September 25, 2019 CHAIR'S COLUMN

Chair's Column September 2019

By Albert C. Harvey

Membership in the ABA is for Life

“What is a bullet point about your Senior Lawyers Division that I can use in my talks to students at law schools around the country?” The question came from American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez during a meeting of ABA leaders attending the ABA Section Officers Conference in Chicago in September of this year. 

My response to the question for the SLD was “Membership in the ABA is for life.”  

My answer comes after a lifetime of service to the legal profession, and my reasoning is typical of many senior lawyers. I joined the American Bar Association when I began my career as a lawyer. I did not do it for the Hertz discount or for the special deal on insurance, but because it was my responsibility to support the national organization that spoke for lawyers and the legal profession. 

Almost fifty years later, that reasoning still holds.

My path went from the Young Lawyers Section (now Division) to the Section of Litigation to the House of Delegates to the Board of Governors. In included participation in other Sections and Divisions and opportunities for leadership in the Standing Committee on Law and National Security, the ABA Retirement Fund, and Ethics 2000 Commission. It has now culminated in my becoming Chair of the Senior Lawyers Division. 

Our mission in SLD is to offer a home for lawyers at a significant point in their careers. Many are reaching senior positions with their law firms, while some are concluding their careers or transitioning to different forms of practice. The SLD encourages lawyers to retain their ABA membership for the remainder of their lives. We don’t stop calling ourselves lawyers or give up professional commitments even if we retire from the practice or transition to a different status. We are still lawyers, attorneys, counselors, or even judges. 

In recent years, the ABA has experienced difficulty in maintaining its membership. Many professional and service organizations similarly have seen reductions. The ABA has had problems on both ends of the spectrum – recruiting new members and retaining existing members. 

The Senior Lawyers Division offered the Board of Governors a proposal three years ago: Duplicate the Young Lawyers model by making all ABA members age 62 and older automatic member in the SLD with no charge. The Board agreed and upwards of 60,000 ABA members are now SLD members.  Rather than easing out of ABA membership, our members now have a home with  a greater number of publications and activities to encourage them to stay for life. 

Under the new ABA Membership Model, many SLD members will enjoy a reduction in ABA dues. The ABA still needs our financial support, but there are some dues breaks. For example, many of our members can now qualify for reduced dues for solo practitioners or members of small firms. Others can claim retired status. Lawyers reaching age 75, with 25 years of membership, enjoy a 50 percent reduction from their previous full rate. However, this special rate requires the member to request it at the time they receive their dues bill. 

With the experience gained from years of life and the practice of law, our members can continue to serve the profession. This year over 150 of our members volunteered to serve on committees. Many are volunteering for special pro bono opportunities such as disaster relief and immigration assistance at the border. We are a Division of active professionals who continue to carry on with our duties as lawyers and enjoy the opportunities to give back, meet other professionals and make lasting friendships and contributions.

Want to become active in the Senior Lawyers Division? Send me an email. We will do our best to put you to work.

Respectfully,
Al Harvey, Chair

Author

Albert C. Harvey has an extensive practice in federal and state courts defending doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, and other professionals. He is involved in complex business litigation, intellectual property disputes, and securities cases. Mr. Harvey has a special interest in national security and governmental affairs and frequently lectures, teaches, and consults with clients on these matters. In addition, he has served at the state and national levels on setting ethical standards for lawyers and judges. Mr. Harvey recently retired from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Major General.