Q 1: Please describe your involvement with the ABA State and Local Government Law Section through the years, up to and including your current role (e.g. how you became involved with the Section, what activities did/do you participate in, how has your role changed over the years, etc.).
I had a long “career” in the ABA before joining this Section. It was recommended to me by a friend with whom I had served on the ABA Board of Governors, Jim Baird. Jim loved the Section and thought it would be a good place for me to land after serving as ABA Secretary. I was a judge at the time, and there were not a lot of judge members of the Section, but it did seem to be a good fit as to the public law issues. Once I met the people, I was hooked! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. Because of my extensive involvement with the “big” ABA, I was immediately offered a seat on the Council of the Section. I didn’t want to jump over others, but I was reassured that no one would think that and that it would be helpful to the Section to have someone as knowledgeable about the larger ABA – both how it worked and its “politics.” I offered to co-chair the membership committee of the Section and that role has been both demanding and a lot of fun. We have consistently outperformed other Sections in lawyer membership every year since I began with the committee. (Michael Kamprath, a young lawyer with whom I co-chaired and who is now the chair has been a true phenomenon!) When I retired from the bench, I wasn’t sure I would continue with this Committee; then, shortly thereafter, when I ran for Attorney General of Oregon – and won – I thought for sure I would have to quit. But, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like this Section was more relevant than ever to my work. Rather than quit, I decided to increase my involvement by agreeing to move up in the chairs (I will chair the Section in two years) and by helping to start a new Section Committee: The Attorney General and Department of Justice Issues Committee (AGDJ). That Committee has really taken off – we have over 200 members and we hold regular business meetings and sponsor CLE programs at all major ABA and Section meetings. We have a robust publishing schedule and will soon have our own Committee E-news. I love the Section of State and Local Government Law and highly recommend it to anyone engaged in the practice of public law, either at the government or private level.
Q 2: What do you perceive as the benefits of being involved with the State and Local Government Law Section and Attorney General & Department of Justice Committee Section? How has your involvement as co-chair of the State and Local Government Law Section and Attorney General & Department of Justice Committee benefitted you professionally, personally, and/or otherwise?
A great benefit is that I have gotten to know lawyers who are at the cutting edge of the many areas that the Section is involved in. These really are the national leaders in all areas of public law. There are unlimited networking opportunities with experts in multiple disciplines represented by our Committees. These opportunities also can include moderating programs, co-authoring articles, taking on various writing assignments, and getting published in the State and Local Law News or the Urban Lawyer. You can build upon these opportunities and find a great deal of congeniality within the Section. In short, if you join the Section, you will have fun, network, learn and increase your opportunities for career development and enhancement among people who share your interests. What’s better than that?
Q 3: What do you see as being emerging issues or “hot topics” in the area of the Attorney General & Department of Justice Committee?
The best way to answer this question is to give you the topics we have covered thus far, in our Committee programming. Obviously, Consumer Protection and Financial Fraud (CP/FF) is a big concern of state Attorneys General. Many of the committee members in private practice share this interest and we have focused a lot on CP/FF in our programming thus far. The programs have included: 1) The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; 2) Online consumer privacy issues; 3) The Class Action Fairness Act –removal issues for state attorney general consumer cases; 4) Regulation of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs); “Student Debt – the Obligation of a Lifetime” – coming up at the ABA Midyear meeting in Houston in February. There are many, many other “hot topics” for this committee in areas such as environmental regulation; health care issues; criminal justice issues; anti-trust issues, and more!
Q 4: What can young lawyers do to distinguish themselves in practice?
Work harder than anyone else; consider networking the fun part of the job, and don’t be afraid to do it from “day one,” find opportunities to specialize in niche areas so you can truly develop expertise; find mentors and appreciate them; write, write write – law practice is, largely, about writing. If you are a good writer and can get published in our Section newsletters or law review, you will immediately become known as an expert in the field you write about. Find co-authors who are older and more distinguished (so far) than you and offer to do the research and writing in exchange for a mention, if you’re not ready to go it alone. Show up! The internet has diminished the emphasis on face-to-face meetings, but they are indispensable to developing relationships.
Q 5: What is your biggest pet peeve about young lawyers today (if any)?
I love the energy and enthusiasm of young lawyers! But I do caution young lawyers not to be impatient for success, not overly aggressive, and to realize that it takes time to develop skills and a reputation. I recommend watching, listening, learning from your surroundings, getting to know and foster relationships between colleagues and enjoying the profession every single day. If and when you lose a case, give yourself a day (at most) and move on – but learn from your mistakes, so there will be fewer and fewer. Share your ideas and experiences – pay it forward like so many have done for you.
Q 6: What is the best advice you have for today’s young lawyers?
Prepare really well any time you do anything for a client or a court; do not assume you can “wing it!” if you could, you wouldn’t need a license to practice law—anyone could do it! The hard work and preparation will separate you from the pack.
Get involved in bar activities, but don’t overdo it. Pick a few things you like and do well, and go with them. My suggestion is to pick one activity in your community; one in the bar; and one that is personal to you -- whether it is a reading group or an exercise class. (Maybe both!) If you have a family, pace yourself – you need energy for your family as well as for yourself and your clients. The work/life balance is critical to your overall success.