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This is a great time to be an American lawyer. At the beginning of a new age, post-Sept. 11 and post-Enron, Americans are faced with a litany of challenging issues. Many of these issues can be characterized accurately as involving life-and-death choices, and almost all of them are central to the legal profession. It has never been more important than it is now for the public to understand the impact of public policy choices and decisions, and the role of the American legal profession in fashioning those choices and decisions. It is essential in these times that thoughtful deliberation occur. The balancing of liberty and security, privacy and openness, consumer protection and manufacturer stability, reflect but a few of the many hard choices our nation grapples with on a daily basis. The legal implications of these questions are enormous and complicated. It is the legal experts, the lawyers — in other words, us — who are best trained and capable to lead thoughtful, informed dialogues about these legal choices that affect all aspects of American society. The ABA’s central mission, as the national representative of the legal profession, is the creation of a positive environment for our profession to contribute to the public good. Our American system of legal education produces well-trained lawyers ready to serve the public and to practice law on a global stage. We are well prepared to represent Americans, their businesses and their organizations with up-to-date substantive knowledge, meaningful ethical guideposts and technological resources that did not even exist a decade ago-all with the rule of law guiding us in our professional pursuits. Without a political action committee, without endorsing political candidates or otherwise engaging in partisan political activity, and without a profit motive, the ABA creates opportunities for legal experts of local, regional, national and international repute to engage in informed analysis and reach a national professional consensus that promotes positive contributions to the rule of law. The ABA brings American lawyers together in many different ways, most notably through the participation of our more than 408,000 members to ensure that lawyers meet the real-life legal needs of real people. Through a wide variety of association activities, lawyers from all over the world and from every practice setting imaginable offer their experiences and knowledge on the issues confronting our profession and the American people. The ABA speaks for the profession through its House of Delegates, which is the paradigm by which the ABA provides a forum for lawyers to bring their expertise to reasoned dialogue, debate and discussion to the legal issues affecting our profession and our nation. A LEGISLATURE OF LAWYERS The House of Delegates is a nationally and professionally representative lawyer legislature. The House’s diversity belies its mission — to set the agenda for the profession, and thus establish policy for the ABA. Through open, informed and reasoned debate, the House reaches consensus on the most difficult issues. United through a commitment to the rule of law and sharing a capacity to provide expert legal opinion and analysis, the members of the House of Delegates and their work are important examples of effective pluralism in action. The House’s rejection of multi-disciplinary practice proposals has proven prescient in the wake of the accounting profession’s experiences with serving multiple masters. Likewise, the 1997 decision by the House of Delegates to call for a moratorium on the death penalty until due process concerns could be addressed presaged legal changes around the country that are leading to fairer administration of justice. These serious times require serious attention to serious issues. Our collective attention has for too long been captive of opportunistic argument-unfortunately our national debate has been demonized. We must remember that our nation was forged on hard, but well-informed, debate by the likes of Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison — deliberate dialogue and debate from different perspectives. It is against this background that the ABA must find inspiration to weave divergent threads of legal expertise into a fabric of national consensus to improve the rule of law. The ABA shall continue its important role as the home of legal experts who can address important contemporary legal issues affecting the rule of law. The ABA enjoys the capacity to convene these experts and offer a haven for informed and rational dialogue, debate and discussion. The ABA will lead by example, preferring reflective debate to harsh argument. During my year as ABA president, I will do my part. I will speak early and often about the ABA’s role in helping lawyers to make contributions as legal experts to the important issues of the day. I will promote the role of the ABA and, by extension, that of the legal profession, in the national debate. EXAMINING STATE JUDICIARIES One example of my commitment to this approach is the ABA Commission on the 21st Century Judiciary, which I have convened to examine the current status of state judicial independence and accountability. We know from survey research and anecdotal evidence that the state judiciaries are subject to increasing pressures from many sources, including the effect of harsher and more expensive judicial campaigns and tensions with the other branches of government. To develop a comprehensive understanding of these matters, retired U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Abner Mikva and former FBI Director William S. Sessions have agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs of a commission that includes not only lawyers and judges of all stripes but a former governor, a state legislator, a Fortune 500 CEO, an educator and a philanthropist. Assisted by an advisory group that draws from additional constituencies, the commission will hear testimony from many quarters at hearings, debate proposals at a colloquium and offer recommendations to the House of Delegates in August 2003. The expertise and experience being brought to bear on this important topic is apparent. It is consistent with the ABA’s role as the organization responsible for insightful legal analysis through informed dialogue, debate and discussion. The legal profession has many resources to do good and the ABA has great capacity to mobilize those resources. As ABA president, I will do my part to ensure that it remains a great time to be an American lawyer. Alfred P. Carlton Jr. is a partner in the Raleigh, N.C., office of Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Stockton. He becomes the 126th president of the ABA.

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