When incoming Connecticut Bar Association President Kimberly A. Knox takes the reins on July 1, the organization will launch several new initiatives. One of the first will be the creation of a task force to find a way to make the law school curriculums in the state more practical. Another will be the start of two new membership sections – women in the law and LGBT, or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender.
Entitled "The Task Force on the Future of Legal Education and its Impact on Admission to the Bar," the new task force will be chaired by Superior Court Judge Kenneth Shluger, said Knox. Knox has invited all of the deans of Connecticut's law school's to take part.
"This is a discussion going on at a national level," said Knox.
Knox said the task force's charge is to look at surveys and reports including the American Bar Association's Task Force on the Future of Legal Education and to develop recommendations for a "more practice centered instruction in legal curriculum" and to consider changes to the rules governing admission to the Connecticut bar which are necessary to enable law schools to modify their curriculum," said Knox.
In a nutshell: "to ensure the law school curriculum meets the future market opportunities for employment," said Knox. "Are we adequately preparing emerging lawyers for the profession?"
Though it's been in the works this year, the two new sections for Women in the Law and LGBT will officially begin July 1. Knox said the new sections continue the CBA's progress towards more general diversity. She said this began under Brad Gallant's time as president two years ago when the affinity member seats were added to the House of Delegates.
Knox is hopeful that diversity will continue to increase among the general CBA membership.
Membership overall, Knox acknowledged, is down both nationally and in Connecticut, though she said it's not down by much in Connecticut.
"Our number remains at a healthy number between 9 and 10,000, said Knox. "I am delighted with our membership number. I will always encourage people who are not members to join us."
Knox has been a constant throughout her career when it comes to participation with the CBA. Knox, an appellate litigator with Hartford's Horton, Shields & Knox, credits Wesley Horton, Appellate Chief Judge Alexandra DiPentima and William Moller, who date back to the days of Moller, Horton & Fineberg, for encouraging her to become involved with the bar association.
Knox said that those mentors believed in commitment to the bar and bar activities as part of your overall commitment to the practice. She went with Horton to meetings of the Professional Ethics Committee, which she loved and has been a member of since 1989. It also became an area of specialty in her law practice. She eventually served as co-vice chair.
Since her early days of CBA membership, Knox has gone on to serve as chair of the Pro Bono Committee, chair of the Legislative Policy and Review Committee; president of the Council of Bar Presidents; chair of the Rule of Law Conference; chair of the Appellate Advocacy Committee; chair and co-founder of the Appellate Advocacy Institute; and chair of the Litigation Section.
Knox has served on several CBA Task Forces, including Judicial Independence, Grievance Procedures, and Client's Fund Security. She's also heavily involved in the ABA, and will soon be a member of their House of Delegates.
"Once you start going you really get invested," said Knox. "… It's a lot of fun. You do a lot of good work for the profession and the community. I have to tell you it never feels like work. It's just enjoyable."
Knox, the appellate lawyer that she is, noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which unanimously ruled that state courts must require under the 14th Amendment counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford an attorney on their own.
Knox said the justices ruled that "access to justice needs to be provided to all equally and we cannot tolerate a two tier structure for those who can afford counsel and those who cannot."
In that spirit, Knox plans to work with the state Judicial Branch's Access to Justice Commission and the CBA's Pro Bono Committee and hopes to expand that committee's charge to those who simply are a "person of limited means, which is consistent with our ethics obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct 6.1."
Knox said this would enable pro bono work to be done for people that might not qualify for legal aid by the income threshold set by Statewide Legal Services.
Knox said there will also be plenty of opportunities for Continuing Legal Education, even if the state does not mandate it.
"CLE is always going to be a significant issue for a learned profession such as attorneys at law," said Knox. "So absolutely, I will continue to support our position on CLE and will provide bar association members with an array of educational opportunities."
Knox has plans to expand the standard two-to-four hour CLE sessions and to develop multi-day institutes, symposiums, and presentations at committee and section dinner meetings with speakers who have updates on developments in the law.
In addition to Knox, the following members were installed as officers at the CBA's annual dinner last week and will start their term July 1: President-elect Mark Dubois; Vice President William Clendenen, Jr.; Treasurer Jeffrey Buebendorf: Secretary Alexis Smith; Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Jonathan Shapiro; and Immediate Past President Barry Hawkins.