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TCL > May 2012 Issue > Introducing the New Commission and Proclaiming October 2012 Legal Professionalism Month

May 2012       Vol. 41, No. 5       Page  11
In and Around the Bar
Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession

Introducing the New Commission and Proclaiming October 2012 Legal Professionalism Month
by Michael L. Bender

Proclamation

When I became Chief Justice in December 2010, I wanted to bring together the three major groups of the legal profession—the bar, the judiciary, and the legal academy—to better address the needs of the community in which we all serve. In the hopes of achieving this vision, in February 2011, I formed the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession (Commission) to focus on four primary goals:

1) improving the training of law students to help them better appreciate the vital role that attorneys play in our society;

2) increasing the training of and providing more support for new lawyers;

3) facilitating communication and cooperation between and among judges and attorneys; and

4) encouraging the entire bar to recognize the broad legal needs of our community and improving public attitudes toward the profession through a renewed dedication to pro bono service.

Ultimately, I hope the Commission will serve as a forum for judges, attorneys, and legal educators to develop ideas that might eventually lead to legislation, rules, or substantive changes in law school curricula to better address the needs of the legal profession and our community as a whole.

The Commission, which meets quarterly, is comprised of practicing lawyers from various specialties, the deans of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law (DU) and University of Colorado Law School (CU), and appellate and trial judges from across the state. From this group, we formed four working groups to focus on each of the goals set forth above.

Working Group A: Legal Education

For the past year, Working Group A has sought to address the development of professional identity, social responsibility, and practice skills in law students and to increase the involvement of judges and bar leadership within our two law schools. To this end, it has worked closely with CU and DU to develop an annual event that will introduce law students to the concepts of professionalism and social responsibility.

We are excited to announce that the inaugural event—entitled "For This We Stand"—will take place on September 22, 2012. This two-part event will bring firstyear law students together in Denver from both Colorado law schools. The students will congregate in the Denver Athletic Club’s Grand Ballroom for remarks about the profession of law and the importance of practicing with professionalism. Sharing with me the honor of addressing the students will be U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger, Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Russell Carparelli, and CBA 2012–13 President Mark Fogg.

Following the presentations, the students will break into smaller groups and go to the Denver City and County Building, where they will meet in a courtroom with a judge, a lawyer, and a former client. There, they will hear stories about the positive impact the profession can have on the lives of clients and society.

The conclusion of the event will be interactive. The students will participate in discussions about the vital role that reputation and relationships play in achieving a successful and fulfilling career.

Working Group B: Newly Admitted Attorneys

When the Commission first met, it identified the mentoring of new lawyers as the most pressing need in the legal community. Working Group B, in partnership with the CBA and Denver Bar Association (DBA), have been addressing the development of professional identity and social responsibility for newly admitted attorneys through mentoring programs.

Statewide Mentoring Program

A pilot study was initiated and a model for a prospective statewide program was developed by the CBA to assist several local bar associations, the law schools, the Yasui Inn of Court, the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, and the Adams County District Attorney’s Office. Mentors and mentees earn fifteen CLE credits, including two ethics credits, for participating in the one-year program. The CBA has provided necessary staffing for the program.

The DBA’s mentoring program, which began more than two years ago and has more than seventy mentor and mentee pairings, has provided valuable background information for the pilot study. CU has a unique program that matches a mentor attorney, a mentee attorney, and a law student to jointly handle a pro bono case.

Working Group B and the mentor program standing committee will make recommendations to the Commission about funding and the hiring of an executive director. It is looking into expanding the program statewide.

Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans

Working Group B, again in partnership with the CBA and local bar associations, also has worked to increase community outreach and opportunities for new and seasoned attorneys to engage in community service. The creation of Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans, which the CBA has been instrumental in coordinating, is an outcome of this effort.

Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans kicked off its efforts on Veterans Day 2011 with pro bono clinics in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins. At its Veterans Day event, the Denver clinic accepted fifty-five cases. It has taken nearly 100 additional cases since then. As a result of the success of the first event and the continued demand within the community, the Denver clinic has begun to hold an event on the second Tuesday of each month and plans to continue the tradition of holding a larger annual event on Veterans Day. Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans also is planning to conduct clinics in Pueblo, Alamosa, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, and at CU’s Boulder campus.

