Goal IX Newsletter

Fall 2005, Volume 11, Number 1

HNBA Annual Convention - Michael S. Greco

Marriott Marquis Conference Center, New York City
October 11, 2004

Buenas tardes.

Thank you for inviting me to join you this afternoon. I am very happy to be here.

I am especially delighted that we are honoring such distinguished judges as the Hon. Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (where I served as law clerk) and the Hon. Roland Acosta of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, as Latina and Latino judges of the year, respectively.

I am pleased to note the diverse groups co-hosting this event: the Dominican Bar, the Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County, and the Puerto Rican Bar Association. May I add my own ingredient to the Latin mix. While Italians are not Latinos, they are certainly Latins. And I am proud to join you as the first Italian-American President-Elect of the ABA.

A recent magazine article referred to me as the first immigrant to serve as ABA President-Elect. That statement is not entirely correct, however. I am the most recent immigrant to serve in this office. My 128 predecessors were also descendants of immigrants, in this wonderful nation of immigrants.

I was born in Italy and came to this country at the age of seven. Like many of you, I have a first-hand understanding of the immigrant experience, and of the challenges and opportunities that this country offers. Like many here, mine is a success story. But everyone in this room is a success story. Indeed, we have just celebrated two such successes with today's honorees.

It is our job - yours and mine -- to ensure that we leave for the generations that come after us the same, or better opportunities, to enrich society, to keep it diverse, and to make certain that all voices are heard and counted in this great country.

One of my most important tasks as President-Elect of the American Bar Association is the appointments process that I will begin within several months. To help me choose outstanding candidates for about 80 ABA committees -- that's about 600 appointments -- will be my Appointments Advisory Committee. I will have on that Committee two distinguished Hispanic lawyers whose chief task will be to forward to me recommendations for talented Hispanic lawyers to serve as members and chairs of ABA committees.

Together we plan to bring unprecedented diversity to the ABA through this process. I want to see more Hispanic lawyers in ABA leadership positions. I want to see more Hispanic judges on the bench. But I need your help. We need volunteers who are ABA members and who are willing to work with us toward this goal. If you are not an ABA member, please consider becoming one. I will let you know when the the Appointments Advisory Committee has been appointed, and I hope that we can work closely with you.

As ABA President next year, I will have several major initiatives. I want to speak briefly about two of them.

The first is in keeping with the ABA's -- and my personal -- commitment to increase diversity in the legal profession. Working with the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession, a year from now we will hold a national ABA Presidential conference focusing on diversity pipeline issues that will evaluate what progress has been made in the five years since the 1999 "Colloquium on Diversity" that was convened by ABA President Bill Paul. I am especially interested in increasing the number of Hispanic youngsters in the pipeline, from grade school to law school. According to the Census Bureau, the Hispanic population will triple by the year 2050. It is therefore very important to ensure the progression of Hispanic children, and to attract them to our profession, so that the legal profession reflects the wonderful diversity and fabric of this nation.

You and I have an important role in reaching out to and educating Hispanic young people about choosing a career in the law. I ask you to work closely with me in that process during the next two years.

The second initiative I want to mention is my vision of a " renaissance of idealism" in our profession.

Goal X of the American Bar Association is the goal that historically has attracted young men and women to become lawyers. It is: " To preserve and enhance the ideals of the profession … and its dedication to public service."

The opportunity to perform public service and contribute to the public good continues to be the key reason that attracts young men and women to enter the legal profession. The desire to make a difference in society has attracted to our law schools the best and brightest college graduates that each generation has to offer.

Young lawyers today begin the practice of law expecting to find reasonable opportunity to perform public service. But in time many of them become disappointed, because the demands of their law practice severely limit the time and the opportunities to contribute to society.

For veteran lawyers, the pressures and the pace of the practice of law continue to intrude on the time available for public service.

We must strike a balance in our lives and our practices, whether large firm or small firm or solo practice. The key to that balance is time --- freeing up time in our practices and in law firms for lawyers to perform public service. I will commit the resources of the ABA to make the case with decision-makers in America's law offices as to why it is in the interest of the lawyer, law firm, the profession, and the American people that we free up time --- to honor the profession's long-standing commitment to public service, to help people in need, to participate more fully in our communities, and to give lawyers greater fulfillment in their professional lives.

I am convening next month at Princeton University, my alma mater, a group of respected ABA leaders, and respected leaders from various sectors of society, to begin considering with me the full magnitude of the issue, and to make recommendations that can be implemented. This distinguished Planning Committee will do its work during the next eleven months.

The starting point for a renaissance of idealism must be an honest discussion among all of us about what we have allowed the profession to become; about the current state of our profession; and about its eventual role in society if we allow it to continue to drift away from our core values, and away from the American people, especially the poorest among us, who look to us to help them and protect them.

The findings and recommendations of the Planning Committee will be implemented the following year by a Renaissance Commission comprised of respected national leaders of the profession, culminating in a national Roscoe Pound Centennial Conference in 2006. That Conference will examine the current causes of popular dissatisfaction with the administration of justice in America, and what is being done or needs to be done to address these issues.

The outcome, I am certain, will be a challenge to the profession. I anticipate fascinating discussions in the next eleven months that I will share with you to obtain your input.

I don't need to tell you that lawyers have never been more important to society, because you know it as well as I do. Your important work with the Hispanic National Bar can only complement and support our work at the ABA. I urge you to join us in our common missions, and I look forward to working with you during the next two years.

While you are "United in New York" this week during your conference, let us all be "United in the Legal Profession" for generations to come.

Muchas gracias.

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