Guiding the ABA Into the Future

Albert C. Harvey

What a year this has been for the ABA and for the Senior Lawyers Division. Great plans and goals have faced challenges and adjustments from the pandemic. But the division, and the ABA, have soldiered on.

As I complete my service as the SLD chair, I want to share some of my thoughts on our profession and our division. I do so with the background of an elected leader of my local and state bars and after being an active member of the ABA for more than 50 years. In addition to serving as chair of one of the largest ABA groups, I have been a long-time delegate to the House of Delegates and a member of the Board of Governors.

The ABA must be preserved and promoted. We need a full and dedicated membership that can speak for our profession. Not every lawyer can be active, but each must embrace both the privilege and the responsibility of membership.

Practicing law is an “essential service” and should never be thought of otherwise by community leaders—even when establishing stay-at-home orders. Lawyers are absolutely necessary to protecting the citizenry, the Constitution, and the rule of law.

The SLD brings real strength to the ABA. If I could visit with each one of our nearly 50,000 members, all age 62 and above, I would urge in the strongest terms that you continue your membership. The association needs your advocacy and leadership as well as your financial support. Your presence is needed to guide the leaders of today and tomorrow through unforeseen issues that will confront our profession. We must help stay the course.

From the Canons of Ethics in 1908, to the Code of Professional Responsibility in 1969, to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 1983, the ABA has been responsible for developing rules that both control and guide lawyers. The Ethics 2020 Commission and Formal Opinions from the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility are examples of ongoing efforts, even as society and the profession evolve. Senior leadership has been a major factor in maintaining these high standards.

The ABA must maintain a strong relationship with the judiciary. Our courts must be able to look to the ABA for support in times of crisis. Our work in evaluating candidates for judicial office must continue as an independent voice. No one is better positioned to know the legal skills required and to make recommendations than the senior members of the profession. We should position ourselves to work with the courts to set the requirements for being licensed to perform legal services.

The ABA must continue to be an advocate on issues affecting lawyers, the public, and the rule of law. It must take positions on appropriate issues while avoiding, as much as possible, political issues and areas outside the legal domain.

The ABA must also continue to recognize the lawyer’s duty to the public, particularly access to justice for all members of society. The duty to provide pro bono services must be part of our ongoing professional service, particularly when we reach the later stages of our practice life.

The ABA, as a national professional organization, must be fully supportive of state and local bar associations. Their leaders should become our leaders. The ABA should also keep within our ranks legal specialty organizations. The ABA’s ability to represent practice factions is necessary to our success in speaking for the legal profession. SLD liaisons to these organizations carry messages back and forth for the benefit of all.

Lawyers at all levels of practice, from solo to small and large firms, need to feel their interests are represented. Although not a critical point, it would help if all ABA members could vote for our major elective offices. The nomination process would offer some control, but the ultimate selection should be by member vote.

Communication is critical to membership. Maintaining contact on a regular basis can be accomplished only by publications that are regular, accurate, relevant, timely, and helpful. The SLD has carried its messages through Experience and the monthly enewsletter Voice of Experience.

The ABA is a wonderful organization that deserves our appreciation and allegiance. Every one of us in the SLD must continue to give our enthusiastic support.


Albert C. Harvey


Albert C. Harvey is of counsel at Lewis Thomason in Memphis, Tenn., and the 2019–2020 chair of the ABA Senor Lawyers Division. He is also a former member of the ABA Board of Governors and a 25-year member of the ABA House of Delegates.