What an interesting year this has been for the American Bar Association and for its Senior Lawyers Division. Because of COVID-19 and related events, it seemed that many events were planned, cancelled, re-planned, and re-cancelled. However, because of extraordinary work by the Senior Lawyers Division staff and a number of its volunteer leaders, it has become a year of many accomplishments.
This year the ABA Annual Meeting as well as the Senior Lawyers Division annual meeting will be handled virtually. The advantage, of course, is that many members will be able to sit at their computers and attend our meetings – no travel required.
It is important to remember that much time and effort is required to produce the results which the Division has enjoyed this bar year. The Senior Lawyers Division staff, under the able direction of Director Emily Roschek, planned and re-planned, and then produced all of the work of the Division while working from three separate locations and without the convenience of a headquarters, since the ABA has been closed for the past five months. Our Officers, Delegates, and Council have served with distinction by exercising sound judgment on significant issues critical to our membership.
Special merit goes to Orlando Lucero, the chair of the Pickering Award Committee. He directed the original planning to occur in April in Washington, D.C., then the re-planning in Chicago during Annual, and then finally, the virtual presentation of the award. Because it is one of the most significant awards given by the ABA and since it recognizes a lawyer who has been at the forefront in providing pro bono and public service, it was important that it be done in the right way. Steve Reiss accepted the award in a pre-recorded presentation, available on-demand throughout the ABA annual meeting.
One of the hardest working and most productive committees was the International Committee chaired by Bob Lutz and Aaron Schildhaus. That committee produced an hour-long program every month. The programs were educational and interesting. In several instances, they will lead to further beneficial activity for the Division, including combining the Section of International Law’s “Seasoned Lawyer Interest Network” committee into our committee.
The Financial Services and Retirement Planning Committee produced a program at the Midyear meeting and followed with another program in conjunction with the Annual Meeting. Robert Louis, chair of the committee, was a key speaker on both programs.
The Member Benefits Committee, led by David Lefton, initiated a new member benefit program which will benefit not only seniors, but all members of the ABA. Lawyer Exchange generously agreed to provide an exclusive discount to ABA members on project service fees for hiring attorneys who use their online platform that connects law practices to over 3,000 high-quality lawyers looking to work on short-term legal projects. The program started this year and is already producing results for members. The program has been submitted for nomination for the Section Officers Conference Meritorious Award for 2020.
The Opioid Task Force, under Chair Kelly Dineen, experienced delays because of the coronavirus shutdown, but planning continues for a Summit II in the next bar year once in-person meetings are possible. The committee did produce an excellent program on Substance Use Disorders in light of COVID-19, covering health, policy, and legal issues at the intersection of the virus and substance use.
The Division worked hard on issues of elder abuse prevention under committee chair, Deirdre Lok. They formed an Inter-Disciplinary Elder Abuse Support Team (IDEAS), working with other groups in the field to discuss best practices in handling elder abuse issues which are discussed during their quarterly committee meetings. They also contributed elder abuse related resources and updates in a monthly column in the SLD Voice of Experience e-newsletter.
The publications of the Senior Lawyers Division were a major factor in our ability to continue communications with all of our 45,000 plus members. Jim Schwartz and the Voice of Experience Editorial Board produced monthly issues of Voice of Experience that went to all SLD members via email. The articles were timely, interesting, and educational. The committee also produced a valuable CLE program on preventing scams with two more in the works. Experience Magazine was published each quarter and mailed to all members. Themes and articles were well received. Much credit goes to the chair, Michael Van Zandt, and magazine editor, Gabriella Filisko.
The SLD Book Board presided over one of the most productive years in recent history. The board chair, Jack Young, working closely with ABA Publishing, exceeded our net profit budget by 500% which will result in a return to the ABA of over $50,000.00.
We saw a substantial increase in our members interested in serving as officers and Council members of the Division thanks to the nominations process developed by Immediate Past Chair Marvin Dang. Many members applied and a day of interviews by the committee produced an enthusiastic set of nominees. The election will be conducted at the Annual Meeting.
At this year’s Annual Meeting Senior Lawyers Division events, the Robert Meserve Award will be presented to an outstanding member of the Division. Robert Meserve was the first Chair of the Division and also had the distinction of being President of the American Bar Association. He saw the value in encouraging continued membership by the senior members of the association as they continued their service to the ABA.
The award for 2019-2020 is presented to the Honorable Louraine C. Arkfeld of Tempe, Arizona. Judge Arkfeld has been an active member of the ABA, including service on the ABA Board of Governors. She has been Chair of the ABA Judicial Division, Chair of ABA Commission on the American Jury Project, and Chair of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.
Judge Arkfeld was elected Chair of the Senior Lawyers Division in 2016. It became her mission to reform and expand the Division and its mission. She was successful in convincing the leadership of the ABA to include every single senior lawyer. With the endorsement of the ABA staff and the Standing Committee on Membership, the Board of Governors approved her proposal that the Senior Lawyers Division should include all ABA members age 62 and older. In addition, the membership would be fully supported by the ABA general operations fund. Her leadership took the membership of the SLD from approximately 3,500 to over 50,000 and gave new meaning to the work of the Division.
Following her year as SLD Chair, Judge Arkfeld headed the Strategic Planning Committee and helped shape the work of the Division for the past three years and into the future. Her foresight and determination have not only expanded the Division but have positioned it for future success. She is a most worthy recipient of the Robert Meserve Award.
I close my work this year as Chair with personal thanks to our great staff and to the superlative work of the committee chairs and members of the Council, who have given liberally of their time, experience, and work to keep the Senior Lawyers Division functioning at a high level during this very difficult year.
ABA Senior Lawyers Chair