To all of my friends and colleagues in the Delaware State Bar Association, I extend you greetings and welcome you to the 2012-2013 DSBA Bar year. It is an honor to serve you as the 65th President of our prestigious Association. The demonstrated commitment to excellence, professionalism and service to its members by this organization are but a few of the reasons why I have the utmost respect and appreciation for our Association and the practice of law in Delaware.
Recognition of a Job Well Done
Although a native New Yorker, I have spent most of my legal career in Delaware and involved in Bar Association activities. I have been a member of the DSBA Executive Committee for many years and served in multiple capacities. Last year, as the President-Elect, proved one of my most rewarding because I had the good fortune to work closely alongside my predecessor, Jim McGiffin. Jim led the Association with clarity, ambition, and a wonderful good-hearted nature. The highlights of Jim’s tenure include resurrecting the Association’s Diversity Committee to examine issues related to lawyers with disabilities and deft stewardship of the Association through the negotiations and ultimate execution of the lease of its new offices. With respect to issues pertaining to disabled lawyers, Jim appointed a sub-committee charged with exploring the impediments to practice faced by lawyers with disabilities in our jurisdiction. I am pleased to have participated in the work of the sub-committee that identified issues for lawyers with disabilities. In the coming year, I look forward to continuing the work of the sub-committee and expect to recommend changes to address those areas of need. The Association is committed to continue doing its part in bettering our community and creating an ideal work environment for all lawyers practicing in the State of Delaware. In addition, the impending move to the state-of-the-art Bar headquarters at the Renaissance Center represents quite an achievement for Jim’s administration and cements a home for the Association for many years to come. I am delighted to have the opportunity to be the first President to take residence in the Association’s new abode come this fall. On a personal note, it was very gratifying to me to present to Jim the DSBA President’s ring as a token of his service to the Association as one of my last official duties as President-Elect.
The Success of Bench and Bar
In fine Delaware tradition, the Annual Bench and Bar Program took place on June 6, 2012 at The Chase Center on the Riverfront. Chief Justice Myron T. Steele delivered the State of the Judiciary address to an annual meeting audience that completely filled the sizeable room. The Chief Justice spoke of the two now fully funded Superior Court judgeships that are slated to be filled this fall. He also relayed the persistent challenges that confront the judiciary due to ever-austere budgetary constraints. Rounding out his address, the Chief Justice spoke about key legislative initiatives that are underfoot and the continued commitment of the courts to serve the indigent.
The annual meeting also included the presentation of the Bar Association’s “50 Years of Service Award.” This award is bestowed upon members of the Bar who have been admitted 50 years or more. This year included awardees in Bar admission classes of 1959 and 1960-1962. Please see the box on page six for a complete list of the awardees.
Other attorneys specially recognized at the Annual Meeting include Lisa B. Goodman of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP and Mark V. Purpura of Richards Layton & Finger, P.A. Both Lisa and Mark were presented with the President’s Award for their pioneering work in drafting, strategizing, and leading the way for the passage of Senate Bill 30, which legalized civil unions for same-sex couples in the State of Delaware. Governor Jack Markell signed the historic “Civil Union and Equality Act” last year and the law took effect on January 1, 2012.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the night culminated with the presentation of the First State Distinguished Service Award to Justice Randy J. Holland. The Distinguished Service Award is presented to a member of the Bench or Bar who has demonstrated the highest level of professionalism, service, and ethics commendable of a Delaware lawyer. There is no doubt that Justice Holland embodies the letter and spirit of the award.
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines diversity as, “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.” During my presidency, I intend to focus on further bridging the gap faced by women and lawyers of color involved in the practice of law in the State of Delaware. While the number of women attorneys and lawyers of color who graduate from law schools across the nation has increased in recent years—and progress has been made in most strata of law practice—there continues to exist a chasm when one compares the progress made by these two groups vis-à-vis their male and non-diverse counterparts. We have advanced the ball in the field of diversity and inclusion in Delaware, but I see even greater opportunity for the DSBA to make a larger impact in this area. I believe the DSBA is the obvious locus for a much-needed central uniting force bringing together the myriad of individual diversity efforts in our state. Moreover, within the past decade, Delaware has become home to several minority bar associations. These associations include the Delaware affiliate of the South Asian Bar Association, the Delaware Barristers Association, a statewide affiliate of the National Bar Association (the nation’s oldest and largest association of African-American lawyers and judges), and the Delaware Hispanic Bar Association. The DSBA is uniquely poised to be the legal umbrella group in our state that galvanizes the individual efforts made by law firms, corporations, governmental entities, and the other diverse bar associations.
Paralegals in the State of Delaware
Another area of focus during my presidency will include examining the role that paralegals play in Delaware law practices and how the DSBA may become more inclusive of this tremendous resource. During my year as President-Elect, the opportunity was afforded me to attend conferences, both regional and national, representing our State Bar. Throughout those gatherings, I met other bar leaders from various states and became aware of a number of different ways in which bar associations across the country involve paralegals in meaningful ways into the fabric of the associations. In recognition of the invaluable service that paralegals provide, I intend to delve further into this issue with a view toward tapping into our paralegal resources more fulsomely and making the Association more inclusive of paralegals.
While highlighting the areas mentioned above, I remain excited to continue the good work of our Association in the areas of pro bono legal work and dedication to the growth and vibrancy of our sections. Our sections form the backbone of our Association; Their continued vitality is important to the upward movement of our Association. I encourage those of you who have not been involved to become involved in the Association this year. Join a section of your liking. I cannot say enough about the benefits, both professional and personal, that come with involvement in your Bar Association. The Association creates opportunities for substantive growth through the numerous CLE programs offered and unquantifiable benefits gained from working and collaborating with other Delaware practitioners. To those who are already involved I say thank you and I look forward to continued work with you over the next year. I have an “open door” policy and encourage any member to feel free to contact me with questions, issues, or concerns. Once the Association settles into its new headquarters, I look forward to inviting all members of the Bench and Bar to come explore and delight in all of the benefits offered by our new digs. Enjoy your summer and, again, I thank you for the honor of serving as your President.