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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Summer 2014

President’s Message Vincent Swiney. In the wake of the April 2011 tornadoes, this committee did yeoman’s work in responding to immediate needs, and it is ready to quickly ramp up to meet a crisis when presented. The Crisis Relief Committee is another example of one that meets the needs of our community, which in turn helps our membership. The Birmingham Bar also has ten sections that are either age, gender or practice-related. These sections plan and implement CLE programs, host social/ networking events, and engage in public service projects and charitable fundraising. Each is nicely tailored to provide members a better opportunity to meet like-minded practitioners than might be the case at a bar-wide function. Certainly, the fulfillment of such social and professional needs is of great importance. In addition to meeting members’ needs through our committees and sections, the BBA does other work that benefits members and the public. The BBA conducts and publishes judicial candidate polls to help better inform our electorate. Since attorneys tend to know far more about fellow attorneys than the general public, this is one means to give the public some information beyond a candidate’s political affiliation. The BBA also provides numerous opportunities for members to meet and socialize with one another. Since many of us only see certain attorneys when we are on opposite sides of litigation, these functions help promote a healthy camaraderie among practicing attorneys. BBA events, especially the annual Bench and Bar Retreat (chaired by Angie Cameron) and Coffees with the Judges, give members of both the bench and bar the chance to socialize with one another outside of the courtroom. We are fortunate to have a supportive and participatory local judiciary, and I invite any readers who have never attended these functions to do so. Now that I have summarized much of what our Bar does for us, I will reach back in time again to quote from another figure of the 1960s, the late great President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Like the Rolling Stones lyrics that I have used as a theme for this article, the following words from his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, are well known to the point of cliche: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you— ask what you can do for your country.” This sentence is well known and often repeated because the words resonate with as much truth today as they did more than 50 years ago. It resonates not simply in the context of this great nation, but for our lives within any organization, and even within our families. Whether we are talking about a group of three, three thousand, or three hundred million, it is always important to think about how we can help those impacted by our actions before we think about what we can receive from our fellow family members, fellow attorneys, or fellow Americans. I do not quote him lightly, and certainly do not compare myself to him in any way, but his challenging words still vibrate over the decades, and I think that all of us who practice law in our community should heed President Kennedy’s message and ask ourselves what we can do for this Bar Association that does quite a lot for us. The first, and easiest, thing to do is to join as a member. The dues are modest, below average, in fact, for similarly-situated local bar associations, and the benefits are great. Second, join a committee and/ or a section and participate in the work of the Bar. The BBA disseminates committee preference materials each September asking members to list their top three choices for committees. You may think this is perfunctory, but I assure you that, having gone through the process, every form is considered and every attempt to accommodate is made. It is, however, impossible to give every member their first choice. For instance, we have many requests for service on the Grievance Committee. This is encouraging, as evidence of our willingness to police ourselves and to work hard in doing so. Nonetheless, membership on that Committee is limited and only a few positions are open each year. Third, please vote in BBA elections as we have the privilege to elect our own governing body. Fourth, participation in BBA functions is as simple as joining or voting, because there are so many opportunities to do so throughout the year. Attend the Bench and Bar Retreat, the annual picnic, our annual Law Day CLE, the annual Holiday Party, Coffees with the Judges, the annual Pro Bono luncheon, Section socials and/or CLEs. While time may be a constraint, there are many, many options. You might consider volunteering to talk with students about the legal profession, presenting at a BBA CLE, joining the Mentoring Program, giving an hour of your time to the Volunteer Lawyers Program’s help desk, taking on a pro bono case, or writing an article for the Bar Bulletin. As I hope to have communicated throughout this article, the BBA provides significant support and resources for many of our professional needs. In turn, the BBA needs the help and participation of its members in order to do so. Therefore, whatever each of us can do to help the BBA will not only inure to the benefit of the organization, but ultimately to ourselves and our fellow members. I look forward to seeing you at the next event! G 10 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Summer 2014
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