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The American Bar Association’s most recent bar year has been built around two themes: service and the rule of law. It has been my privilege to devote significant time to work in these areas. It is in the nature of lawyers to serve, and this year as ABA president, I experienced countless acts of dedication and service by our nation’s lawyers. Starting in Honolulu at last year’s annual meeting, the ABA hosted an exciting roundtable that brought together youth professionals from the fields of law, mental health, social work and education. It was the first of more than a dozen such roundtables hosted nationally by the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk. These events were just one component of an ambitious program to make sure our laws, courts and other institutions meet the needs of young people, who are our nation’s most precious asset. The ABA’s new Commission on Youth at Risk has worked with Girl Scouts USA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to provide anti-violence education, and with Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to identify lawyers willing to volunteer as mentors for at-risk teens. Aided by the ABA Center on Children and the Law, and the association’s Public Education Division, the commission conducted the ABA’s first systematic review of juvenile-status offense laws and policies in more than 30 years. Juvenile-status offenses, such as truancy and running away, pose a huge quandary for courts. Although adults would not be arrested for the same activities, these actions are urgent signs of deeper troubles in young people, and families, unless there is successful early intervention. The commission, which in January jointly hosted a video conference on juvenile-status offenses with the U.S. Department of Justice, has proposed a House of Delegates recommendation urging that states focus on entire families, not just the individual youths accused of these offenses. The recommendation urges the use of in-home and community services instead of incarceration, which often begins a youth’s slide into the juvenile or criminal system. The commission has proposed a series of reforms in the foster care system. Each year, about 20,000 foster children “age out” of the child welfare system, and many are woefully unready to face adult life. The tragic result for many is homelessness, poverty and crime. In San Francisco, the House of Delegates will consider recommendations calling on all states to adopt laws that provide youth who age out of foster care with housing, education and mental health assistance, at least until age 21, and to make sure that these youngsters have a significant attachment to an appropriate adult. Finally, in February, the House of Delegates approved two important resolutions focusing on families of military personnel deployed in combat zones. One urged that states require companies to grant leave for nonparental custodians, such as grandparents, when needed to care for military children. Another urged the removal of any bureaucratic barriers, such as out-of-district fees, that make it difficult for such children to attend the school best suited to their needs. At the other end of the age spectrum, the profession faces a seismic shift. About 400,000 of the 900,000 practicing lawyers will retire within the next 15 years. This year, the ABA established the Second Season of Service to help firms and baby boom lawyers manage the transition. More information is available about this important initiative at www.abanet.org/secondseason, which includes a state-by-state online matching service to help retiring lawyers find pro bono and other volunteer activities. The baby boom generation has reinvented everything it has encountered. Retirement is no exception. Our generation will not hang up our briefcases and spend entire days at the golf course. We will continue to answer the call to service, just as we have our entire lives. At the national level, the ABA continued its ongoing mission of “defending liberty and pursuing justice.” Working with a coalition that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Association of Corporate Counsel, the ABA continued to seek repeal of destructive policies that pressure defendants to waive their attorney-client privilege. Quite simply, a client’s ability to speak to his lawyer in confidence is essential to effective legal representation. This right has been recognized in some form for 500 years, and the ABA will continue to work until the government repeals all policies that recklessly erode it. Another right that has been under attack is habeas corpus. Of all the rights accorded by the common law, perhaps none matters more � nor has endured longer � than the right of habeas corpus, which guarantees the opportunity to challenge wrongful imprisonment by the government.
Starting Thursday, more than 9,000 attorneys, judges and other people interested in the legal profession will come together in San Francisco for the American Bar Association’s 130th annual meeting.To kick off the event, The Recorder is presenting articles from the incoming ABA president, William Neukom, and the outgoing president, Karen Mathis.

In the last year, the ABA lobbied Congress to repeal a deeply misguided recent law that prohibits federal courts from considering habeas corpus filings by detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And in February, the ABA led the nation’s lawyers in repudiating Charles D. “Cully” Stimson, a Pentagon official who urged companies to withhold their business from firms whose lawyers provided detainees with pro bono representation. And, of course, since 1990, the ABA has actively promoted the rule of law internationally. Following a very successful November 2005 symposium in Washington that brought together legal, business and nonprofit leaders from more than 40 nations, the ABA and International Bar Association jointly sponsored a second meeting in Chicago in September 2006. In the coming year, ABA President-elect Bill Neukom will deepen this work even further with the formation of the World Justice Project. The ABA has grown immeasurably since 100 lawyers from 21 states founded it in 1878. Today, the association’s reach and values are truly global. I am proud to have served this association, and to have assisted its never-ending quest for justice for all. Karen J. Mathis is president of the American Bar Association. A commercial and estate lawyer, she is a partner in the Denver office of Morristown, N.J.-based McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter. This article originally appeared in The National law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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