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During the coming year, America’s lawyers will face serious challenges and powerful opportunities. Our country faces great challenges as well, from protection of our children to preparation for the sea change resulting from retirement of the baby boomer generation. As lawyers, we can use our unique skills and vantage point to play a new role in helping our nation’s most at-risk youth. We also can work creatively to address fundamental change facing our profession: the retirement, over the next 10 to 15 years, of 400,000 baby boom-era lawyers. They represent nearly half of all practicing lawyers in the United States, including a large percentage of our judges, law professors and senior partners. During the 2006-07 bar year, the American Bar Association will reach out to both ends of our nation’s age continuum through two exciting initiatives: Youth at Risk and Second Season of Service. The nation’s youth comprise our most important asset-our future is in their hands. Yet many young people face problems that are getting wider, deeper and more complex. We see this in the growth of girl gangs and the dramatic rise in the number of adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system; in foster children released to the streets at age 18 with little preparation for life; and in the numbing failure of courts and schools to assist “status offenders” such as truants, runaways and difficult-to-parent children. Lawyers see the cost of failure firsthand in court. We can work with policymakers to improve the law, and with courts to help youngsters before their lives slip off course. Early intervention and prevention are our best answers. What can we as lawyers do that will make a difference? First, we can “connect the dots” by facilitating schools, doctors, police, courts, foster care providers, youth-serving organizations and government agencies in their efforts to work collectively. The ABA can assist in “adding capacity,” directly supporting programs and the lawyers that already are making a difference. Examples include the Truancy Intervention Project (TIP) in Atlanta, which works with the Georgia Bar Foundation and is successful at getting truant kids out of court and back in school. Since the project’s inception in 1992, TIP has served 2,254 students-and of those, 77% have remained safe from truancy. In the 2003-04 year of the project, 80% of the students served did not return to juvenile court for any reason. In Chicago, the ABA has formed partnerships with the Girl Scouts and the juvenile court system in developing an eight-session program that teaches young girls about violence prevention-and about possible careers in the law. In Cook County, Ill., juvenile court waiting rooms, the ABA and DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary are helping by compiling DVDs with anti-violence programs to be shown on closed-circuit TV. This programming will reach 350 kids per day, 40,000 youngsters a year. ‘Active retirement’ In answering these and other crucial needs of our communities, the legal profession offers a tremendous resource: growing ranks of retired or semiretired lawyers. Over the next 10 to 15 years, we face a massive movement of lawyers leaving the profession-400,000 of the United States’ 900,000 active lawyers are expected to leave full-time practice. Like baby boomers in other fields, lawyers are reinventing retirement, and many of us are wondering what we will do with the rest of our lives. Luckily, the belief in service to our communities that has guided us as lawyers will inform us as we redefine retirement. We serve because it is our nature. It is the guiding principle behind what we do in the bar and on the bench. Our communities will still need us as we leave full-time practice. “Active retirement” describes lawyers with plenty of energy and experience to offer. Lawyers departing from full-time practice are entering what we call a Second Season of Service. We are the fortunate heirs of the “greatest generation,” the one that won the Second World War. It is our turn now to be the “giving generation.” Do the math: Baby boomer lawyers represent a potent combination of talent and available time. If each retiring lawyer gave 50 hours of volunteer service, one work week for a typical lawyer, we would have a 2 million-hour resource for good each year! The ABA is uniquely able to assist in this transition, and we will bring all of our resources to channel this talented group’s attention into the communities that need it. The ABA is committed to creating an online matching service for lawyers entering active retirement and the community organizations that need their help. In addition, the ABA is addressing the impact of these retirements on lawyers and the legal profession. The ABA will devise products and services to help lawyers, law firms, law schools and the court system address the retirement of these lawyers. Every section and division in the ABA is being asked to to help lawyers meet the needs of retiring baby boomers. Finally, we will continue the association’s work in promoting the rule of law. In September, the ABA will host a conference on the rule of law, co-sponsored by the International Bar Association (IBA). This two-day event will be held in Chicago, in conjunction with the IBA’s fall meeting and the ABA’s Section Officers’ Conference. The conference will bring American bar leaders together with their peers from more than 100 nations to look at issues of economic development, corruption, independent judiciaries, corporate responsibility and the environment. A second conference will take place in the spring of 2007, in conjunction with ABA Day at the United Nations, to further the discussion that emerges from the September conference. The end product? A legislative program to be presented to the ABA House of Delegates in August 2007. In many ways we are the most privileged generation of American lawyers. It is now our time to “pay it forward.” Whether young lawyers or entering our “Second Season,” we will work together-for those in need, for our children and for the legal profession. Karen Mathis is the incoming president of the ABA. She is a partner in the Denver office of Morristown, N.J.-based McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.

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