September 01, 2015

Views from the Chair

Pamela E. Barker

I am very excited to be assuming the chairmanship of the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. The Section has been an important part of my life for many years, and I look forward to working with many long-time friends and—I hope—many new ones in what should be a very interesting 12 months. I have talked to all outgoing and incoming committee chairs during the appointment process, and everyone is looking forward to the 2015–2016 ABA year.

Focus on outreach

A major initiative that I am enthusiastic about continuing is the outreach program begun by Steve Miano during his year as chair. I am a state bar person—a former State Bar of Wisconsin president—and I want the Section to focus even more on reaching out to state and local bars. I also want to collaborate with colleges, universities, law schools, environmental groups—any organization that shares our interest in and commitment to environment, energy, and resources law. Working towards the same goals, we can do better things together. The outreach efforts should go beyond our borders as well. We will continue to strengthen our ties with the National Environmental, Energy, and Resources Law Section in Canada and with the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association and support the World Justice Project.

I will need your help with these outreach efforts. I plan to hold a series of informal discussions with Section leaders to identify what special contacts we already have and which organizations might become new partners with us. Please consider how we can collaborate with other groups in which you are active and share those ideas with me or any other Section officer.

New ideas

I want all of us throughout the Section to work together to generate ideas. I hope to make our Council meetings forums for exchanging ideas and brainstorming rather than encouraging mere recitations of reports. (Of course, committee chairs will still have to write those reports and Council members will still have to read them.) When the Council meets we should use our time to share ideas on making our Section even better and discuss how to meet the challenges our Section might encounter this year. The same holds true for the meetings and conference calls of our committees and publication boards.

Content and communications

Much is going to be unfolding in the coming months in the areas of content and communications. Last year we undertook an in-depth study of what we want the future of our Section publications to be. Now we will start implementing the study’s recommendations, while at the same time adapting to a new business climate in publishing.

Also, many of you have heard of ABA’s content convergence initiative, to which we are firmly committed. We will be engaging a strategy where the topics themselves are the focus—not the means by which the related content is distributed. Concentrating on the major themes affecting our practice area, we will build relevant, cutting-edge content and then disseminate the content through conference sessions, articles, books, webinars, podcasts, or the like.

The ways in which we communicate are continually changing, as are the ways in which we receive and exchange information. We have to keep up with the times and use all media—new and old, print and electronic—as well as we possibly can. This means that we have to systematically and continually reexamine how these communications responsibilities are structured and assigned, both within substantive committees and throughout the Section. The growing importance of social media creates a host of opportunities for younger lawyers—who actually know how to use it—to take on leadership roles.

Insightful programming

It’s going to be an exciting year for programming. Our 23rd Fall Conference will be held in Chicago in late October with an excellent schedule of speakers and great social events planned. Our 45th Spring Conference and 34th Water Law Conference will be collocated in Austin, Texas, at the end of March. Austin was such a popular site for our 20th Fall Conference that we decided to return next spring with two of our premier programs.

Of course, the Section will continue to offer teleconferences and webinars throughout the year on the most current hot topics. And the substantive committees will also provide opportunities to keep up-to-date in your areas of interest through committee calls.

Get involved!

Like any organization, the more you put into the Section the more you will get out of it. Whether it’s referrals, identifying an expert, meeting with different agency folks, or simply enjoying friendships and conversations, the more you come to our conferences, participate in our committees, or write for our publications, the more you will take away. We can do much more as a group than we can individually. The new ABA year is just starting, and it’s a perfect time to get involved! I want to develop new friendships this year so please call or e-mail me—I’ve got a place for you!

Pamela E. Barker

Pamela E. Barker of Milwaukee is chair of the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources.