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Audrey C. Talley's Annual Meeting Speech
Remarks given by Audrey C. Talley, incoming Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, at the Bar's Annual Meeting Luncheon, Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Thank you, Allan.
It has been a pleasure working with Allan Gordon as he charted the course of our Association this year. Allan, you have been a true example of character, leadership and integrity and I thank you today -- as I know this audience thanks you.
It is a tremendous honor to stand here as the Chancellor-Elect of this great Association. I feel indebted to so many others.
Believe me, as I look out over this audience and experience all of the good feeling that you bring with you today, I'm so grateful.
So, before anything else, I'd like to first welcome and thank the members of my family who traveled here to be with me today. And I say to them: Your support now and over many years is what has brought me to this point. I wouldn't be here without you.
Also, I want to thank Jim Sweet -- the Chair of our firm, Drinker Biddle & Reath -- and the other members of the firm for the continued support that I have received in all of my activities.
As we come to the end of our bicentennial year, this is an historic moment. This Association is historic and significant because of who we are and what we stand for -- and because of all of you and all of those who have come before.
You know, we've spent much of the year looking back at our history. I think we realize we've come a long way. And this reminds us that we are an organization steeped in tradition and committed to our mission of serving the profession and the public. Over many years, we have revealed our character through countless individuals who strive to make right what they perceive to be wrong. We have crafted a strong identity by adherence to principles of individual freedom, social justice and the rule of law. We have not waited for an uncertain future; instead, two centuries of Philadelphia lawyers built it day-by-day on a foundation of professional excellence.
We are now poised to serve in our third century.
But we enter this new era in troubling, unsettled times: beset by violence at home and abroad; the looming threat of war; a weak economy; and uncertainty all around.
Who would have thought, only a few years ago, that this would be the case?
Yet, we must face the world as it is now. And we must ask ourselves: In this new environment, how do we remain relevant to our profession? How can we continue to be a fulcrum for justice in our community? How will we do it?
The answer isn't easy or simple. But I believe the answer can be found if we are willing to return to our core -- to our strengths. And I suspect the answer lies in three key factors: our identity; our values and our promise. These three are intertwined. But let's try to look at each one separately for a moment.
To begin with, our identity lies in our service to our members and the community. Often enough, these two are in harmony. They dovetail.
Such was the case this past year when we worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce and like minded groups to support local tax reform. We did this not just for ourselves but for the community and for the well being of the entire region. Fighting for local tax reform was the right thing to do - for our members, for our employees, for the economy.
We had a good, first success with that effort. It was a breakthrough. But now, we have to build on that success and grow that coalition.
Accordingly, in the spring I will convene a special Chancellor's Symposium that will bring lawyers, government officials, business leaders and community leaders together to consider The Impact of Government Policy on Business.
Does the present regulatory environment aid or impede business? Do changes in the regulatory environment present opportunities or barriers? How does government policy affect our business and the businesses of our clients? How should we act in an era of renewed concern about business ethics and corporate governance?
These are just some of the questions that will be asked by a distinguished panel. By posing these questions, we hope to not only begin to chart the path to answers but also to keep the Association and the legal community in the forefront of policy - policy that affects us, our clients and the region that we serve.
We have a civic responsibility to listen, to study and to act. And that's what we will do.
And while we're at it, we will also renew and strengthen our identity with service to one another and with a professional dialogue that links us and helps us as lawyers, advocates and problem-solvers.
Eight years ago, addressing you at this annual luncheon, Chancellor-Elect Larry Beaser envisioned an "online" association that members could enter electronically - an association which he said would be "as convenient as your computer screen."
Well, that association is now a reality.
Today, you can join the Philadelphia Bar Association online; register for special events online; enroll for seminars and workshops online; and carry out an ongoing dialogue with your colleagues through our sections and committees, online.
In the New Year, we will move on to the next level.
