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September/October 2023

Views from the Chair

Jeffery Scott Dennis

Summary

  • The Section’s conferences, publications, books, and articles provide an unrivaled set of benefits to our members and our profession.
  • The Section Chair’s goal this year is to work with our Council, committees, and members to expand our reach and get the word out about who we are, what we do, and why the Section is a special place to be.
  • This year we’ll continue critical initiatives to ensure we have a strong foundation for future growth and to reimagine how we deliver benefits in a post-pandemic world.
Views from the Chair
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I am honored and humbled to begin my service as chair of the Section. I joined the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) 22 years ago as a law student, and the Section has been integral to my growth as a lawyer, leader, and person ever since. SEER gave me opportunities early in my career to showcase my knowledge by writing articles and speaking, and to develop leadership skills through service as a vice chair and later as chair of a committee. The Section allowed me to build a network of colleagues with different perspectives from across the environment, energy, and resources landscape that I have called on for advice and expertise on numerous occasions. The knowledge I’ve gained from SEER educational programs, publications, and committee work have helped me seamlessly navigate between my primary practice area of energy law and the increasingly interconnected fields of environmental and natural resources law. Maybe most importantly, I’ve gained lifelong friends and mentors, and had the rewarding experience of mentoring those who followed me.

The past two years as vice chair and chair-elect have given me the opportunity to observe all the work our Section and its members do as a collective body to serve our profession—and it’s a lot! In just the past year, SEER held four in-person conferences and nine CLE webinars, and produced 16 podcast episodes, engaging thousands of attendees and listeners. The Section delivered four issues of its printed flagship publication Natural Resources & Environment, The Year in Review 2022, six issues of our electronic newsletter Trends, and 63 committee articles that have over 18,000 views to date. SEER’s substantive committees—the lifeblood of our Section—held 45 “Community Conversations” on key topics in the practice areas they cover with over 1500 registrants. We engaged in public service projects in our conference cities, joined international conversations, and led the establishment of ABA policy on the rule of law, climate change, and environmental justice.

This body of work provides an unrivaled set of benefits to our members and our profession. But quite frankly, not enough people know about the first-class, cutting-edge content, networking opportunities, and service to the greater good our Section provides. My goal is to change that this year by working with our Council, our committees, and all of you to expand our reach and get the word out. Improving how we communicate who we are, what we do, and why we are a special place to be will multiply the benefits of Section membership. More individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and knowledge will join us, enriching the member experience. Our conferences become the “place to be” each year. Speaking at Section events, writing for Section publications, and participating in Section leadership become more prominent and lead to more opportunities. 

How will we do this? I’ll be asking our Council and our committees to put a renewed focus on our marketing, communications, and outreach efforts. We’ll take a fresh look at how we market ourselves and communicate with our members, the rest of the ABA, and the “outside world” about our programs, publications, and initiatives. I hope to find fresh new approaches to marketing our programs, books, and services, and to build our brand as the “premier forum” for environment, energy, and resources practitioners. I encourage all of you to participate in building that brand and our community by prominently sharing with your own networks about your participation in SEER, whether you are a committee leader, an author or speaker, or a conference attendee. 

While we look ahead to this year, I want to acknowledge and thank our friend Jonathan Kahn for his service as Section chair this past year. Jonathan led our Section out of the pandemic years with a steady hand and singular focus on rebuilding our foundations and positioning us for the future, and he did it all with grace, warmth, and unyielding resolve. This year we’ll continue critical initiatives he began to comprehensively examine SEER’s budget and sources of revenue to ensure we have a strong foundation for future growth, and to reimagine how we deliver educational programs in a post-pandemic world. 

In addition, this year will be the first under a new substantive committee structure adopted by our Council last year under Jonathan’s leadership. Several committees were merged or renamed to keep up with dramatic changes in our fields of practice and to deliver more relevant content and networking opportunities to our members. Supporting these new and restructured committees is a top priority for the Section this year. Head to our website to check out the new committee lineup, and remember to join one or more of them. Committee membership and participation is the foundation for fully optimizing your SEER member benefits.

I’m excited for the year ahead, and I want to hear from all of you about what we can do to improve your member experience. It sounds cliché, but I want this Section to be your professional home, just as it has been for me for over two decades. Reach out to me with your thoughts and ideas. Or better yet, make plans to attend our 31st Fall Conference in Washington, D.C., from October 11–14 and find me there! Our location in the Nation’s Capital has given us the opportunity to develop a top-notch program and speaker lineup, and to come back together in big numbers.

Thank you for this opportunity to serve. See you in D.C.!

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