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The ABA’s annual meeting in London may have wrapped up, and Martha Barnett may be back in her office at Holland & Knight in Tallahassee, Fla., but the newly inducted president is anything but settled. She’ll give speeches for sure, but what Barnett values is personal contact: sitting down and having a conversation. “I like to go visit with the people, see what they care about, what the bar can do for them,” Barnett says. The prominent issues for her term include the death penalty and diversity within the legal profession. But two holdover items, multijurisdictional (MJP) and multidisciplinary (MDP) practices, might make more headlines, as lawyers try to decipher the future of their profession. “MDPs, MJPs — whatever we call them — are just symptomatic of bigger changes that are taking place,” Barnett says. After practicing law for 28 years, and now as the ABA’s second woman ever to hold the office of president in the group’s 122-year history, Barnett has seen plenty of changes in the legal profession. LAW.COM: How was London? BARNETT: The London portion of the ABA meeting was as good as a meeting could be. The weather was fabulous, the programs that the ABA put on were top-notch. The professional activities were once in a lifetime. LAW.COM: Now that you’re back, you’re still practicing at Holland & Knight? What happens now? BARNETT: I’m certainly with Holland & Knight. I’m not taking a leave of absence from the firm. What is different is the firm doesn’t have any client responsibility — they don’t expect me to bill clients or do legal work this year. I suspect I’ll do some, but that’s not what the firm expects this year. LAW.COM: It’s a little surprising that you’re the second women president in the ABA’s history. Is it surprising to you? BARNETT: Well, at least we’re up to two! LAW.COM: That’s true. BARNETT: Actually in this day and time, it is surprising. But in the next decade we’ll see several more women achieve more leadership roles in the ABA. What’s happened is, I’ve been practicing 28 years. I think it takes 15 to 20 to get the kind of experience and develop the networks it takes to move into a leadership role in an organization as large as the American Bar Association. And it’s only about 25 years ago that large numbers of women started practicing law. But that pipeline is now full of women who have the requisite experience and background and leadership skills to move into president. This year, while I’m president, the chair of house of delegates (policy making body), will be a woman. That’s a role I had six years ago. That was the first time a woman had done that. I think it’ll be another four to five years before we have another woman president. Then after that, I think they’re going to start coming pretty regularly. DEATH PENALTY LAW.COM: Let’s get into some of the issues that you’re planning to address this year . . . Earlier this year, Ill. Gov. George H. Ryan called a moratorium on executions in Illinois and launched a probe of the state’s capital punishment system. Is this the type of action you envision nationwide? BARNETT: Yes. Yes, Gov. Ryan’s call for a moratorium is exactly what the ABA has endorsed since 1997, when our house of delegates called for a moratorium. What I’ve done is ratchet that up to the presidential level and made it a priority. I’ve issued a national call to action for bar associations to work with governors and legislators to try to implement the moratorium until issues that lawyers care about — I’m sure others care about them as well — issues that deal with the administration of the death penalty, are resolved. The problems include competent counsel, the right of the death-charged defendant to have counsel that has background experience in capital cases. You know, I said the other day, “I think I’m a very good lawyer, but I’m not competent in a death case.” So, when you say “competent,” you don’t just give them a good lawyer — this is a very complex area — rather, give them a lawyer who has the requisite skills. We need to make sure those lawyers have the financial resources and personal resources to actually defend the case, do investigative work, develop evidence, to pay for transcripts, to make sure race isn’t a factor. Whether prosecutors seek the death penalty or whether the death penalty is ever actually imposed, make sure that our system takes advantage of evidence that might show or prove guilt or innocence — evidence like DNA. Each of those issues is something that can be resolved. Maybe not 100 percent, but currently there are empirical data, 50, 60, 70 percent of the cases of people who have been given the death penalty are overturned. And we as a society can do better than that — when you’re dealing with the ultimate punishment. So, the lawyers of America have called for a moratorium until we can get some of those things resolved. LAW.COM: And that brings up another state and another person . . . Texas Gov. and U.S. presidential candidate George W. Bush. Gov. Bush vetoed a bill that would have created more public defenders in Texas. In a February interview on “Meet the Press,” Gov. Bush said he was confident that every person put to death in Texas has had full access to the courts. He doesn’t seem willing to budge on reviewing the state’s death penalty system. Do you see his philosophy running counter to the ABA’s on this issue? BARNETT: Well, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about his particular position on that. To the degree that the data coming out of the state of Texas shows that there are the problems that we believe that it does show, we would be calling for a moratorium in Texas. And if that’s something that he would not even consider, at least on that particular point, then we’re at odds. I just don’t know the answer to that. To the degree he opposes a moratorium, then