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February 06, 2024 Feature

Message to the Members, Winter 2024

Edward Monahan, Editor in Chief
A message from Editor in Chief Edward Monahan to members of the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division and all readers of The Public Lawyer.

A message from Editor in Chief Edward Monahan to members of the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division and all readers of The Public Lawyer.

Image credit: Peopleimages / istock via getty images plus

Government lawyers, like most lawyers, face many pressures amid constant political and professional ambiguities. There is only one functional response to these relentless challenges. Neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson counsels, “Embrace uncertainty, it is the gateway to growth.” All our authors in this issue and all the GPSLD award winners noted below have faithfully entered this gateway. We are the beneficiaries.

Enhancing Our Writing Skills

What is the work of a lawyer? In the representation of clients, lawyers read and analyze case law, apply legal rulings, orally present arguments . . . and they write a lot. For a lawyer, legal writing is not just about reporting information in pursuit of an end; it is advocacy seeking to shape a just result for a client. As E. B. White observed, “Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.” Katherine Mikkelson, a former longtime GPSLD staff member who edited many, many articles for this publication, gives us the gift of her experience in improving writing to advance the comprehension and engagement of the reader and to influence the resulting decisions.

The Difficulties of Electronic Discovery

Discovery is essential to the fair resolution of a case. However, the preservation, collection, and analysis of electronically stored information can be both complicated and expensive. Some cases require a massive amount of electronic discovery because of the nature of the issues. And burying the other side in an avalanche of electronic discovery is a strategy used by some litigators. So much electronic discovery is provided in some cases that it can undermine the ability of litigators to determine necessary information and be able to use it in advocating for a client. Ted Hirt, who teaches electronic discovery and evidence at George Washington University Law School, asks the question we all have: How can attorneys meet their responsibilities to provide—and obtain—discovery effectively in a cost-efficient manner? Enjoy Ted’s insightful thoughts and national references on how to achieve this challenging responsibility.

The Public Benefit of Public Service

Long ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. spoke about attorneys “living greatly in the law.” Government lawyers, every day, in all their work, do indeed live greatly in the law. The nobility of serving the public as a lawyer is ever more important in these times when governmental institutions are under attack from various quarters. Citizens deserve fair, transparent, and reliable government behavior. Lawyers play key roles in ensuring that citizens have the benefits of the process due them, with professionalism in all respects. Lesley Fair, senior attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, helps us better appreciate the meaningfulness of public service.

Recognizing Models of Legal Leadership

It is important for GPSLD to hold out models of legal leadership for all of us to celebrate and learn from. So many government lawyers use their talents and passions over the long haul to excel against the odds. Maureen Essex tells us the stories of Mary Smith, the first Native American woman elected to the position of ABA president; Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, which works to ensure equal justice for low-income Texans; and Lisa Schreibersdorf, founder and executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services. We thank these professionals for their decision to lead so well.

Enjoy all the analysis in this issue of The Public Lawyer. We appreciate your feedback. Send your comments to [email protected].

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Edward Monahan, Editor in Chief