The Atlanta Lawyer — June/July 2011
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Remarks Of Outgoing President
Michael B. Terry

Remarks of outgoing President Michael B. Terry at the May 25, 2011 Annual Meeting

Members of the judiciary, distinguished guests, fellow members, family and friends. What a year it has been.As bar president you have two distinct years—the one you plan for, and the one that actually occurs. My year as President began with an unexpected event. When the annual membership renewals arrived in May 2010, our membership was substantially down, as a result of attorney layoffs that occurred after the 2009 membership renewals were submitted. The impact on bar membership and finances of the 2009 layoffs was not recognized until the month I became President.

In response to the attorney layoffs, we undertook two initiatives.First, we set out to help the attorneys who had lost their jobs. Free programs for unemployed lawyers were initiated by the Atlanta Bar Association and announced at the Annual meeting last year. Unemployed attorneys have been allowed to attend CLE, networking events, bar-wide luncheons and meetings, and many section activities, free of charge and without paying bar dues

The second initiative was to try to help the Bar recover its losses, both in numbers and in dollars. After an emergency Executive Committee retreat in June, we expanded our membership committee, expanded member benefits, and sought new sponsors to help fill the financial gap.Thanks to the hard work of a lot of people, too numerous to name, we have not only survived but have met our budget for the year.

But while we were fighting to keep our financial heads above water, we not only continued but expanded our award winning programming. There is no possible way I can mention even a small percentage of the programs put on by the Atlanta Bar Association this year, but I want to mention a few things that were highlights for me.

We continued our tradition of promoting pro bono and public service through many programs, including the Celebrating Service luncheon. The Celebrating Service Luncheon includes a pro Bono fair where pro bono legal providers can meet and provide information to potential donors and volunteers. It includes the presentation of pro bono and public service awards. And this year’s keynote speaker was Mayor Kasim Reed.

We also continued our tradition of Leadership Luncheons. I know many of you were present when Seaborn Jones and Ray Persons received Leadership Awards in August, and when Liz Price and Bill Barwick received Leadership Awards in March.

For the 18th year, our Summer Law Intern Program offered high school students opportunities for paid work for six weeks in law firms, law departments, public interest groups and courts. The 2010 program placed 32 interns. This is a great program and is going strong into year nineteen.

The Minority & Diversity Clerkship Program since 1985 has provided clerkship opportunities in Atlanta firms to over 200 first year summer clerks. This year, Seaborn Jones and Charlie Lester have promoted the program heavily and nine firms have agreed to host students during this summer’s programs and the Atlanta Bar Foundation has funded four more clerks to be assigned to judges.

In addition to these great traditional programs of the Atlanta Bar Association, we had some new things happen this year as well as well. At the request of Vice President Joe Biden, I, along with several other bar presidents, was invited to participate in a program to discuss a proposed new federal agency/private bar collaboration to provide access to justice to working families. The meeting was held at the White House and included as participants Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder.

As a result of two years of preliminary meetings with representatives of the Istanbul Bar Association, I spent March 8-13 in Istanbul, Turkey, meeting with representatives of the Istanbul Bar concerning a proposed lawyer exchange and other joint Programs; lecturing at a meeting of the Istanbul Bar Association on indigent defense issues; and lecturing at a Transnational Law Seminar on the American Appellate System.

In April, for the first time the Atlanta Bar Association participated in the annual ABA Day in Washington DC, where bar representatives meet with senators and representatives to lobby for the American Bar Association’s legislative agenda, which this year included advocating for funding for Legal Services Corp. and speeding up the process of filling vacant federal judgeships.I see Frank Strickland in the audience. Frank, thank you for all that you do for Legal Services Corp. I think we accomplished something with our lobbying on that issue.

On Law Day, we had members making Law Day speeches at local schools. I had the opportunity speak to a group including the JAG Corps attorneys from Fort Benning on “The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo.” They were a great audience. And we had our a law day proclamation signed by Governor Nathan Deal.

Two weeks ago Atlanta Bar Foundation President Bill Ragland and I spoke at the Police Memorial Service.The Police Memorial statue in Atlanta was contributed by The Atlanta Bar Association, and each year the Atlanta Bar Association places a wreath on the memorial during the police memorial service.

The Atlanta Bar Association also played host to the American Bar Association during the ABA’s Midyear Me e t i ng i n At l a nt a i n February. The Atlanta Bar sponsored, planned or staffed several events. We also provided speakers for several programs, and offered office space and resources to visiting bar leaders.

