Steadfastly serving the ACBA and community during uncertain times

July 17, 2020
President’s Message By Elizabeth Hughes

I think that I can speak for most of our membership when I say that we would all like to go back to the mall and exchange 2020. Or toss it in the recycle bin. Or upgrade to the newer model. You get the idea. I accepted the gavel under the weight of an ongoing pandemic that has changed life as we know it. We have moved to virtual meetings, Bench-Bar Conference was cancelled for the first time ever and we move forward still into uncertainty.

Despite this, the setbacks have only further demonstrated that the ACBA is an unwavering beacon of support for its members and the community during these difficult times. I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as president of this organization as we continue to persevere through adversity during our 150th year. I believe everything happens for a reason, and that out of challenges progress is born. This has been true during the most turbulent times in our history, and 2020 is no different. The ACBA Mission Statement sets forth the ideals of this organization: to empower our members; promote a just, accessible, and inclusive judicial system; and serve the community at large. It is precisely during these times that we who have chosen the legal profession as a way to serve others can become our best selves and live up to these ideals.

During this time of working from home, missing time with family and friends, I focused on the positives that have been born out of these particular challenges. I refer to them as “#RonaSilverLinings.” I discovered the joy of wearing “joggers;” I improved my diet and exercise routine; I read more and get more rest; I learned to take the time to appreciate how fortunate I am and think of ways to make real and lasting impact on lives of others who are not as fortunate. I pledge to do what I can to live up to the ideals of this organization through “servant leadership,” a concept often discussed and exemplified by ACBA past president and my mentor, Judge Kim Berkeley Clark. The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership states that “a servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong” and discusses how organizations can also act as servant-leaders. With the collective effort of all members, the ACBA can be the standard bearer for servant leadership.

I mentioned Judge Clark as a mentor, but the ACBA has given me many people that I call friend and mentor. It is my great honor to work closely with Bryan Neft and Lori McMaster, who I consider not only colleagues, but treasured friends. As immediate past chair of the Homer S. Brown Division, I have the unparalleled joy of working with dedicated leaders, including Tony Thompson, Ron Jones, Regina Wilson and the rest of my HSBD “family.” I became actively involved in the ACBA because of people like Shelly Pagac, who encouraged me to run for the Board of Governors. Mary Sue Ramsden served as a constant source of encouragement and education about the ACBA and supported me in all of my endeavors within the organization. The role these mentors took in cultivating my participation and leadership in the ACBA is an example of why it is crucial to actively champion for diversity and inclusion. I am here because of mentors from all backgrounds. We have made progress, but we have work to do to make our profession reflect the ideals in our mission and values statement. One cannot promote inclusion from afar. Seek out proximity to those who are different than you to ensure that the profession is welcoming of everyone. I encourage everyone to get involved and to reach out and bring someone with you. Become active in a committee, section or division with an ACBA “buddy.” We are in challenging times and we need all hands on deck to keep the ACBA strong and moving forward. We have many things planned this year and whether we move into in-person meeting and activities soon or not, we will continue the ACBA Virtual Town Halls. These proved to be a resounding success and offer one more way to reach our membership regularly. We also plan to share brief video summaries of monthly Board of Governors meetings to keep the membership informed. This is YOUR organization. Providing members with timely and relevant information is a priority, and the ACBA is currently making improvements to the website to this end.

Additionally, we will promote a series called “In the Room Where It Happens,” to showcase ACBA committees. Anyone can serve on a committee. There are many committees that may interest members and one of them is a perfect fit for you! We will answer your questions and take the mystery out of serving. We will explore ways to improve members’ knowledge and access to technology that can assist their practices. We saw firsthand the importance of technology during this crisis, and the ACBA can be a resource to help members become competent and comfortable with technology. The ACBA will also work to assist 2020 law school graduates facing unprecedented conditions. Members can help by mentoring and providing opportunities at our firms and in nontraditional JD advantage roles, where graduates’ legal education is a plus. Maybe you are a small or solo firm and can help a recent graduate by teaching them the profession and they, in turn, can assist with the integration of improved technology in your practice.

Lastly, current challenges will require us to be exceptional financial stewards of our organization so that we can remain strong and viable for the next 150 years and beyond. We may need to make difficult decisions and sacrifices as an organization, and I am asking for patience and understanding from our members while we navigate these turbulent waters.

I look forward to serving you. You can email or call with questions/ideas: or 412-692-7212.