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President's Column ~ January 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stephanie McGee
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President's Column
Thomas H. Davis, Jr. 
Tenth J.D. Bar President and Wake County Bar Association

It is an honor for me to serve as your President this year. I am pleased to follow the highly successful presidencies of Ted Edwards and Ted Smyth. As good stewards, The Teds left our associations, the Wake County Bar Association and the Tenth Judicial District Bar Association, better than they found them. They have given us a legacy of increased community service, greater contributions to Legal Aid, and a focus on embracing the diversity within our profession — diversity in age, gender, ethnicity and religion.

With more than 2,300 members of the voluntary Wake County Bar Association and more than twice the membership in the mandatory Tenth Judicial District Bar, Wake County is the largest local bar in North Carolina. It is also the best local bar.

To carry out our responsibilities to the profession requires the support of an exceptional staff. We have such a staff under the capable direction of Whitney von Haam. Our work also requires an "army” of volunteers, the core of which are our committee members and committee chairs. I am extremely grateful to those of you who willingly give so much of your time.

We are all members of the greatest profession. It is a profession which assists both the individual and society as a whole. The law is not a job, it is a way of life. As Thomas Nelson Page once wrote in his essay, "The Old Virginia Lawyer,”

The law is an enlistment for life and the battle is ever in array. ... Membership in it was a patent to the possessor, a freemasonry, a tie like that of close common blood which made every member of the bar a ‘brother lawyer'. Every member was assumed to be all right, in virtue of his position, without further question. ... [If found wanting] he was sentenced by the opinion of the bar in its severest term. He was ‘unprofessional.'

Professionalism consists, in part, of the rules by which we live, the ethics which surround, support and inform our actions. A person who evidences professionalism possesses a positive attitude while working to promote justice, access and openness within our legal system. Professionalism is knowledge and skill developed, shared and used for the public benefit. Our association, serving as a "home-away-from-home” for members of our local bar, has an obligation to recognize, promote and perpetuate professionalism. We undertake this task through various initiatives: mentoring programs for young lawyers; our excellent, free CLE programs and informal breakfast seminars; and the recognition of members for their devotion to professionalism.

The promotion of professionalism is, however, not ultimately the responsibility of the bar association. It is the responsibility of each practicing attorney. The "Rules of Professional Conduct” attempt to define minimum standards for attorneys practicing in North Carolina. A key rule sets an aspirational goal that every attorney devote no less than fifty hours to pro bono activities each year.

Pro bono activities not only include the provision of legal services to individuals who cannot otherwise afford legal counsel, but also service in professional organizations which promote the rule of law and access to justice. Our bar association is just such an organization. I challenge each practicing attorney in Wake County, not only to join our association, but also to be committed to the work of our association through active participation on committees and in community projects. Fifty hours a year is less than one hour per week. Certainly we can spare and devote, no matter how busy we are, at least that amount of time to promote professionalism.

We live in a time of change, a time of uncertainties for our state, our nation and our society. The issues we confront are ones for which our profession, based upon logic and reason, is singularly equipped to solve. To be part of the solution, we must take the lead. To take the lead, we must be united, if not always in ideology, in our desire to place our profession in service to our community as well as our clients. A united bar is both young and old, male and female, private practice and government practice. Every member has a potential friend and mentor in every other member. Find new friends and find those mentors through active participation in the Wake County Bar Association. WBF


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