We're working with the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and the Philadelphia Bar Education Center as they begin providing you with online continuing legal education which has now been approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This is an important and convenient step in the right direction and we'll be one of the partners that will help make it happen.
We will also soon announce a new online legal research service for our members. With a unique partnership, we will provide you with an effective and economical service tailored expressly to your needs.
And all of this is good news not just for us, but for the community as well. Because when lawyers are better prepared; when we save time; when we are better informed; when we are more accessible, our clients and the community benefit.
For example, our LRIS panel members will be pleased to know that beginning in January prospective clients can access Lawyer Referral online by going to the LRIS Web site. There, they will be able to identify their problem, select the appropriate lawyer/panel-member, pre-pay their initial consultation fee and begin to get the expert help they need. Of course, people will still be able to access LRIS via the telephone. But this new real time online service will greatly expand our ability to serve our members and our clients. All of these developments spring from and further enhance our strong identity.
Now, the second key factor for our third century involves our values. Our values begin and end with our commitment to justice. Even our letterhead proclaims: "Your partner for justice." And nowhere is our passion for justice more relevant than in the area of judicial selection. Because the judiciary really is the cornerstone of our justice system.
In 2003, Philadelphia voters will once again be called upon to elect new judges and vote on the retention of sitting judges. And once again, our judicial commission will evaluate the candidates and make its recommendations to the electorate. And once again, we will ask all of the sitting judges who choose to participate in our process not to accept campaign contributions from lawyers. And once again, we will publicize and advertise our ratings and strongly urge the election of the "Recommended" candidates.
But now, we're going to do more.
For the primary election and the general election next year, we will launch an unprecedented public education campaign that tells voters why it is important to select judges based solely on their qualifications for office. We will promote public awareness of the importance of an impartial judiciary. For the first time, we will offer voters information that explains what we should expect from judicial candidates and what we should look for in judges. We'll tell the people why and how we evaluate the candidates. We'll let the voters know exactly what we mean when we talk about attributes like, experience, integrity, professional competence, judicial temperament and sound judgment. We will hit the airwaves and disseminate our message to everyone who needs to know.
We will remind the voters of our shared goal: to elect a first-rate, independent judiciary. More than 20 years ago Justice Thurgood Marshall wisely observed that "the only real power that judges can tap is the respect of the people."
In 2003, this bar association will lead the fight for a judiciary that consistently earns the respect of a well-informed electorate.
Of course, we cannot ask of our judges what we are unwilling to undertake ourselves. So, our values must also reflect our own outreach to the public and our own commitment to public service so that we may also enjoy the respect of the public. Otherwise, we will have no credibility.
This year's Pro Bono Task Force Report charted our path for pro bono work. This landmark report is the result of hundreds of hours of careful study and hard work. It's our blueprint for the future. And our Board has correctly adopted nearly all of the task force recommendations. I assure you: those recommendations will be carried out. There is no higher priority for this association. We will not relinquish our nationally recognized leadership role in the area of public service. Rather, we will enhance that role and build upon it.
But it is also important that the hard work of so many pro bono volunteers be recognized: not just as a testament but also as a catalyst for more good work. So, during the New Year, with the generous sponsorship of Citizens Bank, we will present three pro bono awards to exemplary law firms, legal departments and individuals. These awards will recognize pace-setting pro bono efforts. The awards will be monetary but they will actually take the form of grants to public service legal agencies designated by the honorees. In this way (to put a new twist on an old phrase) good works will be rewarded with more good works and those who are most in need of help will truly benefit.
As we continue in the dawn of our new century, I think of our future. And that is the third and perhaps most important factor that we need to consider today: our promise.
I must tell you honestly - I don't think I would have ever become a lawyer if I did not see the promise of a better world somewhere in the work of this profession.
Isn't that the highest calling of our profession? Isn't that what we should be all about - a better, fairer, more just world? And shouldn't we be solving problems, helping others and working to improve things all the time?
