by Marc Adelman
President, State Bar of California
"There was a time, not so many years ago, when the legal profession was truly honored . . . and when the courts and lawyers were held in the esteem of the general public . . . I believe the public has lost faith in the administration of justice and in lawyers and judges."
My words? No. They are the opening paragraphs of an article written in the first volume of the State Bar Journal in 1927.
The decline of pride we feel in our profession is as troubling today as it was 70 years ago.
The pride is there, but it is covered up and camouflaged as we react to the public’s perception of our profession.
I do not have — nor will I propose — an impromptu solution to the dilemma I term "hidden pride."
I do believe, however, that it is our actions by which we will be judged. And it is those actions which will go far to restore our pride and the public’s trust.
Our actions — not a public relations firm, not a media blitz, not a bloated publicity budget — but our specific actions.
We can begin to take steps to restore some of that hidden pride. We can follow the lead of the Commission on Access to Justice. This visionary group, which was formed last year and involves high-level representation from the bar, the judiciary, business and labor, will pursue major improvements to the delivery of legal services.
They intend to act.
I refuse to let this year go by without challenging you, too, to heed this message and act.
When I was sworn in as president last month, my first words were a call to action of behalf of our children. As a parent and as a lawyer, I am well aware that our children are at risk. The need for their representation in our legal system is profound.
In California today, there are 2.3 million children — one in every four — who live in poverty. One in every eight suffers a mental health problem severe enough to require professional treatment.
My own family has been affected by autism and I have personally witnesssed the impact we can make on the legal rights of a special needs child.
I am committed, totally and without reservation, to zero in on the unmet legal needs of our children.
I call upon California’s law firms to promote pro bono participation within the firm structure — as opposed to outside — and appoint a partner or associate to champion their efforts as zealous advocates of children.
And I call upon you, each one of you, to represent a child or assist a parent in matters involving family law, domestic violence, dependency, custody or adoptions.
You can represent one of the thousands of children who are caught up in the unbearable nightmare of homelessness.
Or you can represent a child in securing medical attention, health related benefits or the education he or she is entitled to by law.
I ask that you reach out and handle at least one matter in these areas in the coming year. The work of just one lawyer can make a difference in the lives of our children.
If we strive to provide services to our children, we will be working toward restoring the faith of the public and pride in our profession, regaining respect and trust.