that’s certainly at odds with the ABA call for a moratorium. To the degree that he believes that Texas hasn’t executed anyone who is innocent, I just don’t have enough information there, and it’s pretty hard to prove that when someone’s already been executed. In our country we don’t have to prove innocence; it’s presumed innocence. Our Constitution requires you to be proven guilty. There’s a little bit of a dichotomy there if that’s where he’s going with some of his comments. MJPs LAW.COM: What’s the ABA’s stance toward multijurisdictional law practice? BARNETT: I have created a commission to look at the questions of multijurisdictional practices, and that commission will be meeting throughout this year. LAW.COM: Any ideas of what that may lead to, as far as expanding nationwide, or globally? Will lawyers be able to cross state lines or country lines? BARNETT: No, I don’t want to prejudge what the commission will come up with. . . . The underlying facts that give rise, though, are what you’re talking about. You know, clients who do business without regard to geographic borders. Technology has created a virtual world where geographic borders have less relevance than in the past. And when we use the Internet to practice law, it creates additional problems because I could be in Florida working with somebody in Alaska. It would be very difficult to regulate that and difficult for the person in Alaska to know that I wasn’t in Alaska. There are issues raised whether our licensure and regulation of lawyers — which has always been a state function, usually under the auspices of the highest court — in fact are cognitive of the laws in those areas. Has that equation changed in light of the technology and global changes that have affected business in general and legal profession? I personally believe we are headed toward a time when local licensure will have a limited relevance; it will still be important, but we will need a different kind of licensure for multi-national and then ultimately international practice. MDPs LAW.COM: As far as MDPs, will the ABA ever reverse its stance prohibiting accountants and other professional groups from fee-sharing with law firms, and say, hey, it’s O.K. to have these types of practices? BARNETT: I think the debate is far from over on this issue. It’s been going on actively since the late 1970s and 1980s. This is not the first time the house of delegates has dealt with this issue. In the 1980s, the ABA rejected a recommendation to relax the model rules and allow a more multidisciplinary approach. They did the same thing again in New York. But a lot of things are different now than they were 30 years ago, and I think this keeps this an active, ongoing debate. It’s technology, globalization, and the competitive pressure coming from other professions who literally are ignoring the model rules because they are not lawyers, and to the degree they’re lawyers they’re not holding themselves out as lawyers. They’re consultants or something in a professionals services firm. So, I think the trend is there and the movement is there and the debate in the ABA will be: how can we participate in a meaningful way? And the real challenge for the lawyer is not how we’re going to compete — because lawyers, I think, compete regardless of the structure, and compete well — but the more important question is: what does it mean to be a lawyer? What does it mean to practice law? What is the legal professional? I’ve always believed the legal professional was more than just a service provider in various legally related areas. Lawyers are officers of the court. And we have a responsibility to the public and the judicial branch of government. Are we going to preserve the traditional role of lawyers as part of the judicial branch and preserve the core values that have distinguished lawyers for the last 200 years? We’re going to have public hearings around the country and talk about this. In that context, MDPs, MJPs — whatever we call them — are just symptomatic of bigger changes that are taking place. LAW.COM: So the ABA will eventually have no choice but to be progressive in this area [MDPs]? BARNETT: I wouldn’t say it that way. I think the debate is far from over. And that with or without multidisciplinary practices or professional services firms or some word I haven’t coined, something that meets that definition is going to be a pretty standard way of delivering legal services, in conjunction with other professional services, I think — that’s just me. DIVERSITY IN THE PRACTICE LAW.COM: The last issue I want to touch on with you is diversity in the profession. We talked a little about how women are moving up in some of the leadership roles, at least in the ABA, and within the profession in general. You plan to maintain the ABA’s initiative to increase diversity within the legal profession — 30 percent of the U.S. population is of ethnic origin, while 92.5 percent of the legal profession is white. Why is the legal professional lagging in this area? BARNETT: Well, I don’t know about the other professions. One of the problems we have in the legal profession is that there are economic barriers that may have a disproportionate impact on racial or ethnic minorities. We’re trying to find ways of relieving some of the economic burden of a graduate education, and that was the genesis of the legal opportunity scholarship program. Others might not have role models within their immediate family or group of peers. We’re also looking at questions of retention in law firms. Once someone gets a law degree and gets hired, making sure that we just don’t lose that person — to the corporate world or to a non-legal profession. Retention issues, promotion issues. Just like women have had this traditional glass ceiling, I think that could affect minorities to some extent.

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