinghouse for information and resources aimed at helping those youths, including runaways and truant students, children who “age out” of foster care because they’ve turned 18, and girls who become members of violent street gangs.

Mathis, a self-described “military brat,” says the youth initiative also should encompass children in the military community who face growing pressures brought on by the overseas deployment of one or both parents. “We need to make sure the children of these families don’t become unintended casualties” of the war on terrorism, she said. “It’s been a passion of mine my entire life,” Mathis says of her concern for at-risk children. “I could have become one myself.”

Mathis is a partner in the Denver office of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, a law firm headquartered in Morristown, N.J. She is the third woman to serve as ABA president. (The others are Roberta Cooper Ramo of Albuquerque, N.M., and Martha W. Barnett of Tallahassee, Fla. Mathis and Barnett have also served as chair of the House of Delegates, the ABA’s second-highest elected office.)

Addressing the House in Honolulu for the first time as president, Mathis urged lawyers to make a lifelong commitment to public service.

“Dedicate your life to public service,” she said, “then someday you can say your work is done.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.