A recent editorial asked the question, “Is the Connecticut Bar Association Meeting the Needs of its Members?” (Connecticut Law Tribune, Nov. 11.) As president of the Connecticut Bar Association, I am proud to tell you that the CBA is strong and thriving and meeting the needs of our diverse and vibrant membership. This isn’t just the opinion of our leadership. The CBA has been voted “Best Bar Association” for the seventh consecutive year by the readers of the Law Tribune.
We are a community of nearly 9,000 legal professionals who work collaboratively to advance the practice of law, the justice system, and the communities where we live and work as well as help individuals who would not have access to legal services but for the pro bono services of our members. We are an association rich in history and tradition. We are also an association that innovates and embraces diversity and community service. We are especially proud of our remarkably accomplished Young Lawyers Section—the leadership of our future—which has received national recognition on many occasions. Together we are constantly working toward a better future for our members and those whom our members serve.
As with any large, diverse organization, we serve members with wide-ranging interests and needs. We recognize that these needs continue to change on every level, which is why we are continually working to understand the changing needs of our members and adapt accordingly. The future of the profession has two key factors of special importance to me: that ours is an honorable profession and that as an association we must safeguard the dignity of the legal profession. Without question, the work of the association benefits the profession. More significantly, there is an invaluable benefit to the reputation and character of the members who actively participate in that work.
As the one state bar association, we represent lawyers in 40 areas of practice, including alternative dispute resolution, civil, criminal, family law, federal practice, estate and probate, elder law, and so much more. I must recognize the exceptional work of the members who chair the sections and committees. These leaders successfully address many of the professional development needs of members. Through the work of the sections, we also have active efforts in rulemaking and legislative lobbying that advanced more than 75 legislative positions in the past year. These positions enhance the rule of law, impact the quality of life of Connecticut citizens, and improve access to justice.
We have supported the publication of the state agency regulations online, the adoption of uniform laws, and funding for legal services and the Judicial Branch technology fund, all of which enhance the legal system. Many legislative positions affect individual lives, such as support for legislative initiatives to reduce sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Connecticut and to expedite adoption procedures where parental rights were terminated.
Could this be done without the Connecticut Bar Association? My response is a definitive “no.” The power of the CBA’s voice is unmatched by other organizations. For every legislative position, each section has the opportunity to weigh in prior to the position coming before the CBA’s governing body for a final vote. Therefore, the CBA’s support of these positions carries not just one special interest group, but the weight of a formidable and diverse culmination of legal experience, practice areas, and knowledge of the law.
Our members have selflessly served the Connecticut community in times of extreme difficulty. While we could never have imagined the tragedy that befell Newtown, we saw our membership, including two members of our Board of Governors, give selflessly to a community in need. Other CBA members devoted themselves and their professional skills to helping the Newtown families through a dedicated hotline. Similarly, in the aftermath of storm Sandy, we immediately set up a hotline for Connecticut citizens to get the help they needed in their time of crisis. Because many citizens have recently experienced extreme debt issues, we have created the Small Claims Project for retired attorneys to help provide legal advice to self-represented litigants in small claims courts.
Our Young Lawyers Section launched a $1 Million Pro Bono Service Campaign earlier this year and in only three months provided more than $2 million worth of legal services that addressed critical needs of persons below the poverty limit. In furtherance of that effort, the CBA Pro Bono Committee expanded its charge consistent with every attorney’s ethical obligation to support access to legal services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means.
These are only a sampling of the activities and programs performed by the CBA every day to meet the community needs at no charge to the public. The members have an organizational structure to support these laudable endeavors, including paid staff. All of this not only serves the needs of the community, but the desires of our members to give back to the Connecticut community.
We are an inclusive organization committed to diversity. We do not view metro and affinity bar associations as “competitors” but as partners in serving the legal community and the public. In fact, our Council of Bar Presidents brings together the officers and executive directors of all the other bar associations to build community and share calendars and programs. Under my term as President of the Council of Bar Presidents last year, we expressly addressed the coordination of educational opportunities. In addition to these efforts, our House of Delegates includes delegate seats for certified affinity bar associations. These bar associations know firsthand the agendas, the issues, and the programs the CBA offers.
We are committed to supporting other associations. One example of this commitment is the CBA Professionalism Symposium which was recently offered in collaboration with the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association. The CBA coordinated the recent new admittee reception of new lawyers with numerous other bar associations. We welcome future collaborative efforts.
Can we improve? Yes, absolutely. We can do a better job of telling our story, and that of our members. We are actively working on improving our communications practices and infrastructure, which was one of the core goals I announced at our annual meeting in June. We invite those who want to know more about us and our remarkable membership to visit our website at www.ctbar.org. Finally, every member of the CBA has a voice in the House of Delegates. Every member of the House of Delegates is listed on the CBA website; please contact them with your comments.
There is much to celebrate at the CBA. Yes, in fact, the CBA is meeting the needs of its members.