We are now up to five ad hoc committees I have appointed to address various issues. The metallic clicking noise you hear is our Executive Director loading a gun. I believe I am done appointing ad hoc committees. For her and the Bar Association staff, the good news is one committee has mostly finished its work and the others are moving along well. For the rest of us, the good news is that they are all doing great jobs and you will be hearing about it in future President’s Messages and at the Annual Meeting. Moreover, the Bar Association’s standing committees, including the Annual Meeting Committee have been busy as well. At the halfway point of my term all these folks are making me look good.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Emergency Preparedness chaired by former President Mike St.Pierre has researched and drafted a form plan for lawyers and law firms to follow to prevent and mitigate the affects of various kinds of disasters. We saw from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that natural disasters could destroy the livelihoods of unprepared professionals. However, even smaller disasters like fires or flooding can wreck havoc on lawyers. Preparation is the key to avoiding financial disaster when these events occur. The Committee will be presenting a report on their work at the Annual Meeting.
The Ad Hoc Committee on The Future of the Practice of Law is chaired by Mike Fontaine and Linda Rekas Sloan. They have formed three subcommittees to look at different factors affecting our profession: Globalization and Outsourcing, Technology and the Ethics respecting these factors. The Committee and its subcommittees have researched the issues had numerous meetings to discuss the issues. They will be making presentations on their findings and recommendations at the Annual Meeting.
On October 28th, I made a presentation on the subject to the New England Bar Association with Fred Ury, Past President of the Connecticut Bar Association. I think the presentation was well-received and the ABA requested a copy of our Powerpoint outline to post on its website. At the time I am writing this message, the Vermont Bar Association has invited us to make the presentation to their leadership in December or January.
Past President Phil Weinstein and Treasurer Lise Iwon chair the Ad Hoc Committee on Children at Risk. They are joined by a “blue ribbon” group of lawyers and law people who have worked with children’s issues for many years. The Committee is considering what lawyers can do to help our youth. They have had two meeting and formed several subcommittees to consider how to inform lawyers and the public as to legal avenues to assisted troubled kids. They will also be making a presentation at the Annual Meeting.
Bob Weisberger of our Executive Committee is chairing our Pro Bono Task Force. They are investigating the unmet legal needs of Rhode Island and what lawyers can do to help. We know, based on requests for help to the VLP program that family law needs are substantial. Unfortunately, not many lawyers feel qualified to help in these areas and many of those that do are already handling numerous pro bono issues. In addition, we are learning that there are other unmet legal needs. The Committee is researching the issues and considering what we can do to make it easier for lawyers to help.
I should mention that the Rhode Island Bar Foundation, under the very capable leadership of former president John Tarantino, is also addressing the issue. John appointed a subcommittee, chaired by the very busy Mike St.Pierre, to consider how the Bar Foundation might reallocate its assets to address the unmet family law needs. The subcommittee met with Rhode Island Legal Services which is hiring two additional lawyers to work on Family Court matters.
Another development that may help is Rule 1.2 in the proposed new Rules of Professional Conduct to allow for “unbundling” of legal services. Essentially, the Rule allows for lawyers to make a limited entry of appearance for client to represent the client in one hearing rather than an entire litigation. For example, this could allow a lawyer to help a client on a custody dispute without getting involved in an entire divorce proceeding. The Supreme Court has the proposed Rules before it and will have a hearing on January 4th. (I will be at that hearing to address the Bar Association’s concerns about proposed Rule 1.6 that would make significant changes to the attorney-client privilege).
Yet another former president and current Executive Committee member John Roney is chairing the newest ad hoc committee review the Bar Association’s bylaws. This has not happened in many years. There have been some changes in the ways associations conduct their business, such as voting by email or meeting by phone and on the internet, etc. Our bylaws should reflect the appropriate changes.
Carolyn Barone is chairing the Annual Meeting Committee, which has already completed much of the planning for the 2007 meeting. We have extended an invitation to speak to Karen Mathis, the ABA’s President, who is originally from Rhode Island. We should know soon whether her schedule will allow her to join us.
As I mentioned, the other standing committees are also hard at work. I would brag about what they have been doing as well, but there are space limitations and I am hearing that metallic sound again. Please feel free to contact me if you any questions or concerns about these activities or would like to help.