This issue of Law Practice Today marks my last “From the Chair” column. It has been a distinct honor to serve this past year as your chair, one of the greatest highlights of my professional career. We have been through so very much over the past seven years when I was first appointed to a committee within what was then the ABA Law Practice Management Section. It makes me think about how far we’ve come as an organization by building bridges—our theme this year—to the legal profession, our clients, our members, and to each other.
I fondly recall that first meeting in St. Maarten, Netherland Antilles, as a newly appointed committee member with Bob Young, our immediate past chair, and Bill Ferreira, our incoming chair-elect. Over the next seven years, we changed our name, became a Division of the ABA, rebranded, and most importantly, we opened doors to those interested in various aspects of law practice by reestablishing our substantive committees.
We began this past bar year at the Liberty Bridge in Greenville, SC, my hometown, where we re-introduced lawyer leadership as a component of our core area of management, with Lead Law, a comprehensive study of lawyer leadership within one’s practice, firm, the profession, and the community. ABA Lead Law was the vision of my good friend, Tom Grella, and he spent countless hours putting together one of the best programs I have ever witnessed. This intense look at leadership within the legal profession has had impact, with the Law Practice Division collaborating with Young Lawyers Division in a Professional Summit this new bar year, to offer leadership skills to the next generation of lawyers.
We established the Martha Fay Africa Golden Hammer Award to recognize lawyers that contributed to enhancing diversity in the profession and the Robert Wilkins Awards to honor those authors within our Division that have excelled.
We continued to grow our relationship with solo and small firm lawyers and reopened the door to mid-size firm lawyers and attorneys in Big Law. Yes, the table of ABA Law Practice Division is wide and it is long. Truly there is a bountiful harvest of all that the ABA Law Practice Division has to offer: a great magazine, webzine, blogs, books on every imaginable subject concerning law practice, great meetings and CLE, and wonderful networking opportunities to network with the outstanding leaders in law practice. All of this bounty set on the Division table for all to enjoy. And that banquet is not set by one or two, but by all of you in the leadership and the countless other actives that go into the LP kitchen each and every day to prepare this tremendous meal.
We built bridges over troubled seas with our Attorney Wellness Committee, exploring taboo topics such as attorney mental health, alcoholism, and substance abuse, and we took wellness to heart with morning yoga at our meetings with Mary Vandenack. Thank you, Rodney Dowell, and your exceptional committee for your good work.
We built bridges to ABA entities such as COLAP and Standing Committee on Legal Services and the Commission on Disability Rights. Not only did we build bridges to other ABA entities, we built them to the ABA itself. The ABA Law Practice Division will have more members serving in ABA Presidential appointments this coming year than we have had in recent memory—chairs, members of standing and special committees, and even a Delegate to the United Nations.
We advanced new means of law practice through our Legal Project Management Committee and our Productivity and Knowledge Strategy Committee under the leadership of David Rueff and Jack Bostelman. We also delved further with our Social Media, Legal Blogs, and Websites Committee under the leadership of Jennifer Ellis—building bridges in SEO.
We continued to publish one of the greatest assets of the Division, Law Practice magazine, and I thank John Bowers and his team.
We built our subscription base for Law Practice Today, our webzine, which today has one of the largest readerships of any publication dedicated to law practice amongst lawyers, legal administrators, and law students.
Allison Shields, our Publications Board chair, went beyond all limits to build a new bridge to Lachina Publishing that will serve the Division for many years into the future. Thank you and your team for pressing forward in difficult times to garner rich rewards.
Yes, there were challenges along our way, but we held our own, enhancing our Division by concentrating on the next generation of lawyers, our law students and young lawyers.
We positioned ourselves to travel a bridge to the practice in a new millennium with our Law Practice Futures Initiative under the leadership of Chad Burton.
We continued to grow ABA Women Rainmakers with Heidi Barcus as our chair—delivering local programming to scores of women lawyers wanting the unique insight into the practice that only ABA Women Rainmakers can offer.
Our Diversity & Inclusion Committee has excelled beyond expectations, building bridges with the various diversity entities within the American Bar Association and enhancing diversity within the Division. One particular bridge that has given us great satisfaction has been the bridge to lawyers with special needs. The Division made a concerted effort to appoint more lawyers with disabilities to Division entities than have ever been appointed, and we offered CART services to our members that are hearing impaired so that they too could enjoy and learn from the Division’s CLE. We began to explore how we can best urge law practice vendors to be more conscious of the needs of lawyers with disabilities and we began to work with Microsoft on a career fair for lawyers with disabilities. And finally, the ABA Commission on Disability Rights honored the Law Practice Division with its 2016 Goal III Award. Bob Furnier and his Committee have done a great job to make the Law Practice Division one of the most inclusive entities within the ABA.
