Barry Hawkins has worn many hats in his 45 years as an attorney.
He’s a partner in the real estate and ligitation practice at Shipman & Goodwin’s Stamford office. He’s taught land use, real estate law and alternative dispute resolution courses as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. And he served as president of the Connecticut Bar Association from 2011 to 2012.
With leadership roles in the CBA came automatic membership in the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, in which Hawkins served for more than three years. Now he’s returning to that national policymaking body in an elected capacity as the Connecticut State Delegate.
In addition to lobbying for legislative changes that are of interest to lawyers, the ABA through its committees establishes model rules of attorney conduct, which are often followed by state courts.
“I’ve reached a point in my career where I think of giving back,” said Hawkins, who is the former division chair of the National Uniform Law Commission, as well as an active member of executive council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents. “Giving back to the profession is something I really enjoy.”
The state delegate position became open when the former Connecticut delegate, Alice Bruno, was elected to the 38-member ABA Board of Governors. Bruno bested another former CBA president, Brad Gallant, in a contested race. The Board of Governors oversees the general operation of the ABA, and develops specific plans of action as recommended by the House of Delegates.
Hawkins also had to compete for his post, and prevailed in an election.
The 560-member House of Delegates meets four times a year. Hawkins explained that in his new role in which he will serve for a two-year term, he will act as a liason between the ABA leadership and the state members.
“The state delegate role is a two-way street, to be a representative upon which the ABA can rely when asking a question about what is going on in Connecticut,” he explained. “And if there is a question from state members, or the CBA, about what the ABA can do in terms of policy, there may be an opportunity for the Connecticut delegate to advise the ABA in a more formal sense of things that might need to be addressed.
For instance, Hawkins said, following the 2012 Newtown school shootings, delegates were called upon to consider whether it would be appropriate for the ABA to work with state bar and political leaders to discuss possible legislative responses. As a result of those discussions, ABA President Laurel Bellows urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.
Looking forward, Hawkins said the main issue with the ABA appears to be “serious challenges with declining membership.”
“The ABA is still a huge organization, it’s the largest associations of professionals in the world, but it’s been on a downward trend for the past decade, and that puts a real burden on finances,” Hawkins said. Cutting costs for any bar organization, staying relevant, “that’s always a big challenge,” he said.
As CBA president, Hawkins was among those responsible for getting the organization involved with the legal battle against the Defense of Marriage Act. He said he doesn’t have specific ideas about what the ABA should be doing. “I’m from the outside looking in at this point,” said Hawkins, who will assume his new post this summer.
Hawkins joked that his wife and others have teased him about staying so busy. He said he’s up for the challenge. “I wouldn’t be doing what I do, if I didn’t have passion for being with and working for lawyers,” he said.•