In 2011 the Bar Association instituted a Long-Range Advisory Council, which is hard at work planning the future of the Association. A Bar Leader Institute was also established in 2011 to help section and committee chairs improve their leadership skills, expand active participation and plan ever more dynamic programs for their members. The Diversity in the Profession Committee was reconstituted as a forum for collaboration with and among the leaders of Philadelphia’s minority and affinity bars. 2011 also included the formation of a Membership Task Force and the addition of Fastcase and Legal Classifieds as new member benefits. Accomplishments abounded in 2011 – those listed above are just some of the more tangible.
In addition, as usual the Bar Association hosted terrific conferences, receptions, luncheons, forums and speaker programs throughout the year, four of which stood out as major highlights.
The first was the Quarterly Meeting and Luncheon with United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in March. Her frank and open discussion with the audience was described by attendees as "amazing" "terrific and moving," "one of the most thrilling days of my life" and "the most successful luncheon I have ever attended."
The second was welcoming new citizens with United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Eastern District of Pennsylvania District Court Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, at the National Constitution Center on Constitution Day. The standing-room-only crowd was brimming with excitement and pride, reminding us all that the American dream is still alive and well, despite our temporary economic woes.
The third was the Bench-Bar & Annual Conference in October. In addition to all the lawyers, about 80 judges attended the conference, including a majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices. The CLE programs and networking were outstanding, and the party at the pool was fantastic.
And the fourth notable event was the National Symposium on Diversity in the Legal Profession in November. The Philadelphia Bar Association brought together chief legal officers of major companies, managing partners of large law firms and diversity thought-leaders from across the nation, to collaborate on ways to improve the recruitment, retention and advancement of women and diverse attorneys. The event was sold out and very well received, positioning the Philadelphia Bar as a leader in the nationwide effort to improve diversity and inclusion.
Another hallmark of 2011 was the exceptional work performed by the Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention. The commission and its investigative division spent about 2,000 hours evaluating 47 new judicial candidates and 27 judges running for retention. Editorials in The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News strongly supported the commission’s ratings. The Chancellor also urged the public to follow them in a series of newspaper, radio and television interviews. The result could not have been more satisfying – 100 percent of the newly elected judges were recommended by the Bar commission.
Bar leaders worked to improve the perception of lawyers in general and "Philadelphia lawyers" in particular in 2011, by seizing every opportunity to tout all the good things lawyers do for the public. In addition, Bar leaders worked to raise the stature of the Philadelphia Bar Association by repeatedly noting that it is the oldest association of lawyers in the United States and one of the largest and most respected bars in the world. These efforts have paid off as the Philadelphia Bar Association is now being described that way spontaneously in the mainstream press.
The Bar Association continued to be an influential voice on important public policy issues, such as lobbying, immigration and judicial selection. The Bar has become a stronger community leader, by forming coalitions with groups as diverse as the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Committee of Seventy and the ACLU.
John E. Savoth, a thoughtful, practical and charismatic leader, with a long record of distinguished service, will lead the Bar in 2012. John will be followed by Kathleen D. Wilkinson and William P. Fedullo.