Remarks Upon Acceptance of the ABA Michael Franck Professional Responsibility Award May 30, 2013, San Antonio, TX

Vol. 22 No. 1

John S. Gleason is Disciplinary Counsel and Director of Regulatory Services for the Oregon State Bar.

I am honored to accept the Michael Franck Award, and I am grateful to the members of the ABA Center committees who believed me worthy of this honor. I am humbled to have my name added to the list of Franck Award recipients. Like many of you, I have been around long enough to remember Mr. Franck and his life’s work.

To join my colleague and friend John Berry as the second recipient to come from the ranks of attorney regulatory counsel makes it even more special.

At the same time, I am profoundly sad that my friend and our colleague, Jeanne Gray, is not here with us. Jeanne was instrumental in my early involvement with the ABA Center. My participation in the Center is one of the highlights of my career. I served on many ABA evaluation teams at her request and I frequently sought her advice on a range of issues. She was always a call away when I needed her. I will miss her dearly.

Jeanne’s legacy and vision will continue through the talented staff she assembled at the Center. To those ABA Center staff here today—while we share your loss of two friends and co-workers, Jeanne and Marcia, we all understand that only you can truly measure the depth of loss to the Center. My hope is that you commit yourselves to continue the great work of the Center that Jeanne and Marcia so deeply believed in.

I am delighted to hear that Art Garwin was appointed as the new Director of the Center and that Ellyn Rosen will serve as his Deputy. I cannot imagine two more qualified individuals.

Today, I am surrounded by individuals who shaped my professional and personal life. I am forever grateful to all of you.

To my friend and Colorado Chief Justice Michael Bender, thank you for your nomination and our friendship. But most of all I deeply appreciate your guidance, commitment to professionalism and wonderful sense of humor.

To my successor as Colorado’s Regulation Counsel and loyal advocate Jim Coyle, thank you for your tenacity, your support and most of all our friendship over the many years we were together.

To David Stark, Steve Jacobson, Charles Goldberg, Justice Dan Crothers, David Baker, Sylvia Stevens and Chair of the ABA Center Judge Barbara Howe—your trust of me and commitment to the legal profession continues to inspire me. There were many times when we could have taken an easier road, but there is never excellence without hard work and sacrifice. Ultimately, others will judge our successes and failures, but I am forever proud of the system of lawyer regulation we created together.

To my Colorado and Oregon friends, thank you for honoring me with your presence.

To my NOBC and APRL colleagues, I have learned from all of you who have passed through my life.

I share the Franck Award with all of you.

You know better than anyone our struggles to blend self-regulation with protection of the public. As I look back at 25 years of lawyer regulation, there have been amazing changes …we have learned how to do it better.

For many of us, our visions became reality. We know that discipline of lawyers is not the only answer. In fact, frequently it is not an answer at all. We know if we work together—if we understand human imperfections—that almost any lawyer is capable of a new start and a better ending. We may never know why one person with the same knowledge and training succeeds and others fail, but we owe a duty to each and every one who is struggling.

All of us in this room share the failures of the past and more importantly, the opportunity to get it even more right in the future.

  • We now have viable diversion programs
  • We have ethics schools for new and not so new lawyers
  • We have mentoring programs
  • We have lawyer assistance programs
  • We have client protection funds

And we have learned the value of addressing issues together—regulators, defense counsel, experts in lawyer ethics, educators, and members of the public. I have learned, some will say slowly, that change is nearly impossible without cooperation. The American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility is a wonderful example of this principle. For thirty-five years, the Center has embodied the concept of working together through mutual respect and understanding. The accomplishments of the Center are endless and will continue into the future.

We know that in the eyes of the public, we are only as good as the worst among us. With self-regulation comes enormous responsibility to address lawyer behavior issues quickly, thoroughly, and with transparency. And just as important, with a level of compassion and understanding for those lawyers who suffer from mental or physical frailties.

We have many challenges that we must work together to resolve. For the profession to thrive and remain relevant, we must commit to serve those who cannot afford legal services.

We must stay abreast of the technology that has changed our profession forever. Our technological adolescence places us behind most of our clients and other professions.

We must commit to helping those young lawyers who now enter our profession. Provide them every opportunity to learn from us as we learned from those who came before us. Encourage their participation in every section, in every committee and all that our bar associations have to offer. We share this responsibility to new lawyers with the Universities which provided them this opportunity. The challenges these new lawyers face are complex, even daunting. Crushing debt, competition for jobs and lack of real world experience are just a few of the challenges. The practice of law is vastly different from what it was when most of us began. These new lawyers desperately need our help and guidance. Without it, they present a very real risk to themselves, the public and the profession.

The admission and regulation of lawyers and judges must address the fast changing nature of the practice—the internet knows no state or national boundaries, we must reconsider state licensing issues, including the uniform bar exam which is now the norm in many states, transient practice issues, international practice issues, nonlawyer ownership interests, para-professional licensing and cross border client protection issues.

The solutions to most of these issues are found in this room. The best and the brightest in legal ethics: the leaders of disciplinary offices, the faculty members who are responsible for curriculum related to legal ethics, and the staff of the ABA Center. The answers are here tonight and the clock is running.

Another looming issue is our caring for an aging bar. The numbers are staggering. In many states the majority of licensed lawyers are age 55 or older. We know that many, if not most, single practice and small practice lawyers have no effective plan for their departure from the profession. The responsibility and cost of protecting the clients of these lawyers will fall to the bar associations and state disciplinary offices. It is not a matter of if this will happen; it is happening every day.

A problem every bit as large as how we address the issues of an aging bar is the new or young lawyer who decides he or she doesn't like the practice of law.

Lawyer regulators see it every day—the lawyer who abandons his or her practice, the new lawyer who is in the discipline process, the lawyer with mental health issues related to the practice. I cannot count the number of times when lawyers told me they simply don’t like the practice of law but they don’t see an alternative.

We must develop alternatives for the lawyer who wants out of the practice. We have ignored this problem. I am not aware of any state that has an active program to help lawyers exit the profession before problems arise. We owe a duty to the lawyer who needs our help and to the clients who are at great risk. Disciplinary counsel must work with our lawyer assistance colleagues to address this problem. And what about the law school that educated the lawyer? Do they not have a continuing duty to their graduates?

In conclusion, we face new and additional challenges to the profession. With those challenges come opportunities. None of them are beyond those of us in this room. I know that Michael Franck and Jeanne Gray would say that we can do more. It is the responsibility of those of us in this room to do so.

What an honor it has been for me to talk with you today. The Franck Award had special meaning to Jeanne. She talked and wrote of it often. I will do my best to honor the visions and memories of both Jeanne and Michael Franck.

Thank you.

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