This year, the Atlanta Bar Foundation began a Twenty-Fifth Anniversary fundraising drive, which to date has raised $ 156,000 for the charitable efforts of the Bar. The two key components of this were the Bar Leader Campaign and the Law Firm Campaign.Our lead Law Firm contributors are King & Spalding and Alston + Bird, and I want to thank both of those firms and all others who have contributed.

The other two key fundraising efforts of the Foundation are the Bard show and LawJam, Battle of the Lawyer Bands. The Bard Show (A Courthouse Line IX: Law School Musical) was held at the 14th Street Playhouse this past weekend. Director Cathy O’Neil and the cast and crew put on three great shows and raised a lot of money for the Foundation. I see a number of our talented stars In the audience today, including Teresa Bonder, Erica Ghali, David Schaeffer and Michael Caldwell.

LawJam 2011 will be held June 18, 2011 at the Variety Playhouse.It is a great show and a fun evening and I hope you will all be there.

Finally, as to programming, I want to mention something that is both old and new. The Layman’s Lawyer radio programs are back after a long hiatus. This time, the programs were produced by the Atlanta Bar Association Lawyer Referral & Information Service.David Bryman produced 17 one-hour programs on radio station 790 the Zone on Saturday mornings on Topics such as Landlord/ Tenant law, Estate Planning and Traffic and DUI issues. Atlanta Bar Association members participated as the speakers.

As in all previous years, the Sections of the bar are where the real action is. Just let me share with you some numbers of which you may not be aware. The Sections this year held 103 board meetings; 84 breakfast meetings and programs with 57 offering CLE credit s; 33 lunch meetings and programs with eight offering CLE credits, and a lot more. One really important number is that the sections collectively made 52 financial contributions to various pro bono programs and the At lanta Bar Association’s Summer Law Intern Program.

At the section level, and barwide, we have had a great year, and it has been my honor to serve as President.I first ran for bar office 10 years ago, when I ran for a member-at-large seat in the Litigation Section. I never thought that would lead me to this podium.

I have many people to thank, and not the least of which is my Board of Directors. Can I ask the entire Board of Directors to please stand and be recognized, please. This year could not have been the success that it was without the hard work of this group.I get to stand up here and describe all of the successes, but this is the group that really does the work.

And I hate to single anyone out, but I will anyway. Rita Sheffey, your next President of the Atlanta Bar Association has kept me on task and made sure the work got done. I was fortunate enough also to have Rita follow me as chair of the Litigation Section a few years ago, and what I said then was just as true this year. Whatever successes I have had depended heavily upon her contributions, and whatever failures I have had were despite her best efforts to Keep me on track. So Rita, once again, from me and from the Bar, thank you.

One of the greatest pleasures and privileges of being the President of the Atlanta Bar Association is working with our wonderful staff. And that includes the staff of the Foundation and the Lawyer Referral Service. Thanks to all of you. You all do such a great job. You make us look good and keep us moving. And I can say with some authority, having traveled to bar events around the country and having met with the presidents of many bars over the last two years, that there is no better executive director in the country than Diane O’Steen. Diane joined the Bar more than 46 years ago, apparently as a child of 4 or 5 years of age. As many of you know, Diane has announced her retirement effective one year from now. As I have told Rita, she has no more important or difficult task as president than filling Diane’s shoes.

There are three more groups I have to thank. My partners at Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore have supported me throughout the year, and all of the lawyers in the firm have supported the Atlanta Bar Association, as shown by the firm winning the Law Firm Service Award. It is the greatest bunch of lawyers and greatest group of friends anyone could ask for.

Perhaps most importantly, I have to thank my family. All four of my children are here today. The travel, early morning meetings,And the evening receptions that come with being Bar President, all have taken away from my time with them. But they have been supportive and encouraging every step of the way. I could not and would have done this without their willing support.

And finally, to all of you, the members of the Atlanta Bar Association, I thank you for the opportunities you have given me for service to the bar and the profession. I hope that in that service I have accomplished some things that proved worthy of your trust. But I want to let you all know that whatever I have contributed to the Bar in these years, I have received much more than that back in friendships, in personal and professional growth, and in all the rewards that come from working with and for the dedicated lawyers of this great bar association. So once again, thank you.