by Jill C. Peña, Director, ABA Health Law Section, Chicago, IL
I am pleased to turn over this issue’s Chair’s Column to our wonderful Director, Jill Pena. Jill, as all of you who have met her or worked with her know, is one of those people for whom there are not enough superlatives to do her justice. As we look to our tenth anniversary as a Section next year, we thank Jill for being a significant reason for our successes.
J.A. (Tony) Patterson, Jr.
We of the Health Law Section are privileged to be a part of the American Bar Association, the world’s largest professional association—with over 400,000 members. Membership includes everyone from young attorneys, senior counsels, in-house counsel, government lawyers, solo practitioners, large firm attorneys, law students and associates. It is not surprising that the ABA is complex and hard to understand. But its very complexity and depth of experience is its strength, and the strength of the Health Law Section is in its relationship to the ABA.
The Health Law Section is the home for a wide variety of lawyers interested in the healthcare industry. Bringing in perspectives of other entities within the ABA is also one of our assets. A recent example of this was the working group chaired by former Section Chair Bonnie Brier that examined the impact of Sarbanes-Oxley on non-profit organizations. Leaders in the Business Law and Taxation Sections have joined with members in Health Law in healthy debate and thoughtful consideration of these issues. The result was a guide published in June 2005. Each of the Sections could have produced its own paper on the issues, but together have produced an excellent, well-rounded paper. Similarly, last August the Section helped facilitate a meeting of representatives of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with leaders of several Sections (Health Law, Science & Technology, Administrative Law & Practice, State & Local Government), and special ABA entities (the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, ABA Special Committee on Bioethics and the Law and the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security). Once again various perspectives helped broaden and enliven the discussions. Everyone at the meeting benefited from the diverse points of view and this has led to a formal “partnership” of the ABA with the CDC to pursue matters of common concern.
Why is our ability to partner with other ABA groups relevant to you? As a health law attorney your practice touches on many other areas. Our ability to tap into expertise across the spectrum of practice areas when needed is a unique benefit of our being a part of the ABA. Similarly, our expertise is needed when other groups within the ABA look at health related issues, especially when the practical implementation impacts your clients. Much of this work is behind the scenes. However, it is still an important aspect of the Section’s work. A list of ABA groups that touch on health law is available on our website.
A second reason to affirm our role in the ABA is the work the ABA does for the profession. The ABA was among the first and strongest voices in advocating for an independent judiciary and decrying the recent physical and partisan political attacks on judges. The ABA’s role in promoting the rule of law across the world through countless volunteer hours in Central Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa is one that cannot be duplicated by other bars. The ABA has worked to save funding for the Legal Services Corporation, addressed attorney-client privilege issues, supported scholarships for minority law students and judicial interns, provided training and support to state and local bars and in a myriad of ways and through talented people has worked to make the profession better and respected.
Finally, the ABA has promoted a better understanding of the role of law and attorneys in the day-to-day life of average people. Through the Division for Public Education, the ABA has developed schoolroom curricula on various topics as well as promoted public understanding of the law through the annual Law Day held each May 1st. The ABA has the only Museum of Law. Sections have help educate consumers through programs such as the Taxation Section’s “Tax Tips 4 U.” The ABA’s Center for Children and the Law has advocated on behalf of kids for over 27 years. This commitment to making understanding of the law and how it impacts the public is one that every lawyer should be grateful for. Only when people understand what we do will they respect what we do.I have been on the ABA staff for over 15 years and have worked for four Sections during my tenure here. My service for the Health Law Section has been particularly rewarding, especially because of the important work our members do to better the U.S. health care system. I am justifiably proud of the work the ABA and the Section does. I hope you are too.