2014-2015 Incoming ABA President: William Hubbard

Vol. 39 No. 6


Justin C. Sensing is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate with the Clarksville, Tennessee, firm of Phillips Law PLLC.

William Hubbard will officially take office as the next President of the American Bar Association in August 2014 at the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Hubbard—who has a long and distinguished history of public service, including as former ABA YLD Chair—sat down with The Affiliate to discuss his goals for the upcoming year and the roles young lawyers can play to advance those goals.

The Affiliate: What made you want to become a lawyer?

Hubbard: I decided to become a lawyer after observing several individuals in my hometown who were leaders and problem-solvers in the community. As early as middle school and high school, I realized that the people in my community looked to lawyers to move the community forward. This helped me understand that being a lawyer is a high calling and that lawyers can earn the respect of the people in their community. I liked getting things done, and it was the lawyers who were getting things done.

The Affiliate: How did you initially become involved with the ABA?

Hubbard: During my first or second year as an associate, the managing partner in my law firm, Claude Scarborough, suggested that I attend an ABA Young Lawyers meeting. I was fortunate to have him as a mentor within my firm who saw the value of my participation in the ABA YLD. We had some other folks in the firm who had found that experience rewarding, including Mr. Scarborough, when he was involved in something then called the Junior Bar Conference. Mr. Scarborough said, “Why don’t you go? As long as you are showing that you are involved and assuming leadership positions, we will continue to support you.” As a result, I got involved in the Young Lawyers Division and ultimately became Chair. From there other doors opened, and the rest sort of unfolded.

The Affiliate: Describe your involvement with the ABA, specifically the areas in which you have served, before being elected President.

Hubbard: I am grateful to have held a number of positions in the ABA. As mentioned, I was a Director and then Chair of the ABA YLD. Following my time as Chair, I served as the ABA YLD representative in the House of Delegates. During that time, there was an opportunity for the Young Lawyers to sponsor a resolution to encourage confidentiality in the testing and determination standards for people with HIV. This was something that I got involved in, and we were able to get the House to sponsor a resolution to encourage confidentiality so that people would step forward and be tested. I actually testified before the Presidential Commission on AIDS/HIV, established by President Reagan. That was a substantive issue that I recall vividly.

I went from being active in the ABA YLD to serving on the Board of the American Bar Endowment. I become president of the American Bar Endowment and later became president of the American Bar Foundation. I served two full terms—six years—on the Standing Committee for the Federal Judiciary. Also, I chaired Rules & Calendar for the ABA House of Delegates and then later was elected Chair of the House. That’s a sample, I think, of where I have had deep involvement with the ABA.

The Affiliate: What made you decide to run for ABA President?

Hubbard: I had invested a lot of time and energy in the ABA, and I saw an opportunity to try to make a difference in our justice system. I felt like I could take advantage of my experience and my knowledge of the people in the ABA, and if I pushed a little harder, I might be President and in a position to try to modernize our justice system to make it more accessible to the people of this country.

The Affiliate: Aside from access to justice, what are some of the other goals that you hope to achieve during your term as President? What other areas do you hope to focus on?

Hubbard: We must continue to work on the issue of over-incarceration and over-criminalization in our society. I will be speaking about this issue and trying to push forward efforts to be smarter about how we address crime. Also, I will be looking at domestic violence, which is still a scourge in our society. One out of four women will be either raped or beaten during her adult life by a spouse or significant other. We need to shine the light on that problem and try to do something about it. I will continue to promote the rule of law. The ABA has great respect around the world. ABA lawyers are uniquely qualified to go to other countries and help judges and lawyers in those countries develop plans to promote and establish independent judiciaries to stamp out corruption in those countries. At the same time, we will continue to strive for fully funded and independent judiciaries in the United States.

The Affiliate: What are your specific initiatives to help advance these goals?

Hubbard: Initially, the primary emphasis will be a task force named “Future Justice/Now.” The purpose of this task force is to get the best innovative minds around the table, together with bar leaders, practicing lawyers, judges, and legal service providers, to come up with a blueprint for how we can make our legal system more efficient, more modern, more innovative, so that we can reach more people and provide better access to our justice system.

