July 01, 2015

Views from the Chair: Why Section membership matters to your practice

Steven T. Miano

There is a great diversity of interests and practice areas in our Section. There is also a broad array of experience and resources. From air, water, and waste—to mining, gas, and energy markets—and from traditional private interests to tribal interests—we are a diverse group. For many years lawyers have labored in their respective practice areas as if they existed in individual silos. We now know that this doesn’t work. Our practices have evolved. Environmental law practitioners must now possess more than a passing knowledge of energy or resources law. Likewise, anyone practicing energy or resources law must understand and work with traditional environmental legal issues.

Our Section’s unique breadth is invaluable

There are a number of very strong professional organizations throughout the U.S. Many do a terrific job of educating their members on specific practice areas. However, what makes membership in our Section unique and so valuable is the breadth of our practice areas and our ability to come together, under a unified tent, to inform our members about all aspects of environment, energy, and resources law.

My focus this year—integration and outreach—was, in part, intended to break down individual practice area silos so that the full potential, and, hence, the full value of our Section resources would be available to our members. Focusing on integration and outreach better assures that we weave together the many diverse disciplines our members need today to succeed professionally. While we have more to do on this front, we have moved forward in integrating our various practice areas in significant and meaningful ways. For example, we revised the traditional environment, energy/resource, and cross practice area committee liaison groups. We now have liaison groups that foster discussion and activities across all Section practice areas. As a result, more committees are cooperating on calls, programs, and publications. Future efforts along these lines will bring additional value to our members. And as there is great value in incorporating varied perspectives, we continue to encourage collaboration among all of our member constituents, including seasoned lawyers, young lawyers, in-house counsel, NGO lawyers, government lawyers, and academics.

Value in outreach beyond the Section and the ABA

This past year, I challenged our Section leaders to work with other ABA sections and with groups beyond the ABA. Of note:

  • We held our first ABA Super Conference on Environmental Law, in conjunction with a number of ABA entities. It was incredibly successful partnership.
  • We continued to deepen our relationships with organizations such as the Environmental Law Institute, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, American Council on Renewable Energy, and state and local bars. Our recent Cyber Security Summit in Washington, D.C. focusing on environmental and energy issues is a good example of working beyond the ABA. We collaborated with George Washington University Law School and several other organizations in planning and promoting this program.
  • Finally, we continued significant outreach internationally, highlighted by our work this year on the Sustainability Task Force and the World Justice Project, and with the consortium Presidential Precinct. And we continue to build our relationships with international bar associations, including the Canadian Bar Association’s National Environmental and Resources Law Section and the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association.

As part of the Section’s mission to be the “premier forum” in our practice areas, we need to extend our outreach to other organizations and bar associations, both nationally and internationally. In doing so, we will bring more value to our members by assuring the broadest range of information and perspectives is made available.

My gratitude for your efforts this year

This is my final “Views from the Chair” column. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to lead an organization that I’ve been part of since I was a young lawyer. Early in my career, I recognized that SONREEL—as the Section was then called—was a unique organization that would be important for my career development. The Section has not disappointed. As with any organization, the more you give, the more you get. To that end, I urge you to actively participate in the Section and gain even greater value from your membership.

Thank you for working with me this year and I hope you believe our collective efforts have brought value to your membership. The Section is in great hands next ABA year. Our incoming chair, Pam Barker, will continue to strengthen the Section, as will Seth Davis in the year after her. In closing, let me add my deep appreciation to our staff and our sponsors. We could not accomplish what we do without them. 

Steven T. Miano

Steven T. Miano is chair of the Environmental Practice Group at Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller in Philadelphia and is chair of the ABA’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources.