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May/June 2023

Views from the Chair

Jonathan W Kahn


  • Section chair delves into his involvement in SEER over many years.
  • Addresses the benefits of joining the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources and participating in leadership.
Views from the Chair
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People often ask me why I, as a Canadian, decided to get involved in the American Bar Association, and, in particular, the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) and its leadership. I am always amused by the question as the answer is so obvious.

I am a partner in a big law firm. I first became involved in SEER as a senior associate many (OK, many, many) years ago. One of the partners I worked with invited me to join him at the 3rd Annual Section Fall Meeting, in 1995 in Orlando. I came back with a deeper understanding of U.S. environmental law, many new contacts, and believe it or not, a referral. It is possible that I am the only person ever to have generated new work for my firm while on the E.T. ride at Disney. 

From then on, I got more involved in the Section. I joined the book board. I wrote articles for the Section. I worked on the planning committee for several Fall Conferences. I became a vice chair and then chair of multiple Section committees. I chaired both a Fall Conference and a Spring Conference before being invited onto Council and subsequently onto the Executive Committee. And why?

I got more and more involved because we are always looking for ways to distinguish ourselves and to better ourselves. We are always looking for marketing opportunities—such as speaking and writing. We constantly seek to expand our networks. We look to get ahead of our competition by knowing the top experts, understanding the coming trends, and finding potential sources of both information and work.

Through SEER I have managed to achieve all this while making some wonderful friends across the country.

One of my partners likes to say, “If you get involved in an organization you can’t just go to conferences; you have to take out the garbage.” OK, not the most elegant quote. But the point is sound. I see all these people who come and go from our conferences, handing out business cards (or the current LinkedIn variant thereof). Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. People come to our conferences and learn a lot from fabulous speakers, and certainly make contacts along the way. But, if you want to establish relationships rather than just make contacts, you need to get involved. And now is the perfect time to get involved in the Section.

I can’t believe I am two thirds of the way through my year as Section chair but indeed I am; this is evodemced by the fact that our wonderful chair-elect, Jeff Dennis, has begun to think about leadership appointments for his year.

Jeff has dozens and dozens of appointments to make—substantive committee chairs, council-related committee chairs, editors for our various publications, and chairs of our various conference planning committees. Each of these chairs and editors will be looking for vice chairs, board members, and committee and task force members. If you want to get involved in the Section, now is the time to put your hand up, or, the electronic version of that, by visiting: Getting more deeply involved is the perfect way to turn contacts into relationships, expand your ability to market yourselves, enhance your profile, increase writing and speaking opportunities, and get involved in substantive legal issues or public service.

And I guarantee it—you will make some great friends along the way.