New ABA president to address veterans' legal needs, voting, and children's education

Linda Klein, senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson, became president of the American Bar Association Tuesday at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting in San Francisco. She will serve a one-year term ending in August 2017.

“It is an honor and privilege to lead this great association. I have dedicated my career to the law and the legal profession. As president of the ABA, I will continue the association’s work to advance justice throughout our country,” Klein said.

Klein’s term will focus on improving access to justice and providing legal assistance to the nation’s veterans. She will also emphasize two civic initiatives: one that mobilizes ABA resources to promote voting in the upcoming elections and another that will support the rights of all children to a quality education.

The new ABA Commission on Veterans’ Legal Services will provide a comprehensive online resource to address legal needs specific to veterans and their families, highlighting relevant local resources for assistance. The commission will also work with law schools and bar associations to improve the availability of affordable legal services through the use of new and under-employed lawyers and with Veterans Administration medical facilities to promote legal check-ups for veterans, their families and caregivers.

“We have learned that many veterans do not know the problem they have is a legal one,” said Klein. “These are men and women who put their life on the line for our county, in defense of our liberty. When our justice system fails these people, we must answer their call and fight on their behalf.”

Klein’s voting initiative will encourage participation in the upcoming elections this fall. Klein will launch the ABA Votes 2016 website,, which will provide state-by-state information on voter laws, as well as resources that encourage lawyers to spread the word on the importance of voting and to work as poll workers in their local communities.

“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy and lawyers protect our democracy,” Klein said, emphasizing the importance of the new initiative.

A new education commission will study and report on practical actions to address the growing concerns from families struggling with a substandard educational system. Problems of children in rural and inner city communities as well as children with disabilities will be among the issues studied.

“This concern is a fundamental one for our nation because informed citizens are the guardians of liberty and the rule of law,” Klein explained. “Every American needs and deserves a quality education.”

Among other priorities, Klein plans to broaden the association’s member benefits and services, as well as the technology used to access them. “Our vision is to make the law and our profession more inclusive, more effective and more inspiring,” she said.

Before being chosen as president-elect in 2015, Klein served in the ABA’s second highest office, chair of the House of Delegates, from 2010-12. She has chaired several ABA groups including the Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section; the Committee on Rules and Calendar of the House of Delegates; the Coalition for Justice; and ABA Day in Washington.

Klein practices business dispute resolution, primarily in construction and civil litigation. She also works as an advisor to business owners and institutions of higher education.

In 1997, Klein was elected the first woman president of the State Bar of Georgia. In this position, she created Georgia’s first legislative appropriation for legal services to aid victims of domestic violence. In 2001, Klein became one of the first women to lead a major Georgia law firm, serving as managing partner of Gambrell & Stolz.

From the State Bar of Georgia, Klein was awarded the Randolph Thrower Award for Lifetime Achievement in Diversity in 2009 and the Distinguished Service Award in 2015, its highest honor. Klein was also awarded the ABA’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award in 2004 and was added to the YWCA’s Academy of Women Achievers in 2009.

Klein has been listed in “The Best Lawyers in America,” “Who’s Who in America” and “Chambers USA.”  She is regularly named to the “Super Lawyers” top 100 lawyers in Georgia as well as the “Super Lawyers” top 50 female lawyers in Georgia.

Klein earned her law degree at Washington & Lee Law School in Virginia and her B.A. at Union College in New York.