They Call Her Lizz: An Interview with 2008–2009 ABA YLD Chair Elizabeth K. Acee
Josiah J. Puder is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and Vice-President and General Counsel of Melt, Inc., a public company headquartered in Southern California..
The ABA YLD’s new Chair, Elizabeth K. Acee, will be officially installed at the conclusion of Assembly during this year’s ABA YLD Annual Meeting in New York. From a brand new public service project to a unique partnership with National Public Radio (NPR) and StoryCorps ®, Acee’s plans are ambitious and expansive for the coming year.
New Public Service Project
Having begun her bar involvement with a directed focus on women’s issues, Acee is most excited about unveiling this year’s Domestic Violence Public Service Project at the Division’s Fall Conference in San Diego, California. Particularly of interest to Acee is addressing domestic violence among young people aged 16–24. “There is a big gap in services for that segment of the population,” says Acee. Also on her agenda is same-sex domestic violence, a topic often overlooked by the mainstream media. “I wanted to pick a public service project that was true to my bar association roots,” says Acee, who implemented some unique programming in Connecticut while she was Chair of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Women in the Law Committee. One program, entitled “Gender and Credibility,” was initially put together as a small “brown bag lunch program,” recalls Acee, and before she knew it 150 women showed up. The success of that program was recognized by the ABA YLD, which selected “Gender and Credibility” to be presented at a national conference. Acee hasn’t missed an ABA YLD meeting since.
In addition to this year’s public service project, Acee will focus her energies on a mentorship project that is aimed at harnessing the enormous resources available to the Division. This means building on the success of the Division’s many existing mentorship programs and resources and highlighting the benefits of mentorship through the ABA YLD’s innovative StoryCorps ® partnership.
StoryCorps ® is a collection of unique recordings that are housed in the Library of Congress. By creating oral histories of its members’ mentorship experiences, the ABA YLD hopes to preserve and pass along the unique and touching relationships whose bonds often survive many generations and contribute to the footprint that each history makes in our collective experience. Acee herself has a unique story that she will be recording for the project. In 1953, her father-in-law, Dick Bowerman, was YLD Chair and went on to become a name partner in the predecessor to her current law firm.
Acee has also created a partnership with Ken Young and Barbara Mayden, two former leaders of the ABA YLD, to provide programming and consulting to the Division at its conferences. Mayden, a former Chair of the ABA YLD circa 1986, and Young, also a former active ABA YLD member, will provide job counseling and guidance at the YLD’s conferences.
Increasing membership also continues to be a major priority, according to Acee, and the ABA YLD is open to both conventional and unconventional ideas on how to grow the Division and become more relevant to young lawyers all over the country.
This year, the ABA YLD will focus on member services with the establishment of a new position, Content Coordinator. “What we are trying to do is use content that we have and make sure it is being properly repurposed,” says Acee. “We also want to harness the technological resources available to create more podcasts and distance learning opportunities,” she says. Acee has also created a Mentorship Coordinator to oversee her mentorship project, and elevated the Disaster Legal Services Coordinator to a Director level position, giving Craig Cannon, the DLS Coordinator, a vote on the YLD’s governing Council.
In addition, Acee plans to continue the important work that the Division’s previous Chair, Justin Goldstein, has done in establishing a Diversity Summit and working toward the goals of implementing the ABA’s Diversity Plan. Acee has analyzed the feedback from this spring’s Diversity Summit and is committed to continuing the well-received program in the spring of 2009. Acee has also appointed the majority of the ABA YLD’s 2007–2008 minorities in the profession scholars to leadership positions this year.
To continue to strengthen the Division’s relationship with the ABA, Acee intends to seek out more co-sponsorship opportunities. For example, the ABA YLD will partner with the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section for its Spring Conference in 2009 to increase the administrative efficiency of the Division.
Elizabeth Acee is not afraid of the cold. Growing up in Buffalo and attending law school in Ohio, Acee has seen her share of winter storms and suffering football teams. Setting her sights on becoming a patent attorney, Acee worked for a judge and in-house before catching the litigation bug. “I realized I wanted to be a people’s lawyer,” says Acee. Having chosen people over patents, Acee is now a partner at Tyler Cooper’s New Haven office where she focuses her legal practice on employment and commercial litigation. Although not the only YLD Chair to share the honor with a family member, Acee does have the distinction of being the only ABA YLD Chair to succeed an in-law in this position. Acee is also only one of two ABA YLD Chairs who have hailed from Connecticut.
Since becoming formally active in the Division in 2000, Acee has moved up through the ranks with positions on the National Conferences team as National Conferences Coordinator, Conference and Program Director, Administrative Director, and finally Secretary/Treasurer in the 2007–2008 bar year. Kelly-Ann Clarke, the current Secretary/Treasurer is looking forward to Acee’s term. “Working with Lizz has been splendid. She is efficient, straight forward, and graceful. At the same time she is funny and down-to-earth. I know that we will work together well in the next year,” says Clarke.
Although she will be more than just a little busy this year in her new role as Chair, Acee also hopes to find time to spend with her family and enjoy a healthy dose of nonlegal activities. While the coming year will see her traveling the world and leading an organization with thousands of members and a unique role within the profession, Acee will be guided by what she feels is the basis for her involvement in the ABA YLD. “I feel privileged to be a lawyer and see it as a duty and an obligation to give something back to the community and set an example for my family.” The ABA YLD congratulates Acee on her new role and looks forward to a dynamic and successful year.