by Lori W. Nelson
As I begin the year as Bar President I want to first look back at everything Rod Snow was able to accomplish during his year. Most notable is the pro bono project designed by Rod to ensure there is pro bono coverage in each judicial district. Under the leadership of the pro bono committee headed by Rob Rice, James Backman, and Sue Crisman, the new Pro Bono Commission, chaired by Judge Michele Christiansen and Judge Royal Hansen, is prepared to get services to those in our society most in need.
Rod also moved forward the modest means project to match underemployed lawyers with low income individuals who do not qualify for a pro bono attorney. This project, spearheaded by Rob Jeffs, is also designed to meet the needs of the under-served population.
Additional projects that were launched during Rod’s year include the civics education in high schools project and Books from Barristers, a project that is the brain-child of Elaina Maragakis.
Regarding civics education, the goal is to get a lawyer or judge into the high schools at least once a year to teach separation of powers, the rule of law, and the importance of law to society. This year, the civics education committee has a goal to get a lawyer or judge into high school classrooms on Monday, September 17, Constitution Day. We are seeking any help from our members who have connections with teachers or school administrators to accomplish this goal.
Rod’s accomplishments are truly inspired and far-reaching. The Bar and public owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rod for his wisdom and persistence in seeing the needs and finding solutions.
Looking forward, I want first to congratulate Curtis Jensen from St. George on his election as President-Elect. He is going to be a tremendous asset to the Bar.
One of my goals this year is to work on changing the public perception of lawyers and the law. It is not just the public that has a negative perception of lawyers. Justice Stephen Breyer, in a speech given to the National Legal Center for the Public Interest on September 12, 2000, stated that “lawyers themselves increasingly describe their profession in negative terms.” I believe part of the problem is that we (lawyers and public) do not have adequate insight into the good lawyers do every day.
As Justice Breyer noted, “American lawyers devote millions of unpaid hours each year to mediating disputes, representing prisoners, advising less affluent clients on family matters, and taking part in other forms of pro bono work.” But that is only part of the story. Lawyers daily give countless and unacknowledged hours of service to the public by sitting on boards, coaching sports teams, participating in home-owners associations, teaching Sunday school, serving in the legislature, and working for charities.
One such individual is my law partner George Pratt. More or less, George annually travels at his own expense to Haiti to donate service for Healing Hands for Haiti. George does not ask for, seek or desire recognition for his service. I believe that it is important, however, that recognition for his service, and the service given by so many members of the Bar, be acknowledged publically.
I hope that making this information public will do much to assist in changing the public perception of lawyers as well as letting us know more about the incredible individuals we work with every day.
Other goals of mine are to finalize the modest means roll-out, complete the lawyer referral service program improvements, and finalize the lawyer advertising rule changes. Lawyer advertising is another area that contributes to the negative image of lawyers. Improving the quality of lawyer advertising will also move us down the road of improving the image of lawyers in the public.
In addition, I want to review member benefits. Not only do members of the public and indeed many attorneys view lawyers negatively, lawyers view the Bar negatively. The Bar presently provides services to the members that are unknown or inefficient. The Bar Commission is focused on increasing the benefits the Bar can provide to its members. The members of the Bar contribute so much to society, the Bar can do more to not only acknowledge those contributions, but provide benefits that bring real value to our members.
One project we anticipate rolling out in the next six months is the new website. This website will give our members better access to their personal information, legal content members can use in their work and a better lawyer referral service. The Bar is more than admissions and discipline. Our members deserve to have greater access and information into what the Bar can and does provide, as well as be a resource center for useful work-related information. This website will not only be more useful for Bar members, it will also be more accessible to the public. I believe the improved website will aid in the image of lawyers in the public.
Last, I believe one of the most important things the Bar can do is deliver high quality CLE. In that regard, we will be looking to our members for suggestions on topics, speakers, and participating on the convention committees. If you have ideas for CLE please send them to CLEideas@utahbar.org.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as your president for the coming year. It is humbling and an honor to serve in this capacity. It is also daunting as so many of the lawyers I will be serving are of the highest caliber, not only in terms of their legal acumen, but in the way they conduct their lives. These lawyers are the ones we should all emulate professionally and personally.
The Fall Forum is going to be very interesting. One topic I believe will be of great interest is Ethics 20/20. The discussion will center on what the ABA is proposing for changes to the ethics rules and how those changes could impact our daily practice. The Ethics 20/20 presentation is scheduled for Thursday night, November 8.
SPRING CONVENTION – ST. GEORGE
The Spring Convention is in the planning stages and promises to provide current, relevant CLE useful to us all.
SUMMER CONVENTION – SNOWMASS/ASPEN
The summer convention for summer 2013 will be held in Snowmass, Colorado. In October 2010, while excavating for the expansion of the Ziegler Reservoir, a juvenile Columbian mammoth was discovered. The dig that followed uncovered more mammoths, a Jefferson ground sloth (think Manny and Sid from Ice Age, the movie), mastodons, gigantic ice age bison, a small deer, and an ancient camel. A website describing the find is www.snowmassiceage.com. One activity the Bar Commission is considering for the summer meeting is an activity for children at the Ice Age Discovery Center.
You’ll be hearing more about this venue as the year progresses, and I think you’ll be excited as you learn about all the activities available for every family member and the affordable lodging costs. A few links to what is available are below.
The location is family friendly, beautiful, has great golfing and the food is delicious.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your president. We are here to serve you.