Q: What drew you to the legal profession?
A: I went to college in the late 60's - a remarkable period in American history. Like many of my contemporaries at the time, I was looking for a career that would give me the opportunity to give back to my community, to serve, to make a difference. I concluded that a life in the law could be just the right outlet for me to make a positive contribution to my community.
Q: Where did you go to law school and what year did you graduate?
A: University of Michigan, Class of 1973.
Q: What did you do immediately after law school?
A: I went back to Maine and went to work for the same firm I'm
with today, Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon.
Q: In Maine you have been very active in improving the legal profession through your commitment to the Maine State Bar Association and the Maine Bar Foundation. What goals did you pursue as president of those organizations? What were your accomplishments?
A: At the State Bar we were able to convince the Supreme Court to adopt an IOLTA program in the State of Maine. We also created a model leave policy to make it easier for parents to take time off from work. I also made the annual meeting much more family friendly, which was partly responsible for the record attendance that year.
At the Bar Foundation we formulated a strategic plan for a pro bono private bar involvement program. We also persuaded Ed Muskie to head an initiative focusing on access to our legal system.
Q: You have also been very active in the American Bar Association (ABA). What positions have you held within the ABA? What position do you currently hold?
A: Prior to the Presidency, I was Chair of the ABA Section of Torts and Insurance Practice, Chair of the Standing Committee on Membership and Chair of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono.
Q: What are your duties as President of the ABA?
A: As President I'm the primary spokesperson for the ABA. I represent both the association and the legal profession in general. I'm in constant touch with all three branches of government and with legal leaders in other countries. Mainly, I'm responsible for advocating on behalf of the legal profession and for the principles of justice, rule of law and peaceful dispute resolution. What the ABA President does not do is enact specific policy positions of the ABA. This is done by our House of Delegates, a chamber of representatives from all facets of our profession.
Q: Can you briefly explain to the non-lawyer reader the purpose of the ABA?
A: The ABA is a big tent. It is the only organization for every lawyer in this country, regardless of geography, demographic or practice specialty. Unlike specialty or regional bar associations, the ABA represents the entire profession. Our purpose is really three-fold: to provide training and continuing education to lawyers, to advocate to the outside world on behalf of our practitioners regarding issues that concern lawyers, and to advocate to the outside world on the basic principles of liberty and justice.
Q: How does the ABA affect the lives of U.S. citizens?
A: In too many ways to mention here. The ABA's commitment to liberty and justice means that we are involved in issues as far ranging as domestic violence, the workplace, immigration, international rule-of-law, consumer advocacy, gun violence, and many, many more. Our motto: Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice really sums up what we are all about. In as much as the legal system affects the lives of U.S. citizens, so too does the ABA.
Q: Let's talk about September 11th and it's continuing aftermath. How did that day unfold for you?
A: I was working in the ABA's D.C. offices when word came. Of course, like everyone, I was stunned. The offices are only a couple of hundred yards from the White House, so our entire building was quickly evacuated. The first phone call I made was to my son, who is a pilot. The second was to ABA Executive Director Robert Stein to begin work on an ABA response. The list really does go on and on.
Q: What is your response as leader of the ABA?
A: We have been in close contact with all parts of the federal government. Our Task Force on Terrorism and the Law is in constant touch with members of Congress who must grapple with the delicate balance between freedom and security. We are assisting the military in making sure all reservists get their legal needs met. We are educating the public on the do's and don't's of donating money.
Q: What will the Task Force on Terrorism and the Law attempt to accomplish? What will it do?
A: By September 20th, an 11-member Task Force on Terrorism and the Law was created to examine all law-related public policy issues implicated in the terrorist attacks and provide expert knowledge and assistance to the federal government. The number of issues affected by the events of September is staggering: electronic surveillance, immigration and detention, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, international law and cooperation and all the legal implications of the airline civil liability legislation.
This group has had several conference calls as the House or Senate toiled with versions of the now-enacted anti-terrorism bill. The Task Force is now communicating with other ABA entities and considering additional policy recommendations to help Congress coordinate its efforts.
Q: How long will the Task Force exist?
A: It will exist as long as it is relevant and necessary to the task at hand.
Q: Has the world changed for Americans? Will we have to learn to live with terrorism as people in other parts of the world have learned to live with it?
A: Yes. I believe we were less secure than we thought we were prior to September 11th and we are now more secure than we believe we are in this new environment. Our reaction to this adversity is the single most important aspect of this struggle. We must, as a people, be brave.
Q: In January of this year, in a speech to the Maine State Bar Association, you said that lawyers are the "gatekeepers of justice". What does that mean in today's world?
A: Before any society can flourish it needs a foundation on which to build. The two pillars of that foundation are peace and freedom.
No society will ever be free from disputes among its people. What matters is whether those disputes are resolved by armed might or by peaceful resolution through a system of laws and rules and courts.
A society also needs to ensure the freedom of the individual if it is to attain any sort of economic well being. This is also done by a system of justice.
On the front lines are lawyers. We are the soldiers in making sure that disputes are resolved peacefully and that individual freedom reigns.