Who Advocates for the Advocates? Gene Vance and the Fellows of the ABA YLD

Vol. 39 No. 5


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

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine invited me to watch the film The Watchmen. Although I had read the graphic novel a few years back, I recall not finding it terribly impressive. I obliged my friend, however, who assured me that the film was worth devoting a few hours. While I found the film to be reasonably entertaining—though, like the novel, not terribly compelling or memorable—one phrase did stick in my mind when I began writing this article: “Who watches the Watchmen?” In the context of our profession, one also could ask: “Who advocates for the advocates?” In this issue, we debut a new feature that serves to answer that very question. In the context of the ABA YLD, the answer is the Fellows of the Young Lawyers Division.

About the YLD Fellows

Formed in 1977, the ABA YLD Fellows program gives those members who have “aged out” of the Division an opportunity “to support the YLD, and contribute to the attainment of its objectives, stimulate the interest of young lawyers in the activities of the Association, and provide the Fellows with an opportunity to maintain friendships developed over the years.” Four classes of membership exist within the Fellows: (1) Fellows, (2) Sustaining Fellows, (3) Life Fellows, and (4) Honorary Fellows, and its leadership consists of an elected Board of Fellows, as well as a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and two Honorary Chairs. The Fellows program also contains several standing committees, including a nominating committee, membership committee, annual debate committee, fellows award committee, House of Delegates coordinating committee, and placement assistance committee. To become a member of the Fellows, one must be nominated by the ABA YLD Council, approved by the nominating committee, and then seek election from the Board of Fellows.

Since its inception, the Fellows program has consistently provided assistance and support to the ABA YLD. Its activities include advocating on behalf of the YLD in the larger ABA, especially when budget cuts force tough funding decisions. The Fellows have also assisted ABA YLD leaders in providing mentorship to young lawyers from across the country. The Fellows host an annual gala at the ABA Annual Meeting, during which they recognize young lawyers who have distinguished themselves by their dedication to both the Division and its public service initiatives. And let us not forget about the Fellows Debate, an annual “satirical skit” in which the audience is the ultimate winner, where the Fellows debate ABA YLD leaders on topics such as “Obama’s No Joke: Will Late Night Television Survive After Bush?” See Jill Kastner, Cheers from Boston, The Affiliate (Mar./Apr. 2009). Of course, the Fellows also serve as something akin to an ABA YLD alumni organization.

This Year’s Fellows President: Gene Vance

The Fellows’ support of the ABA YLD deserves recognition, which is why we at The Affiliate have decided to showcase its members and their accomplishments through feature articles such as this one. And one can think of few people who deserve such recognition more than this year’s ABA YLD Fellows President, Gene Vance. Since his early days with the YLD, Gene consistently distinguished himself through his advocacy, writing, professional activities, and volunteer efforts. Indeed, his professional accolades are nearly too numerous to report without doing them injustice. Nevertheless, an attempt toward that end is in order.

Since 1995, Gene has practiced law with the Lexington, Kentucky, office of Stoll, Keenan, Ogden PLLC, where he has specialized in a variety of civil litigation, ranging from complex commercial litigation and intellectual property disputes to personal injury litigation in both state and federal courts. He has served as attorney of record on nearly a dozen published appellate decisions. He has published articles in The Young Lawyer and The Kentucky Bar Association New Lawyer Handbook, where he also served as Editor from 1992–1994. He has received numerous awards from—among others—his alma maters, Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky College of Law, as well as the ABA, Kentucky Bar Association, and the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Gene’s tireless contributions to the ABA, KBA, and Fayette County Bar Association have also characterized his professional career. He has served as both ABA YLD Delegate and Delegate at Large to the ABA House of Delegates, where he currently serves as Kentucky State Delegate. He has served on the Committee on Rules and Calendar from 2002–2006 and served as chair from 2010–2012. He also chaired the Committee on Drafting Policies and Procedures. Currently he chairs the Select Committee of the House and sits on the Governance Commission, the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee, and the ABA London Sessions 2015 Planning Committee. While serving as a member of the ABA YLD, Gene served as Membership Director; both Chair and Vice-Chair of the Affiliate Assistance Program; as a member of the Leadership Advisory Board, Affiliate Assistance Team, the Resolutions Committee, and Division Council; and delivered numerous presentations at the Fall Conference, Midyear Meeting, Spring Conference, Midwest Conference, and South Central Conference.

He currently serves as President of the Fayette County Bar Association, where he also previously served as President-Elect, Treasurer, Secretary, and Auditor. He has served on the KBA’s Board of Governors and House of Delegates, where he sat on numerous committees. He has also served as Chair, Chair-Elect, and Vice-Chair of the KBA’s Young Lawyers Section, as well as on its Executive committee, and as Trustee for the Kentucky Bar Foundation and as Co-Chair of the KBA’s 2008 Annual Convention. Needless to say, Gene Vance has had a long and storied career that has been characterized by his unceasing devotion to the bar. Indeed, the foregoing account is an incomplete list of highlights necessitated by the sheer depth and volume of Gene’s professional accomplishments and endeavors.

Unsurprisingly then, Gene decided to join the Fellows board because it provided him an opportunity to continue serving the ABA YLD. He did so because believes that the Division plays a critical role in advancing the ABA’s public service initiatives, which he considers as crucial to the public interest as it is integral to the ABA’s ultimate mission. Recounting his favorite memories while serving the ABA YLD, Gene is particularly proud of the opportunity that he had to work with Division’s Disaster Legal Services Committee and FEMA to provide legal assistance for victims of severe flooding in the Ohio River Valley through his position as Coordinator of Statewide FEMA Disaster Legal Services Efforts in 1997. Through these efforts, the ABA YLD was able to conduct numerous training sessions throughout Kentucky for dozens, if not hundreds, of attorneys seeking to assist flood victims on a variety of legal matters in the months following the floods.

When confronted with his accomplishments, however, Gene is quick to show a measure of humility. When asked about them in the context of his service with the ABA YLD, he prefers to talk instead about his fondness for those with whom he worked and his respect for their accomplishments. Ultimately, it is clear that Gene Vance’s involvement has resulted not from his desire for personal recognition or gain, but from his sincere belief that the ABA YLD is one of the finest professional organizations in existence, both because of the work it does and the opportunities it provides young lawyers. One can think of no finer advocate, then, for us advocates.


  • Don't Forget

  • About The Affiliate

  • Stay Connected

  • Reprints & Back Issues

  • For More Information

  • Contact Us