New year brings new programs, collaborations, conversations

January 19, 2018
President’s Message By Hal Coffey

Turning the calendar brings several effects to bear. There is the inevitable waiting lines at the elliptical machines at the JCC gym as personal resolutions kick in. There are the LinkedIn posts from legal recruiters suggesting the new year is a perfect time to consider a new job. There are the moments to take a breath from the mad scramble to close out A/R from the books at the end of 2017.

So, as we all take a breath and try not to freeze (I write this while the region is dealing with the low temperatures of the “bomb cyclone”), I’d like to share a few things that I am looking forward to, and in some cases seeking to resolve, in my time remaining as president of the ACBA.

One of my favorite events of the year is the Homer S. Brown Division’s Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast and Drum Major for Justice Award Ceremony on Jan. 15, this year on Dr. King’s actual birthday (extra easy for me to remember as my own dad was born precisely 365 days after Dr. King). The breakfast at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church is always a joy, especially with the incredible French toast and goodwill that was shared by those attending. But the true highlight is the awarding of the Drum Major for Justice Award, whose honorees in the past have included the past ACBA president the Hon. Kim Berkeley Clark and the Rev. Glenn Grayson. This year’s recipient is Paul Titus, who was honored in particular for his work with diverse students at predominantly African American Catholic schools to gain experience and opportunities for experience in the legal field.

Another event in the works is a collaboration between the ACBA Hispanic Attorneys Committee and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for a panel discussion led by consul generals of Mexico and Israel. This program is a follow-up to a tremendous program that Chair Abbie Rosario and the Hispanic Attorneys Committee put together in August involving the Consulate General of Mexico based in Philadelphia – among others – to discuss NAFTA and economic and legal ties between our neighbor to the south and the Pittsburgh area and Pennsylvania itself. More details will follow soon for this event slated for March 21.

These collaborative efforts – in particular among ACBA divisions, sections and committees – are precisely the kinds of programs that exemplify the collective might of the ACBA.

At a recent meeting of the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, we were able to brainstorm about how planned programs would benefit from working with the Family Law Division (nuances for representation of active duty military families) and the Elder Law Committee and Probate and Trust Law Section (homeless veterans for guardianship proceedings).

Along with the collaborations, what I love is talking with members at the Coffee with Coffey events, regular committee/section meetings or events and getting suggestions for new programs or committees. That is how the Medical Marijuana and Hemp Committee got its start and how the Civil Rights Litigation Committee – which is slated to hold its first meeting next month – was restarted.

And to enhance membership interaction and reduce the number of our requests to law firms, we are starting a subcommittee within the Finance Committee whose task will include finding new sources of sponsorship from the law-practice vendor community and beyond. Those new sponsors may include dry cleaners, title companies and office furniture supply companies to name a few.

If you have an idea for a sponsor who would benefit from access to the ACBA or a program or new committee related to an emerging area of the law, please reach out to me via email, phone or at the next ACBA event where you see me.