As I look back over the decades of my life, of course I see incredible change and progress. And, yes, I see step-by-step- movement toward the future realization of dreams - dreams that will hopefully fulfill the promise of our democracy.
But this promise is intertwined with the law itself - the very business of our lives. And we all know better than others that law is relentlessly deliberate. It can be tediously slow. And it can induce complacency in us and, worse yet, cause others to lose hope.
In the face of this, we need to hold fast to a bit of youthful impatience. We need to make haste. And we need to find ourselves and encourage in others a strong and determined hope - a hope borne of practical experience. And that hope -- nurtured by a faith in justice and the democratic process - is what I look to when I talk about our future - our promise. And it makes me proud to be a lawyer. Proud to be a Philadelphia lawyer.
Still, troubling times like these make me wonder: Will that pride in the words "Philadelphia lawyer" continue to endure? Will it continue to resonate? Will it continue to have active, genuine meaning?
The answer, I suppose is yes - but only if we leave something for those who follow us. We need to work to ensure our future by helping those who are the future.
Nearly ten years ago we launched the annual Sandra Day O'Connor Award honoring an outstanding woman lawyer in Philadelphia. Since that time, the numbers of women in the profession have continued to grow and women lawyer icons and role models now inspire so many others. In 2003, on the tenth anniversary of the Sandra Day O'Connor Award, we will present the first award in the new Ruth Bader Ginsburg legal writing competition.
With Justice Ginsburg's endorsement and encouragement, this competition will be open to all second and third year law students in the region. Entries will be judged by a distinguished panel. And we will recognize original legal writing and scholarship with a significant cash award as well as publication and dissemination of the winning paper. We will be looking to provoke discussion and spotlight extraordinary achievement from a student who focuses on rights, privileges and responsibilities under federal law.
It will be an extraordinary day, indeed, at next October's quarterly luncheon when this first award is presented. It will be an event that you won't want to miss, I assure you. It will be a day when we join with some very, very special guests to express our faith in the future. And it will also be a day that will probably remind me of how and why I became a lawyer in the first place.
Growing up, I didn't know very much about what it was that lawyers did. But I found my way, in large part because there were people who reached out and engaged me - teachers and mentors and helpers along the way -good, generous, ordinary people who wanted to see me succeed.
I feel that I was so fortunate. I came to know who I am - I had my identity. I came to what I believe in - I had my values. I had hope and I have attempted to live inside that hope. But none of this was necessarily exceptional.
Because I've also come to realize that so many of us share vivid identities and strong values amidst our rich diversity. And here in the birthplace of freedom, this is our strength. And it is the strength of our nation as well. But we've got to make it our future - our destiny.
In closing, I note that it has been said that life isn't a matter of milestones, but moments. We have spent this year acknowledging our milestones. But I offer to you that it is more the moments in our profession for us to capture and celebrate.
Moments in history that range from the beginnings of our country when a Philadelphia lawyer, James Wilson was one of the most significant contributors to the creation of our constitution; or in 1945, when a Philadelphia lawyer and Dean of the Penn Law School, Earl Harrison served as President Truman's emissary to investigate the plight of displaced persons living in World War II concentration camps and was widely credited with Truman's support of relocating those individuals to what was then Palestine; or in 1956 when Bernie Segal persuaded President Eisenhower to let an American Bar Association Committee of practicing lawyers evaluate candidates for the federal judiciary; or in 1965 when Cecil B. Moore personally led the street protests to integrate Girard College; or in 1983, when Bill Marutani, a first generation Japanese-American -- one who had been interned behind barbed wire in California at the beginning of World War II and who later served as an officer in the U.S. Army in that war - as a trial judge in Philadelphia made the decision that permitted girls to enroll in the previously all-male Central High School. These are just a few of our moments.
So now, today, with your help, I ask that you join together with me so that - in the year ahead -- with our shared identity and our strong values we might give this great association and this profession the bright and lasting promise that it truly deserves and those moments in time that we can all be proud of.