I believe we have to fundamentally change the way we deliver justice in this country. We have to go to where the people are. We have to look at smart phones, iPads, and other delivery mechanisms to help people access our justice system. We have to provide easier access through court navigators who can help those people appearing pro se obtain the right papers and get them filed properly so that their matters can be heard. We have to continue to look at unbundling legal services. We need to look more closely at limited-license legal technicians to evaluate whether that will help provide greater access to justice.

Importantly, we need to make sure that lawyers are at the core of these efforts. Legal service providers in the marketplace already are delivering legal products to consumers, but some of these providers are often disconnected from our justice system, disconnected from elected judges, and disconnected from lawyers. This disconnection has happened because the justice system—all of us involved—have not fully grasped and pursued the opportunities that are available to improve access. Lawyers must be at the core of this effort and our courts must remain the core of our justice system, because we all take an oath to ensure that justice is available to all citizens and to maintain the dignity of the legal system. Nonlawyer legal providers do not have that obligation. FutureJustice/Now will take some of the best ideas from all of those people and synthesize them with our core values as a profession to make the justice system more accessible and more just, for more people.

The Affiliate: How do you intend to use technology in advancing this effort?

Hubbard: We will be looking at a variety of innovations that have been taking place at the state and local levels to shine a light on what works, so that others can incorporate those efforts and modernize their systems in a way that provides more efficient and effective access to legal services.

The Affiliate: Many young lawyers are particularly qualified to use technology to deliver legal services. With this in mind, how can young lawyers help in advancing this initiative?

Hubbard: Your statement is exactly correct. This generation of young lawyers, and those graduating from law school right now, will be the generation that can fundamentally change the legal system as we know it. You grew up with technology in your DNA. Combine that innate capacity with your legal education, and you will be the generation that creates a justice system that we perhaps won’t recognize 20 years from now. It will be so much more effective and more efficient. FutureJustice/Now will be looking to young lawyers and the Young Lawyers Division for great input and guidance on how we can best accomplish and accelerate that reform and innovation. In my appointment process, I have made a concerted effort to put young lawyers in key positions throughout the standing and special committees of the ABA as well as the commissions of the ABA so that we can develop the next generation of leadership to take our association and our profession to another level.

The Affiliate: If you could give a lawyer just getting out of law school today one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Hubbard: My advice would be to show up and introduce yourself. Some of the most incredible opportunities I have had were because I happened to be at a place and accidentally bumped into someone who was doing something interesting. I introduced myself to that person, the relationship developed, and things followed from it. There are people out there whom you cannot get an appointment with. But if you go to a bar meeting or to a civic club meeting or a reception—and not just talk to your friends, but introduce yourself to new people—it is amazing what opportunities can flow from that. What I find today is that some young lawyers are missing great opportunities because they are not participating in the organized bar. They are not going to local young lawyer meetings. They are not going to the receptions, the dinners, the social events. They are not meeting other people. Those spontaneous conversations, I think, often lead to the most promising opportunities.

The Affiliate: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Is there anything that you would like to say to the young lawyers reading this article?

Hubbard: Stay involved. Meet new people. Keep thinking. Keep changing. But always remember our core values: We are not just here to make a living, but also to make justice real.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Hubbard, please visit the following:

William C. Hubbard, President-Elect, American Bar Association 2013-2014, ABA, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/leadership/aba_officers/hubbard.html (last visited May 4, 2014).

William C. Hubbard Is President-Elect Nominee, A.B.A. Wash. Letter , Mar. 2013, at 4, available at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/GAO/2013/2013mar_wl.authcheckdam.pdf.

Brandon Smith & Tommy Preston, Professional Spotlight: Next ABA President William Hubbard: Great for the ABA, South Carolina, and Young Lawyers, S.C. Young Law., Sept. 2013, at 3-4, 6, available at http://www.scbar.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=6o-CM243fek%3d&tabid=97.


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