When my term as Chair of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association ended in August of 2012 in Chicago, I thought that my travelling days were headed for a significant reduction. And I enjoyed the travel and the ability to meet family law professionals worldwide. Fortunately or unfortunately, in my year as Immediate Past Chair, I have travelled just as much (although certainly when my year as Immediate Past Chair ends this August in San Francisco, it will slow down significantly).
As an example of how the travel has continued, in this short year so far, I have travelled to Miami, Austin, New Orleans (twice), Mexico, Las Vegas and have plans this month and next to head to Alaska, Louisville, Memphis, Las Vegas, New York and Destin, FL (all except two are for family law events). But this, I know, is the end of the hectic two year travel schedule. It is flattering to be asked to come speak to a group in another state. To be flown in as “the expert”. And I have been able to practice law around and during these trips (it’s amazing what can be done remotely now that our office has gone to the “cloud”). But I look forward to spending much more time in Atlanta, practicing much more law and being with my peers and colleagues at home. And of course, even though my family has travelled with me on the majority of my trips, staying home will ensure even more time with them. The nice thing is I hope to be able to continue to travel, to meet new and old friends and colleagues across the country, but to appreciate those trips even more, as they will be fewer and farther apart.
But most importantly, my service to the ABA and my being available to organizations accross and outside the country has only been possible because of our wonderful attorneys and staff. We work well as a team and support each other. Our clients know there is always at least one other attorney involved in any case in which I am involved, in case of an emergency. So while it has been a pleasure to serve the ABA and to serve other groups trying to educate themselves and their peers about family law issues, it has been and remains even more of a pleasure and honor to work with the people in our firm. Yes there are tough times, days and cases, but it is truly a blessing to enjoy coming to work each day, and I do.
I have again been fortunate to have been invited to address the Hawaii State Bar Family Law Section as their keynote speaker this Friday. I have worked very hard on my 3 hour, yes 3 hour presentation. But this time it’s different. I will not be speaking about the rules of evidence, or recent caselaw. Rather, I will discuss how to practice with a passion. I am lucky to be passionate about what I do. The rewards are not immediate, but I know I am doing my best to help people, and any lawyer who practices family law should feel that way, IMHO (in my humble opinion) as the young texters say. This program will cover not only practicing with a passion, but how your passion can help your practice and your life. And how it can lead to better time management and in fact, the creation of time. If we can create time by how we practice, we can spend more time focusing on what’s important. Things like our family, our colleagues, and even the big picture of our cases, instead of drowning in the details. This idea is a work in progress for all of us, but I hope to help the lawyers who attend. I am nervous and excited. I hope I merit the invitation.
I recently “passed the gavel” to the new Family Law Section Chair, Maryann Foley of Alaska. It was a heartwarming ceremony and many of the leaders in family law were there. But perhaps more important than that ceremony, was our final Council meeting the day before. While it was the last one I will preside over, it was a meaningful one. We surveyed the status of our section’s efforts, including our great publications, CLE programs and other endeavors, but what was also nice, was that we reviewed and revised our Family Law Section’s Mission Statement. While the changes were not extreme, they did force us to again review our Mission Statement and to think about what we do and what we want to do and be, as a section. So with that, I say farewell as Chair, and leave you with this, the newly revised Mission Statement of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association:
Mission/Goals of American Bar Association’s Family Law Section.
The mission statement of the Family Law Section follows:
The mission of the American Bar Association Family Law Section is to serve as the national leader in the field of Family Law. To accomplish its mission, the Council has adopted the following seven goals for the Section:
I. To improve the family law system.
II. To be the pre-eminent voice on family issues.
III. To serve our members.
IV. To improve public and professional understanding of family law issues.
V. To increase the diversity and participation of our membership.
VI. To educate the public about family law and the professionals involved in family law.
VII To improve professionalism of all participants in the administration of family law.
I have been so fortunate to have been able to serve as Chair of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association for the 2011-2012 term. I cannot believe the year is drawing to a close. To have been allowed to lead this section, has truly been an honor and the highlight of my legal career and bar service. About 15 years ago I served as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association. I have served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Substance Abuse for the American Bar Association and as Chair of the Family Courts Committee of the Family Law Section of the ABA, as well as Chair of the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar Association. This year has really been a culmination for me and I really know for sure now, that being a lawyer, and serving the bar and the community in ways beyond representing clients, is what makes ours a profession worth pursuing. I have been fortunate enough to meet lawyers and judges from across the world. And while there are many different personalities in our profession, like any other, there are so, so many people trying so hard to do good and to make the world a better place.
