New Montgomery Bar Association President Michael F. Rogers said that under his direction the bar association will pursue initiatives aimed at enhancing attorney leadership and increasing the awareness of legal rights among senior citizens.
Rogers, who began his term Jan. 10, said that perfecting leadership among bar members by bringing in organization development experts would be a major area of focus during the year.
“Lawyers with experience give their experience for free to the bar, leading committees and seminars, mentoring,” Rogers said. “We’re going to have a professional facilitator to instruct them and give them the skills to make them more effective in those roles.”
The bar association has reached out to several organizations that specialize in leadership development, Rogers said, however, no specific organization has been selected for the project as of yet.
For those interested in leading committees, mentoring, or filling other leadership roles, Rogers said, “We’re going to ask the members of the bar to go through the formal training.”
Additionally, the program will focus on leadership potential for those who have never held managing roles within the bar association.
“Ideally, we will have a cadre of people go through the program and we can identify future leaders,” Rogers said.
He added that the bar association is also taking a new approach in selecting candidates to lead committees.
“What we did this year is ask those interested to write a letter to make recommendations for changes, what the committees could do better,” Rogers said. “We wanted to see if we could get some new blood and fresh ideas in there.”
Helping county senior citizens understand their legal rights will also be a priority this year, Rogers said.
The bar association is working in conjunction with the Montgomery County Orphans’ Court and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office to not only enhance seniors’ access to justice, but also increase their knowledge of legal remedies to difficulties they commonly face.
“There are a lot of areas in which this might arise,” Rogers noted. “You might have a senior who is in an institution who is not being treated fairly, or is being bullied by a family, or is subject to physical abuse.”
Rogers added that oftentimes, seniors are hesitant to invoke their rights and may feel intimidated by the legal process.
To offset that intimidation, part of the initiative could include giving courthouse tours to county seniors in order to provide them with insight into the inner workings of the judicial system.
Rogers said the bar association is in the midst of soliciting attorneys who would be available to educate seniors on their rights.
“We’re not encouraging litigation, to say the least, but we don’t want people to miss the advantages they could have had by not understanding,” Rogers said.
“There may not always be a legal answer, but we can educate folks,” Rogers added. “The problem is that people are not raising issues at the right time, they’re either missing the opportunity to bring it to court or are bringing it too late into the system when nothing can be done.”
In addition to the leadership and senior initiatives, Rogers mentioned that the bar association plans to continue its efforts to promote diversity in the county’s legal community.
“For four or five years we’ve had a diversity initiative. We take first-year law students in Montgomery County firms for eight weeks in the summer,” Rogers said. “It gives firms a chance to experience those students and gives the students a chance to experience firms” in locations they may not be familiar with in order to gain perspective.
Currently, two graduates of the program work at Montgomery County firms, Rogers said.
Lastly, Rogers indicated that the bar association’s government relations committee plans to continue monitoring the state’s legislature, especially in regard to advertisement of legal notices.
“Periodically, the legislature talks about not requiring legal advertising” in print, Rogers said. “They believe that you should disseminate the information on the Web, but if you only advertise online you disenfranchise people who don’t use the Internet.”
Rogers said that legal advertising in print-based publications, including those published by the bar association, are critical to informing the public of legal notices.
“We have no objection to Internet publications,” Rogers added, “but we don’t think it should be exclusive.”
Rogers is a shareholder at Salvo Rogers & Elinski in Blue Bell, Pa., where he is the head of the firm’s tax and estates department. Rogers, also a certified public accountant, has been practicing for more than 20 years. He is a graduate of Temple University Law School.