We established our Division Committee on Ethics & Professionalism under the leadership of Fred Ury and were able to give voice to the concerns of the profession and particularly managing attorneys with respect to amendments offered to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
We further enhanced our bridge to new lawyers by doubling the number of Law Practice Fellows this year and working with each of them to design a project that would benefit the Division and its members many years into the future. Antonia Roybal Mack, the Fellows chair, should be commended for her exceptional service.
Our ABA Legal Technology Resource Center did a superb job in orchestrating technology roundtables, compiling its annual Legal Technology Survey Report and, of course, maintaining its popular blog, Law Technology Today.
We celebrated the 30th anniversary of ABA TECHSHOW this year. Steve Best and the 2016 ABA TECHSHOW Board produced an excellent show this year which received the ABA Section Officers Conference Meritorious Achievement Award.
We built bridges to our partners in the ABA Law Practice and Technology Group under the able leadership of our former director, Pam McDevitt. In addition to the liaisons the Division traditionally receives from the Law Student and Young Lawyers Divisions, the Division sent its own liaisons to each of these sister entities as well as the Senior Lawyers Division. In addition, we worked with the ABA Career Center and have plans for mutual programs with the Center this next year who will have the benefit and counsel of our immediate past Chair, Bob Young, on their Board.
The ABA Law Practice Division has been a leader in the ABA for many years, and this past year has not been an exception. Much of that leadership comes from those of you who serve on committees, as speakers, as authors, as officers, and as delegates. Thank you to our hundreds of active members of our delivery boards and substantive committees. Your leadership, dedication, and enthusiasm is what has created value for our Division members through our publications, our books, our high quality CLE, and substantive committees. Thank you to all of the editors who have produced another year of excellent publications: Law Practice, Law Practice Today, Law Technology Today, and our books.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to everyone who has made the Division so successful this year. I am honored to have been able to serve as chair of the American Bar Association Law Practice Division this past year. I thank each of you and the other Division actives who have participated in the activities of the Division this year. It is you, our members, who make this Division what it is–a great organization serving a great profession.
Thank you to the chairs and members of each of our boards, committees, and interest groups. Your leadership throughout the year has led to great strides in membership initiatives and CLE content, made our Division a leader in diversity efforts in the ABA, and helped lead the ABA’s efforts to confront the many challenges to our profession.
Thank you the members of the Division Council. Your wisdom and engagement have kept the Division on the right course and provided us with the policies and guidance to continue to be one of the best and most valued entities within the ABA.
Thank you to the officers: Bob Young, our immediate past chair, John Mitchell, our chair-elect, Bill Ferreira, our vice-chair, Katy Goshtasbi, our secretary, and Walt Karnstein, our finance director. You have all served with distinction and your support of all that I have tried to do this year has meant a lot to me. And thanks to the Division’s delegates to the House of Delegates, Tom Grella and Mark Robertson. You have kept the Division at the forefront of the business of the House, collaborating and leading to advance the goals of the Division, the ABA and the profession.
Of course, nothing could be done without the fabulous Division staff. Thanks to Cindy Galvan, our associate director, and Marisol Massini without whom the Division would not have had such successful meetings throughout the year. Thanks to Josh Eaton, our fabulous membership and marketing coordinator; to Rose Frommelt who has guided our efforts with the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center and Law Technology Today; to Cal Bates, our web editor who has also helped in so many ways including keeping our website up to date, and Eunice Hubbard, who has helped guide us on financial affairs.
I also must extend special appreciation to Lauren DeGroot, our production associate. Lauren facilitates so many of our publications and kept me to deadlines this year. She also served as a sounding board for many ideas that were developed over the course of the year, particularly concerning diversity and inclusion.
In particular, I want to thank our executive director, Joshua Poje. Josh is clearly the best director of the best staff of any section, division or forum within the American Bar Association. He has served as an invaluable partner in our work this past year and much of our success is the result of his masterful ability to implement strategic planning and thought to get the most out of our staff and our volunteers. I will miss our almost daily calls.
Of course, I must thank my firm, BoltNagi, which has enthusiastically supported me throughout my time in the leadership of the Division and throughout these past years as an officer. In addition, I would not have been able to accomplish half of what we have done this year without the work of my assistant, Cherri Carty. My wife, Jeni, has been in my corner for over three decades, and her support and her enthusiastic participation in the Division have been a blessing.
Finally, I thank you, our Division members, for your continued support of the Law Practice Division, the profession, and the ABA.
As I cross the next bridge to become your immediate past chair, I do so with many wonderful memories and the promise of many tomorrows with the ABA Law Practice Division. Each of you have such a special place within my heart and I remain firmly convinced that the ABA Law Practice Division has and continues to make a difference in the legal profession, by building bridges and facilitating the good work of its tireless and true members. As much as we have done this past year, there is much more work to be done moving forward—but as I have said time and again this year—together we can!
About the Author
Tom Bolt is the founder and managing attorney of BoltNagi PC in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and is the chair of the ABA Law Practice Division.