DC Bar Serves Broad And Diverse Membership

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Darrell G. Mottley , President, District of Columbia Bar.

Editor: Congratulations on your election as DC Bar president. Please tell us about your background.

Mottley: I currently practice as an intellectual property attorney and principal shareholder at Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.My prior career as an engineer and my commission in the U.S. Air Force as a reserve officer have provided broad and much-appreciated perspective in my legal practice. As an attorney, I got involved with bar associations in the DC area, including the DC Bar, where I started in the IP Law Section and served on a coordinating council for one of our 21 sections. From there, I worked on the finance committee council and served as vice-chair and then chair of the section's council before being elected as president.

Editor: Please tell us about the DC Bar's membership and your plans to foster member engagement.

Mottley: Our diverse membership numbers 95,000 worldwide - 60,000 in DC, Virginia, and Maryland; 30,000 outside our metropolitan area; and 1,000 judicial members - and includes firm, solo, corporate and government practitioners. We foster member engagement through local CLE and section activities as well as via webinars and social media to reach outside the DC area. We are piloting a LISTSERV system to facilitate communications in our sections.

One specific program I would like to mention is our practice management advisory service for lawyers who have left large firms during difficult economic times to form small and solo practices. The service offers a free course titled "Basic Training" designed for members interested in starting their own practice. Over a thousand people have taken this course since November 2008.

Editor: Why is technology a priority for the DC Bar, and what is the role of social media? Are the courts using these media?

Mottley: Social media plays a central role in leveraging technology. We are starting a DC Bar Leader's blog, and members are developing our professional LinkedIn presence. Courts at all levels are using social media - Facebook pages and Twitter feeds - for community outreach and announcing everything from new initiatives to court hours. Chief Judge Lee Saterfield of the DC Superior Court has recorded radio programs that are downloaded onto these sites. The courts are becoming more media savvy, and the DC Bar will follow their lead.

Editor: Is the DC Bar Active in legislative debate?

Mottley: As a mandatory bar, court rules prohibit the bar or its board of governors from taking positions on legislation without membership authorization, though our sections can make public statements. The board of governors has lobbied on court and civil legal services funding, and we support using public funds for the Access to Justice Commission.

Editor: Please tell us about the DC Bar Leadership Initiative Task Force.

Mottley: The task force supports bar leadership programs, with a core mission - set up by our courts - of encouraging voluntary bars. Another track develops leaders in our own sections, and a further goal is to help the legal industry meet evolving client needs, including business project management and complex litigation skills. Such skills can help attorneys and firms manage the current economic situation by providing additional layers of work.

Editor: Are there conflicts involved with working as a legal and a business advisor?

Mottley: While the issue has not come up for the DC Bar, as a practicing attorney, I know that conflicts do arise when I advise larger corporations. Business people want legal advice about their operations but also need answers on the business side. In that sense, it is like being an in-house counsel.

Editor: What does the DC Bar offer in the pro bono arena?

Mottley: The DC pro bono culture is strong, and our own significant program includes a variety of opportunities to serve. We offer advice and referral clinics, where attorneys from the government, firms and corporations advise pro se litigants. We also have an economic community development project, and our small business clinics develop local jobs and help prospective owners with fundamental issues, such as business structure, tax, IP and trademark. We staff court-based programs based in the DC superior court.

Editor: Can you focus now on any specific services within the DC Bar that our corporate counsel audience may like to hear about?

Mottley: We work with DC-area in-house counsel in a number of ways. Corporate counsels serve on our board of governors and are actively involved in bar leadership. As a large organization, we need their expertise, and we will work with them to develop pro bono programs in the community. Though still under development, we believe our Leadership Task Force will be helpful to our in-house members.

There will be more opportunities in the technology area, where we have formed a committee to deal with strategic/cyber issues and cyber security. DC does not have mandatory CLE requirements, but members from all practice areas expressed a need for CLE. I mentioned webinars and long-distance programs, and we are looking to put more information up on our website about the general practice of law and issues that we all face.