Finally, the group hopes to expand its efforts so it can provide monthly clinics at DU, as well as in Grand Junction and Durango. I am especially excited about this program, which provides our veteran heroes vital pro bono services while also increasing the opportunities for attorneys to engage with our community. If you are interested in supporting or participating in Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans, please contact John Vaught at vaught@wtotrial.com or Ben Currier at benc@m-s-lawyers.com.

Working Group C: Bench and Bar Cooperation

The goal of Working Group C is to identify and implement strategies to facilitate communication and professionalism between and among judges and lawyers. Working Group C members have met with leaders of our many bar organizations and Inns of Court to explore ways to foster professional relationships and promote a collaborative culture of civility and respect.

As a result of this input, Working Group C has determined that one way to bring increased awareness to these vital issues is to establish an annual Legal Professionalism Month. Accordingly, CBA President David Masters, the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession, and I proclaim the month of October 2012 to be Legal Professionalism Month.

As explained in the Proclamation (which appears opposite the first page of this article), October 2012 will be a month for attorneys and judges to rededicate themselves to the importance of public service and community outreach. There will be professionalism events and pro bono activities throughout the month.

Legal Professionalism Month will culminate in "The Assembly of Lawyers" on the afternoon of October 29, 2012, at the Boettcher Concert Hall. This event, which will immediately precede the swearing-in ceremony for new attorneys, is intended to bring together lawyers from across the state to reflect on the importance of service in our profession. Although this event is still in the planning stages, we intend to grant CLE credit for attendance and expect to include an influential speaker on the subject of legal professionalism. Afterward, the assembled attorneys in Boettcher Hall will be joined by the newly admitted attorneys for a special session of the Colorado Supreme Court to administer the Attorney’s Oath. By their presence, the assembled lawyers will make visible the fact that we welcome the new attorneys into our great profession.

Working Group D: Outreach to the Community

Working Group D has focused its efforts on supporting the profession’s culture of service and increasing access to justice. To this end, Working Group D has reached out to and begun to collaborate with organizations such as the Colorado Access to Justice Commission, Colorado Legal Services, and Make History Colorado. This group has recognized that pro bono opportunities serve to benefit the community at large and provide fertile training ground for new lawyers to obtain trial experience. Collaboration in pro bono activities also could serve as a way to bond mentors and mentees through joint participation and representation.

Consistent with the recommendations of the Colorado Access to Justice Commission, Working Group D has focused on encouraging members of the private bar, government attorneys, in-house counsel, and newly licensed lawyers to increase their participation in pro bono representation. The members of this group plan to meet with the managing partners of metro area law firms to discuss how to remove existing barriers to pro bono service and to explore the viability of collecting pro bono data as an incentive to increase participation. Additionally, Working Group D will continue to publicize and advance the efforts of Make History Colorado and to collaborate with the CBA on its work with pro bono and unbundled legal services. Finally, following the successful model of the Adams County pro se Self-Help Center,1 Working Group D plans to identify additional sources of funding to establish self-help centers across the state.

Galvanizing Professionalism

After a productive and inspiring inaugural year, several prominent themes have emerged from the Commission’s work. I believe our profession has been and continues to be a positive force for society. However, at times—in the face of economic and professional pressures, for example—we have lost our way.

Accordingly, I believe that now is the time for each of us to renew our efforts to the legal profession through increased civility toward one another and by instilling these values in law students and new lawyers. Finally, we must rededicate ourselves to the service of society, including the most vulnerable among us. To galvanize and focus these efforts, CBA President David Masters, the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession, and I proclaim the month of October 2012 to be Legal Professionalism Month.

Note

1. The Self Help Resource Center at the Adams County Justice Center is available at www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/District/Custom.cfm?District_ID=17&Page_ID=335. See also "Online Pro Se Resources" at www.courts.state.co.us./Self_Help/proSeResources.cfm.

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