The Atlanta Lawyer — August/September 2011
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President's Message
Rita A. sheffey

Making Connections for the Future

Thank you for the privilege of serving as President of the Atlanta Bar Association. And thank you for the many kind words of congratulation, email, cards and calls. Special thanks to everyone who has volunteered for a committee or project. If you have not heard back from us, you will shortly. I also appreciate the feedback you gave us on the new electronic version of The Atlanta Lawyer. Keep your suggestions and feedback coming. They enable us to better serve you, our members.

Since the annual meeting just over three months ago, I have been very busy. Just ask any member of the Atlanta Bar staff or Board of Directors, or any of the Section Chairs! I thank them all for their hard work and I am confident our investment in Making Connections for the Future will be worthwhile for the Atlanta Bar Association.

While I have been working hard to make the Atlanta Bar Association the best it can be, it dawned on me that I should stop for a moment and be sure that I am also enjoying the experience. Maybe others of you get so involved in work or a volunteer activity that you don’t take the time to experience the enjoyment and to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. I mentioned this to several people who told me how fortunate for me that I realized this now, rather than after my term as president ends. I can still make more time to enjoy the whole experience. To be sure, I intend to keep up the intensity. I will work to increase and diversify our membership, add new sponsors, ensure our members and sponsors are getting excellent value for their dollars and time, offer fun, educational, and interesting programming, hire a new Executive Director to lead us going forward, help Inspire a new generation of leaders, and (hopefully) leave the Atlanta Bar Association better than I found it (which was pretty darn good). What I also will do, however, is to take the time to pause and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. Maybe my recent lesson-learned will serve as good advice for some of you.

This realization is particularly timely given the approaching 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country on 9/11. Many of us will pause that day and remember those whose lives were lost and reflect on all our blessings. I hope we also reach out to the people who are most dear to us. Those include family, of course, and friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Being active in the Atlanta Bar Association has brought with it some of the most special relationships I have, and will have, for life. I resolve to make more time for them. When I do, I am always enriched. We all know that; we just get consumed with our lives and the challenges so many of us face, that we may neglect what is most important and lasting.

Recently, the State Bar of Georgia added a new crop of lawyers to our ranks. The rest of us owe it to our profession, to them, and to ourselves, to make time to show them what it means to be a lawyer. All of us are role models, whether we know it or not. I was particularly touched recently when a very good friend asked me if I would be willing to spend time with and mentor young associate in his firm. Of course, I said yes.

In this issue of The Atlanta Lawyer are articles about a few of the programs the Atlanta Bar Association has to help young lawyers, law students, and even high school students who may one day become lawyers. For example, read about one law student’s experience as in intern in the Minority and Diversity Clerkship Program (page 8), working with the Honorable Sara Doyle in the Court of Appeals of Georgia. Read Atlanta Legal Aid attorney Haley Schwartz’s summary (page 10) of some of the interesting activities in which our public interest lawyers are engaged. And there are the winning essays (page 22) by three of the Summer Law Interns -- impressive indeed. There are so many ways we can help the next generation and many ways to mentor. My advice is to reach out and offer a hand (or ask for one).

Finally, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I want to acknowledge and thank one of my predecessors. Many past presidents have given me advice and one of the more frequent refrains was “There is the year you plan for and then there is the year you have. Usually, they are very different.” Seth Kirschenbaum, Atlanta Bar President in 2001-2002, experienced that in a way I hope none of us will ever experience again. Seth had been President just over three months, like me, when our nation experienced an unimaginable tragedy. Many people stepped forward and showed exemplary leadership and vision in the days, weeks, months, and even years, after 9/11. Seth was one of them. Seth seized the opportunity to take positive action. He almost immediately contacted leaders of six minority bar associations to meet with the Atlanta Bar Association Board of Directors on a two-day retreat to identify areas of common interest and concern and to explore the possibility of joint projects for their associations. As his article (page 6) in this issue reflects, out of that retreat was born the Multi-Bar Leadership Council (MBLC), now with the fourteen member organizations listed here: Atlanta Bar Association, DeKalb Bar Association, DeKalb Lawyers Association, Gate City Bar Association, Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Georgia Association of Black women Attorneys, Georgia Association for women Lawyers, Georgia Hispanic Bar Association, North Fulton Bar Association, Sandy Springs Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association of Georgia, State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program, State Bar of Georgia Younger Lawyers Division, and the Stonewall Bar Association It is an awesome mosaic of the Atlanta legal community. I am proud of Seth and the others who launched And have sustained this important initiative. On October 1, representatives of this expanded group will assemble to celebrate the accomplishments of the past 10 years and to focus on the future as we continue to reach out to one another to build a better community based on understanding and communication. Please join us at 4 pm that Saturday as MBLC presents the Seth Kirschenbaum Diversity Award and for a champagne reception to celebrate MBLC (see page 7). Thank you, Seth, for your vision, leadership, and friendship.
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