Oct. 21, 2022
President’s Message By Erica L. Laughlin
It was not your average Friday. City of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey had extended an invitation to me, President-Elect Marla Presley, Secretary Regina Wilson and Treasurer Keri Ebeck to come to his office to meet with him and his Chief of Staff Jake Wheatley. We were not sure of the intent for the meeting, so in true lawyer fashion we researched the Mayor’s priorities and initiatives, had several prep and planning discussions with each other, suited up and gathered at the Mayor’s office.
It occurred to me that I had never actually been on the fifth floor of the City-County Building where the Mayor’s offices are. The hallway is flanked with various flags and artifacts, the entryway was stately, it felt dignified and official. We were greeted with warm smiles and welcomed by several members of the Mayor’s cabinet along with representatives of the City Solicitor’s office. When the Mayor arrived, we all exchanged introductions, and I anxiously awaited what would come next. Marla, Regina, Keri and I sat poised with our notepads as if ready to take assignment.
Mayor Gainey began by congratulating us on our positions within the ACBA and that he found it remarkable that for the first time in our Association’s history we had four women holding the highest elected offices. We engaged in a vibrant dialogue with the Mayor and Chief of Staff Wheatley regarding our mutual goals related to diversity and inclusion and discussed how lawyers are uniquely suited to effectuate real change in policy, practice and of course the law.
The Mayor was moved by our recently created Community Service Committee and we discussed the importance of outreach and engagement within our local communities. He commended our extensive pro bono efforts. Mayor Gainey shares the vision of restoring faith in the justice system and expressed a genuine desire to learn and understand the pulse of the legal community on key issues. Mayor Gainey and Chief of Staff Wheatley indicated their hope that this may become the first discussion in an ongoing conversation regarding the potential to work and collaborate with the ACBA.
Within just a brief amount of time the Mayor had touched on my three areas of focus for this year – community service, engagement and collaboration! This was exciting! But wait…. there was more…. Mayor Gainey expressed his desire that we continue to maintain contact and communication with his office, but then revealed he had another purpose for calling the meeting. Mayor Gainey was so taken by the fact that it was the first time in 114 years that the Bar Association had four female officers, coupled with the fact that women hold the majority of our elected seats on the Board of Governors, that he was going to issue an official proclamation declaring 2022-2023 the Year of Women Governance at the Allegheny County Bar Association. A podium was brought forth, and the Mayor read aloud the official proclamation as folows:
Whereas, A historic slate of officers, all women, are leading the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA) for the 2022-2023 year. Erica Laughlin serves as ACBA’s 114th president and its ninth woman to lead the 5,000-plus member professional organization. Erica is joined by Marla Presley as president-elect; secretary, Regina Wilson; and Keri Ebeck as treasurer; and
Whereas, In their governing year, the group has placed emphasis on community engagement, outreach and education. They’ve formed a community service committee dedicated to developing and increasing community service opportunities for ACBA members. Specifically, they are developing a pathway where Pittsburgh lawyers may make a genuine, positive impact in the community; and
Whereas, Restoring the community’s faith in the legal system, bringing attorneys together for in-person networking, implementing the ACBA’s new strategic plan and increasing diversity in the legal profession are among her primary goals as President; and
Whereas, Founded in 1870, the Allegheny County Bar Association is the professional trade association of attorneys, judges, paralegals and legal administrators with offices primarily located in Allegheny County and surrounding counties. With more than 5,000 members, the ACBA offers continuing legal education seminars, membership benefits and services, networking opportunities and meeting space for more than 70 Committees, Divisions and Sections that address issues impacting the legal profession; and
Whereas, Allegheny County Bar Association’s Mission is to empower their members; promote a just, accessible, and inclusive judicial system; and serve the community at large; and
Whereas, As adopted by the ACBA Board of Governors on January 8, 2019, To be an invaluable resource to the legal profession and the community by:
• Fostering a culture of unbiased collegiality, ethics, and professionalism;
• Championing equality, diversity, and inclusion in the profession;
• Promoting equal access to legal and other law related services; and
• Enhancing the success of our members through education, networking, leadership, and professional development; and
Whereas, The ACBA has one subsidiary. The Allegheny County Bar Foundation provides educational programs, promotes public awareness of the legal and judicial systems, renders legal services to low-income clients and provides financial assistance and grants to legal-related organizations; and
Therefore, I, Ed Gainey, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, do hereby commemorate 2022-2023 as the Year of Women Governance at the Allegheny County Bar Association.
Marla, Regina, Keri and I were taken aback by the official recognition of this historic time for our Association. We proudly endeavor to do our best to continue to serve you our members.