“Lawyers have always had a special role to play in our society – in the legislature, in community leadership and in resolving disputes,” said Silkenat. “There has never been a more important time, or a better opportunity, for the ABA to contribute to that process, on the toughest issues that we face as a country and as a profession: from access to justice, to legal education, to State Court funding, to gun violence issues, to diversity.”
In his acceptance speech, Silkenat noted that, “Among the many important roles played by the ABA, and by other bar associations in the United States, is that they help us be better lawyers and judges and educators and citizens: better able to help our clients and better able to serve the public and our justice system.”
In the coming year, Silkenat, who was born and grew up in Kansas, will focus on several issues of concern to the legal profession, including: guaranteeing adequate funding for State Courts; increasing ABA membership and enhancing member services; improving legal education; and expanding employment opportunities for lawyers, particularly young lawyers.
Key among a series of initiatives he has identified for his term, Silkenat hopes to promote diversity in the legal profession, work more closely with corporate counsel, examine election law reform issues, and improve bar services for solo and small firm practitioners. He will also emphasize the ABA’s role as the national and global voice of the legal profession.
Silkenat has a long and distinguished record of service in the ABA. Most recently, he was a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, and the ABA Solo and Small Firm Leadership Coalition. He served as Chair of the ABA Section of International Law (receiving its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007), Chair of the ABA Section Officers Conference, and Chair of the ABA Standing Committees on Membership and Constitution and Bylaws.
Prior to his election as ABA President-Elect, Silkenat served as a member of the ABA House of Delegates since 1990 and, in his role as ABA State Delegate from New York, was Chair of the New York delegation to the ABA House of Delegates from 2000 to 2009. He is a former member of the ABA Board of Governors and its Executive Committee and is a former national Chair of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation.
In other activities, Silkenat is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute, and has served as Chair of the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights (now Human Rights First), Chair of the Commission on the World Justice Project and Chair of the Council of New York Law Associates (now the Lawyers Alliance for New York). He was a Fellow in the U.S. State Department Scholar/Diplomat Program and a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the recipient of the Diversity Champion Award of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
A frequent author and lecturer, Silkenat is the editor or co-editor of 14 books and more than 100 articles on legal and justice system issues. His books include The Law of International Insolvencies and Debt Restructurings, The Imperial Presidency and the Consequences of 9/11: Lawyers React to the Global War on Terrorism and The ABA Guide to International Business Negotiations.
In his legal practice at Sullivan & Worcester in New York City, Silkenat helps coordinate the firm’s international business practice and concentrates on the areas of project and infrastructure finance, banking, securities law, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate law. He is a former Legal Counsel at the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C.
Silkenat received his Bachelor of Arts from Drury College, where he received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Career Achievement in 2000 and where he also received the Batson Prize in History and the Omicron Delta Kappa Award (the Outstanding Student Leadership Prize). He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago School of Law, where he was an Editor of the University of Chicago Law Review, and his Master of Laws in International Law from New York University School of Law.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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