July 01, 2012

Views from the Chair: The Section’s commitment to service

Irma S. Russell

As I write this final column as chair of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, I reflect on what a privilege it has been to serve in this role. My year as chair has given me an even greater appreciation of the scope of the work of the Section and its members. I have gotten to know friends in the Section better, and I have become friends with Section members I did not previously know. Serving as chair has also provided me with the opportunity to become acquainted with people in the ABA I would not have known without my involvement in leadership.

In 2009, when I became the Section vice chair, I chose the theme “Service to Members and Society” for my year as chair. My intent was to cast a spotlight on the Section’s core values and long-standing commitment to its members and to the public. The 2011–2012 Bar year has been an extraordinary year for our Section, especially in the area of service. Below are a few examples.

This past year, eight more law offices and organizations became ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge Partners or Leaders. To date, more than 270 law offices and organizations are taking simple, practical steps to become better environmental and energy stewards through the Climate Challenge.

The Section also continued its support of its “One Million Trees Project—Right Tree for the Right Place at the Right Time.” Activities in conjunction with Section programs included tree plantings at an elementary school in Indianapolis, in San Diego’s Balboa Park, and in a riparian habitat near Salt Lake City to contribute to the goal of planting one million trees across the United States by 2014. The Section has discussed this project with the ABA as a possible association-wide initiative. Registrants at three Section programs were offered the opportunity to provide a donation toward achieving carbon neutrality for their participation. Additionally, we have made exciting partnerships with The Nature Conservancy and The World Justice Project.

The Section’s Membership Diversity Enhancement Program has continued to provide partially subsidized dues for minority lawyers, young lawyers, government lawyers, and solo practitioners who have been under-represented in our Section and are willing to assist with the development of Section activities, programs, and publications. The Section’s Leadership Development Program again provided a foundation for its participants to become more actively involved in the Section.

I would also like to recognize the experience of our leaders who have been active in the Section for years. Serving as chair allowed me to see the inspiring work of so many people and gave me a great respect for their leadership. Many Section members serve as mentors to associates in their firms and to new Section members. Furthermore, the Section is working to provide mentoring for young lawyers and law students. Outreach to law students and young lawyers and attendance of law students at Section programs is higher than ever. The Section is working to strengthen its relationships with young lawyers, law students, and law schools across the country. For example, in April 2013, the Section will host a symposium titled Balancing Act and Paradigm Shift: The Role of Public Lands in America’s Energy Future, in partnership with The Public Land and Resources Law Review at The University of Montana.

It has been a great honor to serve as your chair. Most of all, it has been a privilege to meet and get to know our members and leaders and to see first-hand the accomplishments of the Section and Section members. Thank you all for your continued efforts and commitment to our mission of serving our members and society.

Irma S. Russell

Irma S. Russell is dean and professor at the University of Montana School of Law.