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Washington Lawyer

From the President: Congratulations, Carolyn Lamm!

From Washington Lawyer, April 2008

By Melvin White


The February American Bar Association (ABA) Midyear Meeting in Los Angeles was very eventful for the District of Columbia. At that meeting, Carolyn B. Lamm, our 26th D.C. Bar president, was nominated to become president of the ABA in 2009. Carolyn’s nomination will be considered by the ABA’s House of Delegates at the Annual Meeting to be held this August in New York.

All of us in the District of Columbia ABA delegation were extremely proud to escort Carolyn into the well of the ABA House of Delegates as her nomination was formally announced February 10. Carolyn’s nomination is much to be elated about, but it takes on historic significance when one considers that it has been 50 years since the District of Columbia produced an ABA president.

The ABA was founded in 1878 in Saratoga Springs, New York, by 100 lawyers from 21 states. Today, with more than 400,000 members, it is the largest voluntary professional association in the world. Its mission is “to be the national representative of the legal profession, serving the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the law.” The association has 11 goals:

Goal I: To promote improvements in the American system of justice.
Goal II: To promote meaningful access to legal representation and the American system of justice for all persons regardless of their economic or social condition.
Goal III: To provide ongoing leadership in improving the law to serve the changing needs of society.
Goal IV: To increase public understanding of and respect for the law, the legal process, and the role of the legal profession.
Goal V: To achieve the highest standards of professionalism, competence, and ethical conduct.
Goal VI: To serve as the national representative of the legal profession.
Goal VII: To provide benefits, programs, and services which promote professional growth and enhance the quality of life of the members.
Goal VIII: To advance the rule of law in the world.
Goal IX: To promote full and equal participation in the legal profession by minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.
Goal X: To preserve and enhance the ideals of the legal profession as a common calling and its dedication to public service.
Goal XI: To preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary as fundamental to a free society.[1]

The ABA executes its goals through the work of its many sections, commissions, committees, and projects, and ultimately, through the deliberations of the House of Delegates. I have the honor of serving in the House of Delegates during my tenure as D.C. Bar president. I have been thoroughly impressed with the magnitude of the issues that come before the House of Delegates and the high level of intellectual rigor and debate that goes on there. Participating makes me very proud to be a member of the legal profession.

Many contend the law today is more a business than a profession. The lofty goals of the ABA serve to counter that view, as does Carolyn’s career. She is an extremely accomplished international trade and business litigation partner at White & Case LLP, one of the world’s leading law firms. In addition to serving as president of the D.C. Bar and on our Board of Governors, Carolyn served in the ABA’s House of Delegates for more than 20 years, including a stint from 2002 to 2005 on the ABA’s Board of Governors. She has served on numerous ABA commissions, committees, and projects and is a past chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division. Carolyn is widely published and was selected as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in America by the National Law Journal.[2]

The roster of ABA presidents that Carolyn will join is impressive. Former United States President William Howard Taft served as ABA president and later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. ABA Presidents George Sutherland and Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. also went on to serve on the Supreme Court. ABA President Frank B. Kellogg later became the United States Secretary of State.

Like many of our national institutions that have spanned the centuries, the ABA was not always inclusive. Minorities and women were excluded from membership much of the 19th and 20th centuries, and it was not until 1995 that a woman, Roberta C. Ramo, was elected president. In 2003, Dennis Archer became the first African American president. To date, to my knowledge, there has not been a Latino or Asian president. One legacy that sprung from the ABA’s early lack of inclusion was that women and minorities formed their own associations (the National Bar Association, Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, and National Association of Women Lawyers), which have all contributed mightily to the legal profession and the nation. Today, these organizations remain strong and partner with the ABA for the benefit of the legal profession.

Carolyn hopes to focus on building membership in all segments of the ABA, including young lawyers and lawyers from small and large firms. Carolyn said she would also work to increase diversity within the profession. Please join me in wishing Carolyn well. Perhaps more importantly, join the ABA, if you are not already a member. If you are a member, get involved in the ABA’s work. The best tribute we can pay to Carolyn is to roll up our sleeves and help her achieve her goals as ABA president.

[1] www.abanet.org/about/history.html.
[2] Carolyn B. Lamm’s complete curriculum vitae is located at www.whitecase.com/clamm/.