Mark A. Tarasiewicz, who is set to succeed retiring Philadelphia Bar Association Executive Director Kenneth Shear early next year, said he is optimistic about the future of the association as he prepares to take on the challenges of his new role, which will include involving more young lawyers in the bar association and maintaining the association’s prosperity in a difficult economic climate.
On January 1, 2014, Tarasiewicz is set to take the day-to-day reins of the bar association after Shear ends his 37-year run as executive director December 31.
“Ken has left an indelibly positive mark on the bar association. Under his leadership, we’ve grown, thrived and won regional, statewide and national recognition. Our bar remains a model for many other associations. So these are big shoes to fill,” Tarasiewicz told The Legal. “But I find challenges to be very exciting. I’m going to be listening carefully and soliciting views from all quarters. The bar association has a very bright future, and looking at our leadership now and on the horizon, we have a lot to look forward to.”
Tarasiewicz is currently the associate executive director of the bar association, and responsible for the organization’s communications. He joined the Philadelphia Bar Association in March 1995 as senior public relations associate.
Tarasiewicz also served as senior communications manager for Dechert and is a past president and chairman of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Public Relations Hall of Fame in 2012 and is a three-time recipient of the National Association of Bar Executives Luminary Award, as well as the Philadelphia Public Relations Association Fast Track Award.
In terms of bringing younger attorneys to the association, Tarasiewicz said that the organization is doing well in terms of first-year law students, but, overall, he would like to see young attorney membership go up.
“I feel that we do need to get some younger attorneys involved in the bar association at an early opportunity so they can experience all the benefits of bar membership and see how valuable bar membership can be for networking, relationship building, and career advancement,” he said.
One of the ways the bar association is recruiting younger attorneys, Tarasiewicz said, is with the cooperation of two Pennsylvania law schools.
“We have two law schools, Drexel and Villanova, which have agreed to automatically enroll all of their current [law] students in the bar association,” Tarasiewicz said. “I feel that’s because they recognize the value of bar association memberships and how it will serve future attorneys in their careers.”
In addition, Tarasiewicz said the Philadelphia bar also offers a free one-year membership to all first-year attorneys. Government and public service attorneys are also extended a free one-year membership, regardless of when they’ve been admitted.
As for the issue of revenue, Tarasiewicz said he recognized that there is hardly an organization in the country that isn’t grappling with income difficulties. “It’s one of the top items on my list,” he said. “I can say that quite honestly, I’m absolutely convinced that the bar association has a bright future and will be around for a long, long time and will continue to grow and prosper.”
A method to help ensure that prosperity, Tarasiewicz noted, is through forging partnerships with like-minded groups.
“We have a partnership with the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals, where people who join one [group] get a slight discount to the other,” Tarasiewicz said. “We have a natural synergy with them, and it’s a formula that breeds success for both organizations.”
Tarasiewicz mentioned that he would also continue to support the association’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within the ranks of the legal profession.
“Although we’ve made some progress, there is much more work to be done in this critical area,” Tarasiewicz said. “Our Office of Diversity will continue to serve as a key resource to law firms, legal departments and law schools, as well as other legal organizations and outside entities, that have or seek to develop diversity and inclusion programs,” he said.
According to Tarasiewicz, the Office of Diversity is a “tremendous resource” for groups seeking to meet their inclusion goals, and the push for increasing diversity in the legal profession is currently being spearheaded by Director of Diversity Naomi McLaurin.
Lastly, Tarasiewicz said that as executive director, he would continue to uphold the bar association’s tradition of pro bono work.
“Philadelphia lawyers are the gold standard when it comes to pro bono service. Our reputation and legacy of pro bono representation on behalf of those who need, but cannot afford, legal help has made us national leaders in pro bono work,” he said. “I’m proud that we have continued to maintain such a strong commitment to support the public interest community.”
In that regard, Tarasiewicz said that most recently the Philadelphia bar and many representatives of its delivery of legal services committee are working on the issue of civil Gideon to discuss the implementation or possibility of providing legal representation to individuals in the civil matters the same way that representation is extended to indigent defendants in criminal cases.
Overall, Tarasiewicz said he was very enthusiastic about assuming his new role within the organization.
“We’ve always been a bar association that others have looked up to. I’m confident that with the leadership we have, Bill Fedullo [chancellor-elect], Al Dandridge [vice chancellor] and other forward-thinking individuals, that we have a bright future ahead of us,” he said. “I’m proud to work for the oldest association of lawyers in the United States.”