To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :
Every bar president hopes to accomplish certain initiatives during his or her term, but there are also issues that we are committed to year to year. Like those before me, I will continue to work to help lawyers whose ability to earn a living has suffered because of the prolonged economic downturn. In addition, we will always stand for the integrity and independence of our judiciary. As president this year, like my predecessors, I will speak out on this critical issue whenever necessary.
Beyond that, I have three major initiatives planned in areas that are important to me, to the state bar, to our profession and to the public we serve.
First, during my tenure we will launch a task force to examine the justice gap that leaves so many residents and organizations of this state without the legal help they need and deserve, and to identify ways to engage lawyers in pro bono service. The Pro Bono Task Force: Closing the Justice Gap will spend the next year surveying the legal service provider landscape in New Jersey, working with the judiciary and various county and specialty bar associations to gather information about where the needs are, who is fulfilling them and where the funding is coming from. A year from now, the task force will present a series of recommendations with an eye toward better coordination of pro bono services in the state to better serve people in need of our help.
While it may be difficult to think about pro bono in a struggling economy, please remember funding for legal services is at its lowest in years, yet the need for pro bono services is great. We have an obligation to fill this gap.
Second among my initiatives this year, as a way to affirm the dedication this profession has to serving the public, the state bar will coordinate a statewide day of service and civic education to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. At no time was our profession's dedication to service more in evidence than in the days and months following those attacks.
Finally, in the next year we will continue making solid strides in opening the doors of leadership in the legal profession to people of diverse backgrounds. When I speak of diversity, I mean making sure there is room at the table for lawyers who are women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, disabled or from any under-represented group. I am proud to report that one-third or more of my standing committee appointments have been made to people of color and diverse backgrounds. While this is a move in the right direction, rest assured we will keep the momentum moving forward as the year progresses.
As the year unfolds, I look forward to working to build a better bar for our members, the profession, and the clients who rely on us.
Very truly yours,
Susan A. Feeney