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New ABA President Pledges to Address Human Trafficking, Gender Equity, Cyberterrorism, Among Issues

New ABA President Pledges to Address Human Trafficking, Gender Equity, Cyberterrorism, Among Issues

By Daniel Buchanan

Former American Bar Association House of Delegates chair and Chicago Bar Association past-president, Laurel Bellows, took office today as ABA president during the association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. She will serve the ABA in this capacity until the close of the association’s Annual Meeting in August 2013.

“The ABA is universally recognized as the leading voice of the legal profession, and the leading proponent and defender of the rule of law,” Bellows said yesterday while addressing the ABA House of Delegates. “I am grateful for your trust and the opportunity to serve the profession and the organized bar in the coming year.”

Watch video of ABA President Bellows speaking on key legal issues:

As president, Bellows will continue to support the vision and mission of ABA leadership and will advance the goals and messages of the organization.

“My vision honors the ABA’s obligations to American lawyers and to our clients, who depend on us to do our utmost to represent them with skill and integrity,” she explained. “I pledge to you that we will fulfill our obligations to the American system of justice that has, from our origins as a nation, depended on lawyers to defend Americans’ liberties.”

During her presidency, Bellows will focus on issues that she said will make the ABA stronger and more relevant to lawyers, the nation and the global community: abolishment of human trafficking, promotion of gender equity and national cybersecurity.

Approximately 100,000 U.S. citizens are victims of human trafficking in this country, and thousands more men, women and children are illegally trafficked into the United States each year. To deal with this issue, Bellows has established a Task Force on Human Trafficking in the United States, which will combat the sex and labor trafficking of adults and children in this nation.

“The ABA will harness its considerable expertise to work to end the shameful horror of human trafficking in the United States,” Bellows stated. “We will mobilize the legal profession to pursue justice for victims of the modern-day slave trade and to launch a national public awareness campaign about this pervasive problem.”

Bellows has also created the Task Force on National Cybersecurity, as part of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security, to help identify and address the cybersecurity and cyber-espionage challenges posed by criminals, terrorists and hostile nations to our own country’s security, as well as to private industry, including law firms. The task force will consider potential cybersecurity threats and national plans to confront them; the sharing of information between and among government and private industry; the legal framework for addressing cybersecurity (particularly in the context of a substantial cyber attack on critical infrastructure); and best practices to help law firms protect their clients while safeguarding U.S. interests.

“Federal officials have acknowledged that the U.S. is not prepared for cyberwarfare and that the government and private industry are also dangerously vulnerable to cyber espionage and the theft of intellectual property,” Bellows said. “The task force plans to examine laws in relation to the cybersecurity threat, and the protection of civil rights in confronting that threat.”

Bellows will continue to advocate strongly for laws that encourage gender fairness. “Addressing gender equity is critical to the health and viability of the legal profession — and to our economy. The ABA will take a leading role to assure women have an equal role in the responsibilities, rewards and leadership of our nation,” she said.

Bellows emphasized that preparing young lawyers for the future remains a top priority of the association. “Let me be clear: The ABA cares deeply about law students and young lawyers and is committed to helping them succeed during this challenging time for our profession.”

Before being chosen ABA president-elect in 2011, Bellows served as chair of the association’s policy-making House of Delegates (2006-2008), the second highest elected office in the ABA. Bellows has chaired the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession; and served as a member of the ABA Board of Governors, where she chaired the Finance Committee. She was also president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and chair of its Metropolitan Bar Caucus.

Bellows’ work in the law and her community has long been recognized by many publications. Crain’s Chicago Business lists Bellows among its annual list of Power Players; in 2006, Chicago Magazine named her one of the 28 Power Lawyers in the City; and Bellows was listed among Working Mother Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Working Mothers in the country in 1997.

Bellows served on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on the Administration of Justice, and on the U.S. Senate Judicial Nominations Commission for Illinois. She has served as chair of the Chicago Network, a networking organization of diverse, professional women in the Chicago area. Bellows was the second female president of the 22,000-member Chicago Bar Association, where she founded the Women’s Alliance.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University School of Law, Bellows has practiced law for more than 30 years. Founder of the Bellows Law Group P.C., she is an experienced business lawyer who counsels senior executives around the world on employment matters. She practices law alongside her husband, Joel, in Chicago. She and Joel have four children and four grandchildren.

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