I recently attended an event for Congressman John Lewis. He explained how he has been getting in “good trouble” his whole life. What an inspiration he was and is. We should all get in “good trouble” and help make positive change in our world. For me, it is in my limited capacity as a family law attorney, but for all of us there is a way. My year has had it’s challenges just like any other year, but it has been quite an interesting one for Family Law. DOMA seems about ready to fall. Grandparent’s rights are evolving. International custody issues have been given more attention. We should all be helping ensure that these issues get the attention they deserve. Family Law attorneys can and should continue to help legislatures and courts understand the law and the ramifications of poorly drafted statutes or poorly interpreted laws. We should also help the public understand them. Knowledge is power and we should all be as knowledgeable as we can about the laws which shape our country.
Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and hope I can continue to contribute. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be so involved have a duty to continue to help and to ensure that ours truly remains a “profession” and not just a job. Let’s keep trying to make this world a better place.
I am so excited about our Spring CLE Seminar. It will be at the Eden Roc Hotel in South Beach. The program topics include: “How to Impress Judges: Analytical Steps to a Well Organized, Concise, and Engaging Trial,” “Social Networking for the Family Lawyer,” and “If You Love Me, Put it in Writing.”. Our Fall program was attended by about 300 people and we look forward to a similar strong turnout for this program. The programming, the beach, the friendships, the weather…..it will be a blast, an educational blast. You can access the brochure via the link on the page which will appear when you click on this sentence.
On Wednesday January 18, 2012 I will be presenting a Webinar for the ABA. It is one that is interesting to me. The title? Handling the Media in a Family Law Matter. I am sure I don’t know all the answers, but preparing for it and thinking about it has been educational and enjoyable.
While there certainly is more than one way to work with the press, I have found that being forthcoming with the media, even if my answer is “I don’t know”, or “I know but cannot and will not say”, has been the best. The media have much power, but in the end, they, like we, are people making decisions and judgment calls so why make them second guess your honesty or integrity.
I am looking forward to the program. If you have any helpful tips, resources, insights or suggestions, please pass them along. It can only help improve the presentation.
“SoBe”…South Beach in the Spring, what could be better? Please consider joining us April 18-21, 2012. After a very successful CLE program in Vegas this past October, we are on a “CLE roll”. The programs scheduled for Miami include:“How to Impress Judges: Analytical Steps to a Well Organized, Concise, and Engaging Trial”, “Social Networking for the Family Lawyer..” and “If you love me, put it in writing.” The full tentative schedule can be accessed by clicking here.
And one more time, the location…the Eden Roc Hotel in South Beach, in the heart of Miami Beach, is old style Miami art deco, but fully renovated and hip. It’s a great place to learn and to mingle with family law attorneys from across the country. There will be family law discussed not only indoors, but pool side and at the beach. Isn’t that better than your conference room? I hope you will consider joining us for this fun filled educational meeting. See you in the sun!. – Randall M. Kessler
The program enrollment for next week at the Encore in Las Vegas is great (over 250!) and you can still sign up.
For those of you coming or thinking about coming who are reading this on a smartphone, you can text FLS to 99699 and you will be provided an immediate link to the schedule and related info. Or you can simply click
https://mobilezen.com/FLS and then save that page to your home page for instant access to the schedule around the clock (like so you know where the next program is, etc). This is one of our new efforts to improve the programs and I look forward to your feedback on it.
I am now a few months into my year as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section. Wow, it goes fast. There seem to be fires to put out every week (or every day), but we have great staff at the ABA that really make things easier. There are budget concerns, planning of Continuing Legal Education Events, policy issues and the like. But most of all, there is a sense of responsibility that our group, our Family Law Section has a responsibility; a responsibilty to help. There are issues with military family law matters that we are addressing as well international custody issues (which will be discussed heavily at our Annual Fall Meeting in Las Vegas in two weeks; to see a link to the brochure, click here).
I said in my first Chair’s Column in the Family Advocate and in my speech as I became Chair, that I want to help everyone: lawyers, clients and others, understand the family law process better (chairs column1). Knowledge is power and we should all be as knowledgable as we can about the laws that so vitally affect families, especially children. I look forward to the seminar in two weeks and to making this and future years great and helpful to all lawyers and people, and especially to those dedicated to the field of family law and to helping those with family law problems.
The upcoming ABA Family Law Seminar has already generated a tremendous response. The advance registration numbers are great with more people registering each day.
And now, more good news. The entire program schedule and related information (presentation titles, times and locations for instance) can be downloaded right to your cell phone, in advance.
You can access the mobile website in one of three ways:
1. Text FLS to 99699, then click the link in the text message reply you receive.
2. Scan the QR code which will be available at the seminar, with your smartphone to be taken directly to the website.
3. Enter the following URL in your browser: https://mobilezen.com/FLS
Once you do this from your smartphone, you can then add the site to your phone’s home page and access it at anytime (like when you need to know where the next presentation is).
I am really excited that we are bringing this technology to our program and grateful to Mobilezen for setting it up for us.