The 2019 ABA E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards

By Michelle E. West* ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism

The American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Professionalism annually awards the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award to deserving bar associations, law schools, courts, law firms and other legal organizations for their efforts in creating innovative, impactful and sustainable programs which emphasize professionalism and its importance within the legal profession. This year, as in previous years, the committee was faced with the difficult task of selecting award winners among the numerous commendable nominations received. In keeping with the criteria of review, the committee considered the overall quality of each program, ease of replication, established history and success, likelihood of continuation, breadth and proactive nature of the program, and success and effectiveness.

In continuing the spirit and honoring the legacy of former ABA President E. Smythe Gambrell, the Standing Committee of Profession identified in its honorees effective, continuing, and model programs that ensure the maintenance of the highest principles of integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public. The recipients of the 2019 E. Smythe Gambrell Awards are as follows: 

  1. Greater New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Legal Society, Inc. Pathways and Pipelines to Success Program. This comprehensive, content-rich program was most notable for its hands-on professional development, which included sessions on speed networking, mock interviews, and resume view among a multitude of other proactive subject matter. Pathways and Pipelines to Success was launched by the Greater New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Legal Society in 2016 evolving into an annual signature event providing African-American students from the four Louisiana law schools, inclusive of Louisiana State University, Tulane University Law School, Loyola University College of Law, and Southern University Law Center, with career-building tools and networking opportunities that will guide them throughout their careers. In 2019, the program boasted 140 diverse law students along with 70 practitioners including both lawyers and judges. This program has experienced great growth over the past three (3) years expanding in both duration and content. It is clearly apparent that the program represents tremendous thought and planning. It is comprehensive not only its content, but in its execution as well. Pathways and Pipelines to Success is a program that can and should be replicated. 
  2. Stetson University College of Law Professional Development Conference: Campus to Career Program. This program, now in its third year, is notable and unique in the way it cultivates a hands-on comprehensive approach at the law school level and how it is more singularly focused on professionalism. Professional Development Conference: Campus to Career Program was designed to help transition students from a student mindset to a professional one. The program focuses on helping students engage in law school in a way that helps them develop professionally and strengthens their knowledge and skills in nine areas of competency which are essential to a strong professional identity and professional success. The nine areas of competency are: resilience, time management, professionalism, decision-making, planning, civility, self-assessment, mentoring, and wellness. The conference structure of the program was developed to deepen the students’ understanding of the connection between professional competencies, professionalism, and professional development. The emphasis on connections between civility, wellness and professionalism was impressive. Additionally, the education on blind spots (self-awareness) demonstrates the breadth of professionalism the program offers. It is evident that the Stetson University College of Law program has staying power. Its meticulous planning and execution further bolster the program’s sustainability. Its comprehensive materials could and should act as a guide for organizations considering such a program. 
  3. Dallas Bar Association (“DBA”) Day of Civility Program. The DBA Morris Harrell Professionalism Committee initiated the Day of Civility Program in September 2016 to provide lawyers an opportunity to reaffirm the Texas Lawyers’ Creed. This momentous day served as an active reminder to the profession of their obligations to conduct themselves with the utmost courtesy and respect in interactions with judges, adversaries, peers, colleagues, and other counsel. This program was recognized due to its emphasis on professionalism and civility. Additionally, it demonstrated its expansiveness and applicability given that it started as a local program and has grown into a statewide initiative that is supported by a joint proclamation signed by federal and state judges.

*Michelle West is the Director of the Institute of Continuing Legal Education for the State Bar of Georgia. Previously, she served as Bar's Interim Director of the Transition into Law Practice Program. Also, West was founder and owner of M West Legal, LLC, a general practice law firm, that focused primarily on family, juvenile, real estate and immigration law. In addition to serving on the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, West is a staff liaison to Georgia’s Chief Justice Commission on Professionalism and the State Bar of Georgia’s Professionalism Committee and Continuing Lawyer Competency Committee. She previously served on the ABA Hispanic Rights and Legal Responsibility Commission.