ABA president points to impact at the Midyear Meeting

“If you’ve seen the ABA’s recent Impact Report that catalogues our multitude of public service programs, you know that our impact is stronger than ever,” American Bar Association President Deborah Enix-Ross told the House of Delegates February 6 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.

Saying that it can be difficult to figure out how to “come together to solve problems,” the lawyer with Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City stressed, “at the ABA, we are doing so in numerous ways.”

One way is through her signature project, the Cornerstones of Democracy, which she said is “resonating.”

“We must elevate the essentials of our profession — civics, civility and collaboration, the 3 Cs — for all to see and hear,” Enix-Ross said.

Calling attention to the ABA’s Poll Worker, Esq. initiative and recounting her experience serving as a poll worker in New Jersey on Election Day, she said the process “reaffirmed for me the passion of Americans of all backgrounds to select their government representatives.”

Enix-Ross also spoke to the impact of the ABA’s Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, known as ProBAR, on the Texas-Mexico border; ABA Free Legal Answers; and the work of the Disaster Legal Services program.

Referring to recent events in Memphis, Tennessee, Enix-Ross said, “we are reminded of too many incidents of brutality by law enforcement who are sworn to serve and protect, primarily against people of color.”

She cited the promise of the ABA’s Legal Education Police Practices Consortium, which “is helping police departments develop policies that are free of bias, uphold the rule of law and protect the safety and security of all.”

  The ABA can be proud that its “work has a tremendous impact on the legal profession, our legal and justice systems, our clients and the world,” she said.

  President-elect nominee William R. Bay also addressed the HOD and urged the ABA to embrace change.

As co-chair of Practice Forward, he examined the practice of law during and after the pandemic, and said the “transformation of the practice of law has been eye-opening.”

In addition to being the voice of the profession, the ABA must also be the “home” of the profession, where every lawyer feels welcome, valued and “can find a place to serve,” said Bay, a partner at Thompson Coburn in St. Louis.

Bay, who is on course to become president of the association in August 2024, suggested the ABA “simplify and transform to meet the needs of new generations of lawyers, who view the profession and our association differently than we do.”

He urged the ABA to broaden leadership and shorten the track for meaningful involvement.

“Change will not compromise who we are,” Bay said, “but it’s essential.”