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Allegheny County Bar Association elects new president

The Legal Intelligencer
By Zack Needles

July 15, 2008 — For Jay A. Blechman, being a bar leader is all about getting lawyers out into the community more.

The new Allegheny County Bar Association president said he will focus much of his energy during his one-year term on establishing new and strengthening existing public service efforts. Blechman said he's interested in "the perpetuation of good images for lawyers."

"Our members are actively involved in our community, and it is my primary goal to let people know that lawyers are continuing to do good work in the community," he said. According to Blechman, that will mean addressing the issues of diversity and gender equality within the profession and increasing pro bono work among the association's members.

"We recently had published a task force report on gender equality," he said. "Some of the recommendations included establishment of an institute to examine gender equality issues." In addition, he said, the bar association will be cosponsoring an event in May 2009 that will highlight diversity issues.

Blechman said he would also like to increase the amount of pro bono work bar association attorneys do this year, though he's proud of how much has been done in the past. "A number of our members do pro bono efforts," he said, adding that this year he'd like to "highlight the service of lawyers."

A number of other community service efforts in which the bar association has participated in years past will be making a return this year, he said. This year, the organization will once again undertake its Attorneys Against Hunger campaign through its non-profit arm, the Allegheny County Bar Foundation.

The bar association's Women in Law Division will also once again take part in the Race for the Cure to raise money for breast cancer awareness and members of the organization participated in the Walk for Autism in June.

"I'm very, very proud of our organization, and I think we do exceptionally good work," he said.

But the organization doesn't focus solely on community service. It's equally focused on serving attorneys in the area, said Blechman. For example, the bar association's for-profit arm, ACBA Services Inc., provides a number of necessities for attorneys including court reporting, videoconferencing, and trial presentation services.

Blechman, a divorce lawyer at three-attorney firm Steiner & Blechman in Pittsburgh, has been practicing law since 1986 and has been a member of the bar association since 1987. Since joining the bar association, he has served a two-year term as treasurer and has chaired a number of its committees including the family law section program committee and the committee on children at risk. He is also a member and past vice chair of the organization's finance committee and currently serves as the chair of the bills committee.

"There's no better way to get to know any organization than to see how money's being spent," he said. Blechman, who is also the immediate past chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's family law section, said that along with experience, he brings to his new position a true passion for the profession.

"I will tell you that I love the practice of law," he said. "I think lawyers are some of the most diligent and hardworking people that I've had the good fortune to encounter and work with. I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was 7 years old. I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love to do with people I love to work with in an association that is so well-regarded."

Blechman's term began July 1 and runs through June 30 of next year, at which point he will become immediate past president of the bar and assist his successor. Until then, Blechman is looking forward to the challenge of balancing a full-time practice with the responsibilities of heading up an organization with 15 substantive law sections and about 50 committees.

"There is no question that being the president and, therefore, the spokesman of an organization of 6,600 members is going to take up a significant amount of time," he said, adding that he's devoted a great deal of his time to the bar association over the years. "This is a highlight for me, so I am just sleeping less so I can participate more."