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44th Street Notes


Opportunity Knocks


Sep 2003

When I tell people that we have nearly 170 committees at the Association, I usually get a wide-eyed stare. And then I explain that these are active committees that are the heart of the Association. I invite you to visit our website and look at the list of committees – it is a list of enormous range, and as President I get to both wonder at and extol the accomplishments of our committees on a daily basis.

We have just gone through the appointment process for the new committee year that begins in September, and for those of you who believe it is difficult to get on one of our committees, rest assured that opportunities are still available. After all, we have nearly 4,000 committee slots. In thinking about the opportunity this affords, let me steer you in perhaps a different direction than you would expect.

We have many committees geared to the popular practice areas of our profession. And a good number of those committees are over-subscribed. While these committees provide their members with excellent professional development opportunities, they do not get you away from your “day job” (admittedly a particularly outmoded concept in our current 24/7 legal world). How about thinking beyond your specialty? Why not use an Association committee to broaden your horizons? Many of our committees are dealing with the pressing social or international issues of the day. Others are performing public service or doing law-related education. You can learn new areas of law and public policy and feel involved in shaping that policy. Who knows, you may even develop a new vocation or avocation out of your committee service. Many have.

One example of a committee to think about joining is the Committee on Military Affairs and Justice. That committee was formed after the Second World War and was instrumental in writing the Code of Military Justice. Since then it has gotten involved in a variety of issues, many of which have overtones in the general society, such as women and children in combat, and the treatment of lesbians and gay men in the military. After the September 11th attacks, when President Bush issued his order establishing military tribunals to try enemy combatants, the Committee was the first to issue a report with national resonance, raising questions regarding the constitutionality of the order. The American Bar Association eventually adopted a policy based on the analysis of the Committee. Since then, the Committee has been involved in other aspects of the "war on terrorism".

In a similar vein, our International Security Affairs Committee was active in addressing policy issues with regard to the authority of the President to undertake military action in Iraq. This Committee continues to monitor world events. Indeed, we have a range of committees in the international field with many active members who do not have an international practice.

Closer to home, if you are interested in cutting-edge scientific issues, we have both a Committee on Science and Law and a Committee on Bioethics. If you would like to address the concerns of different cohorts of the Bar, we have committees on Women and the Profession and Minorities in the Profession, Senior Lawyers and Young Lawyers, and Law Student Perspectives. Our Housing Court Public Service Projects Committee looks at how people who go into housing court, the huge majority of whom are unrepresented, can be given the help they need to cope with the procedures and the stresses of this incredibly busy court.

Of course, we will be delighted to try to accommodate your committee interest even if you still want to join something tied-in with your bread-and-butter. We expect members of all of our committees to be active participants, to help write reports and plan programs. This participation makes our committees what they are, and enriches your experience. Serving on an Association committee is not a spectator sport.

On page 3, you will see information on a number of committees that have vacancies. If you are interested in applying for one of those, please reach out to the relevant committee chair. In addition, any time you would like to request a placement on a committee, you may contact Stephanie Glazer, our Director of Committee Membership Services, at 212-382-6664 or sglazer@abcny.org. She will be happy to let committees know of your interest, and answer other questions on committee service and the procedure for getting on committees.

Getting involved in an Association committee is really what we’re all about. Many people cannot stay away once they get a taste of committee service. If you’re thinking about it, why not take the step.

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