September 01, 2010 Leadership

From the Top: Pathway to the Future

By Ruth L. Kleinfeld

This fall the Senior Lawyers Division Executive Committee devoted many hours to developing and  delivering  what  we believe to be a well-constructed and thorough exposition of our mission, accomplishments, and plans of the for review under the so-called PEPC process. 

This process is conducted by the ABA Board of Governors Program, Evaluation, and Planning Committee to evaluate the programs of each ABA entity and assign a ranking, which can influence the allocation of resources. It has appeared to be a perfunctory process in the past, but as the ABA continues to operate in the face of significant constraints, more significance may be attached.

Fortunately, the programs and activities of the Division are largely self-funded, with only office space and staff salaries and benefits derived from ABA general revenues. However, it is a matter of pride that we achieve the highest possible rating. The process itself is illuminating in that it forces us to detach from the details of each day’s demands to consider whether we can better serve our members and carry out our mission. Let me share with you some of the highlights of our PEP submission.

We revised our mission statement to reflect that our purpose is to serve experienced lawyers and judges, to promote professionalism in the law, to serve as the ABA’s knowledge center for elder law, and to assist lawyers and judges transitioning in their careers. Broadly, we help senior lawyers and judges to remain active and engaged in the legal profession and with the ABA.

We analyzed how our work during 2009–10 supported each of the overall ABA Goals and Objectives. Most of our activity related to Goal I: Serve Our Members [by providing] benefits, pro- grams, and services which promote members’ professional growth and quality of life.

We presented three audio conferences and webinars: Diminished Client Capacity; The Lawyer as Savvy Investor; and Family Law, Elder Law, and Individual Rights. A joint CLE program with the Family Law Section and Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities in New Orleans, Understanding Marital Obligations and Liabilities in Long-Term Care, was the forerunner of joint programs to come as we collaborate with other ABA entities. We published three issues of the award-winning Experience magazine, four issues of VOE, ten issues of Elder Law E-News, and three new books.

We accomplished a major collaborative effort with outside entities to produce podcasts and lesson plans for 30,000 civics educators nation-wide based on our intergenerational program on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We organized the 15th annual Division trip for ABA members to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

We supported Goal II: Improve Our Profession by underwriting the annual John H. Pickering Award for lifetime public service and pro bono achievements, by publishing materials addressing dealing with clients in an ethical and professional manner and dealing with lawyers with diminished capacity, by assisting lawyers to counsel veterans, by sharing information on opportunities to render pro bono and public service while still practicing, and by focusing on alternatives for lawyers interested in continuing public service when they are no longer actively practicing law.

We also supported Goal III: Eliminate Bias and Enhance Diversity and Goal IV: Advance the Rule of Law. As part of the process we also had to evaluate our programs, activities, and plans with both subjective and objective measures.

What I found memorable about this process was that this rigorous analysis not only demonstrated the superb accomplishments of the Senior Lawyer Division under Max Bahner’s skilled leadership last year but also provided a clearer and sharper, more refined pathway to the future. As a result, I appointed a small task force to consider how best to align our committee structure and resources with our mission and goals. I hope to report the results to you in the next issue. In the meantime, if you have thoughts or concerns about the direction or scope of our activities, please let us know. I hope the upcoming holiday season brings joy to your hearts and peace to your home.