February 24, 2021 Chair's Column

Chair's Column: February 2021

Senior Lawyers Division Joins the Risk-Takers

By Michael J. Van Zandt

We are just two months into 2021 and, after an entire year, we are beginning to see an upswing in vaccinations, a possible downswing in COVID-19 cases, and possible relief from the lockdown. The Senior Lawyers Division is looking forward to the day when we can once again meet in-person to continue serving our fellow experienced lawyers and the American family. Even without our in-person meetings, SLD continues to work on the myriad of issues that face us in these turbulent and eventful times. Winston Churchill's old schoolmaster at Harrow described the days at the beginning of World War II as "dark days." Prime Minister Churchill repelled this idea and stated that "these are great days," the days that try human souls and prove how resilient and courageous humans can be.

We have faced the worst this virus can deliver and the collective intelligence and caring of the country have collaborated to find a cure. Science has provided an answer, but the real answer comes from the dedication of the American people to return to normal life. This transition may not be easy, and it may incur risks, but without risk-taking our forefathers would not have founded the United States and our immigrant citizens would not have crossed the oceans and lands to find freedom and a new life in America. Without risks, our fellow citizens would not have stormed the Normandy Beaches, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and Osama Bin Laden would still be plotting his terror. So, risk-takers we are and risk-takers it will take to arise from the morass of COVID-19.

SLD is blessed with many risk-takers who work every day as leaders, committee members, and liaisons to create and collaborate on the many activities the division is undertaking. The division has a very dedicated staff, led by Emily Roy, who work day after day to track the progress of the Division, organize our virtual meetings, develop our website and our email blasts to members, and help develop our webinars, resource pages, and our two publications, Experience Magazine and Voice of Experience.

Our resilient and creative committee members are working diligently in many areas, including alternative dispute resolution, elder law and elder abuse prevention, dementia, guardianship, international law, member benefits, pro bono, book publishing, practice advice, experienced lawyers’ life transitions, addiction and cognitive impairment, and on our publications. We have a cadre of members who serve in the ABA House of Delegates and several on the ABA Board of Governors. These members are keeping the division abreast of the many proposals and resolutions that are evaluated and voted on in the House of Delegates. SLD has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of these.

Our Council continues to lead and manage the activities of the division and we will meet once again at Midyear in a virtual but vital way to decide on the many proposals and actions the division will take through the rest of this year and into the next. Two of our Council members are leading a follow-up to our opioid initiative begun in 2017 and continuing this year.  Opioid Summit II will be held virtually on May 13 and 14, 2021. This year, we will be joined by the President of the American Medical Association, President-Elect of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and our own ABA President to develop legal remedies to resolve the opioid crisis. Our Past SLD Chair John Hardin Young and Council member Kelly Dineen are leading the effort on the summit. Many other sections, divisions, and forums of the ABA are collaborating with SLD on this effort, as they have on the first summit. We hope to have a comprehensive report prepared with solid recommendations for the ABA, AMA, and ASAM to consider.

As we emerge from our lockdown and return to normal life, we must take the reality of our transition slowly, realistically, and fervently. We must be sensitive to the trauma we all have faced and be kind to our families, our fellow lawyers, and our clients who have suffered much through this ordeal. I urge you to reach out to your communities and families and embrace them with goodwill and joy. We shall always remember those who have succumbed to the virus and those still recovering with charity and hope for a better future.


Michael J. Van Zandt

Partner, Hanson Bridgett LLP

Michael J. Van Zandt is a partner and co-chair of the Environmental & Natural Resources group at Hanson Bridgett in San Francisco. He is the current Chair of the Senior Lawyers Division; a representative for the ABA SLD to the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources; a Litigation Counsel of America senior fellow; and an American Bar Foundation life fellow.