Year-End Reflections from 2016–2017 Section Chair Sara Sandford

By Sara Sandford

In concluding my year as 2016–2017 Chair of the Section, I want to first thank all of you for the honor and privilege. It has truly been a year filled with challenging and rewarding experiences that I will not forget. The Section does so much great work, and you all make it possible. As I have said on a few occasions, it is remarkable to think about the dollar value of all the volunteer time that is spent on our Section’s work—work that benefits us all.

This includes our programs and publications, of course. We have put on hundreds of hours of programs on a wide array of topics at several different events this year. Most recently, we held a free teleconference offering a broad view of expert opinions on the state of the legal system in Turkey, a year after the coup. It was attended by over one hundred people and offered an up-to-date picture on the legal aspects of the situation that one could not find elsewhere. We have published everything from a Chinese dissident’s memoir, to newsletters, to a very comprehensive year-in-review volume, to scholarly articles in the International Lawyer. It was great to celebrate the International Lawyer’s 50th anniversary this year! Our work has moved the practice of international law forward on both the public and private law front, as we educate, discuss, inspire, innovate and push for change.

We have also spent countless hours working on a variety of rule of law and access to justice issues. Most recent was our work on the ABA’s statement raising concerns about a new law proposed in Poland. The law would have limited the independence of the judiciary. It is rare for us to know whether our efforts have an impact, but in this case Poland’s President, who vetoed the bill, was reported by the New York Times as having been influenced by the ABA’s statement. A few other highlights during the year were helping a wrongful charged attorney gain release from prison in the United Arab Emirates and the incredible teamwork displayed on our efforts on the U.S. President’s Executive Order of January 27, 2017. We are fortunate to have a voice to support such principles throughout the world. We should continue to use that voice for the improvement of access to justice and the rule of law here in the U.S., as well as to support the efforts of our colleagues to promote similar principles around the globe.

I want to express special thanks to the leadership of the Section, who have worked so hard beside me this year: Steve Richman, the incoming Chair; Lisa Savitt, the Immediate Past Chair; Robert Brown, Vice Chair; Lisa Ryan, Secretary/Operations Officer; Joe Raia, Revenue Officer; Bill Mock, Budget Officer; Marcos Rios, Membership Officer; Nancy Stafford, Rule of Law Officer; David Schwartz, Policy and Government Affairs Officer; Patrick Del Duca, Publications Officer; Caryl Ben Basat, Technology Officer; Marcy Stras, Programs Officer; Yee Wah Chin, CLE Board Chair; Mark Wojcik, Diversity Officer; Ingrid Busson-Hall, Communications Officer; Renee Dopplick, Editor in Chief of the ILN; Lelia Mooney, Liaison Officer; and Beverly Duréaus and Patricia Heard, our two Co-Executive Editors of the International Lawyer. I would also like to thank our Senior Advisor, Mike Byowitz and our Delegates-at-Large, Jeff Golden, Glenn Hendrix and Gabrielle Buckley, along with our ABA Board of Governor’s Liaison, Paulette Brown and our Legislative counsel of the GAO, Kristi Gaines. Your dedication and hard work throughout the year has been so appreciated and invaluable.

But our Section would not be able to do what it does without the fantastic staff we have: Leanne Pfautz, Section Director; Maria Chhabria, Associate Director; Thomas Happell, Senior Meeting Planner; Christina Heid and Somayina Boardman, International Projects Director and International Program Associate, respectively; Angela Benson, Membership Director; Sophie Wilmot, Committee Specialist; Samantha Feinstein, Sponsorship and Outreach Specialist; Jeanita Brown, Program Specialist, and Adam Vogel, Technology Specialist. I cannot imagine a harder job than trying to keep such a busy and complex organization running when many of the people providing you with input and help are volunteers! And often new to the work, at that! You all make it look easy, handling our requests and questions with such grace, good-nature and aplomb. I just cannot imagine how you do it!

We did not manage to accomplish everything I had hoped to this year, and there will always be more work for the Section to do to meet its members’ needs, improve the profession and support access to justice and the rule of law. Still, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with you all to accomplish what we did! We have a fantastic team of members, leaders and staff and the sky is the limit in the coming year, under Steve’s able leadership. The ABA and the Section of International Law really are incredible avenues to improving our skills, knowledge and contacts and helping our clients, our communities and the world at large. I’m so grateful to be a part of it; thank you all! I look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Sara Sandford

Sara Sandford is an owner in the Seattle office of Garvey Schubert Barer and and served as Chair of the ABA Section of International Law 2016–2017.