ABA News

American Bar Association announces 2019 Spirit of Excellence Award recipients

The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession announced today the four honorees of its 2019 Spirit of Excellence Award for their commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, during the ABA Midyear Meeting at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

The Spirit of Excellence Award celebrates the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. The awards are presented to lawyers who excel in their professional settings; who personify excellence on the national, state or local level; and who have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in law.

“One of the ABA’s preeminent goals is eliminating bias and enhancing diversity in the association, the legal profession and the justice system.” Commission Chair Helen B. Kim said in noting that all the honorees fully embrace diversity and inclusion and understand the importance of providing opportunities for others while distinguishing themselves in their careers.
The ABA Spirit of Excellence Award Luncheon will be held Saturday, Jan. 26, from noon to 2 p.m. PT at Caesars Palace.

The 2019 award recipients are:

Willie E. Gary is a Florida attorney who parlayed a passionate work ethic learned from his humble beginnings in Southern migrant farming communities into a legal powerhouse career that earned him a Forbes listing as one of the “Top 50 attorneys in the U.S.” Gary was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1974 and opened his hometown’s first African-American law firm in Stuart, Fla. He has tried cases in 45 states and is in great demand as a motivational speaker, delivering speeches at law schools, universities, churches and to various groups throughout the country. He has received honorary doctorates from dozens of colleges and universities. Gary is also committed to enhancing the lives of young people. In 1994, he and his wife, Gloria, founded The Gary Foundation, which provides scholarships to youth, so they can realize their dreams of achieving a higher education.

Pamela Jones Harbour, senior vice president and legal officer at Herbalife Nutrition in Los Angeles, Calif., leads a compliance team across 94 markets, developing and enhancing policies and infrastructure to ensure effective education, training and mentoring programs for independent Herbalife members worldwide. She also leads the company’s global privacy and data security efforts. Harbour was a litigation partner in three American law firms, with a specialty area in antitrust, consumer protection and data security law. She also served as a commissioner on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission from 2003-10 and in the 1990s as a deputy attorney general of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Harbour is a frequent speaker and author and has shared her knowledge in congressional testimony. She is recognized internationally for her leadership in the field of data privacy.

John Lim is the managing partner of LimNexus LLP, a minority-owned corporate boutique firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. An attorney since 1982, Lim represents Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, financial institutions, governmental entities, private equity funds, commercial developers and institutional investors in corporate, real estate and financing transactions. He regularly advises emerging high-tech ventures as outside general counsel and speaks at seminars on topics ranging from corporate governance to anti-deficiency rules in real property secured transactions. To further equal opportunity and equal access to justice, Lim actively supports public interest law groups that serve the disadvantaged and marginalized. Additionally, he and his law partners provide scholarships to diverse law students through the LimNexus Foundation.
Peter M. Reyes, Jr., is a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals in St. Paul. He formerly worked as a senior intellectual property lawyer at Cargill and as a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP. He is active in the American Bar Association as a member of the House of Delegates, the Judicial Division, Section of Intellectual Property Law and Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section. He also served on the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities and the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. In addition, Reyes served as national president of the Hispanic National Bar Association from 2012-13, and president of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association from 2000-03. In 2012 and 2013, Poder Magazine named him as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America. Reyes received the 2016 Ohtli Award, the highest award the Mexican government presents to a non-Mexican citizen.

ABA issues new guidance on what a lawyer should do before, after a disaster happens

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released today Formal Opinion 482 that underscores the importance of ABA model rules for lawyers affected by disasters and provides specific guidance on their ethical responsibilities in the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires.

The formal opinion notes that recent large-scale disasters, such as Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, highlight the need for lawyers to understand that extreme weather events and other calamities have the potential to destroy property or cause the long-term loss of power. Lawyers, in turn, have an ethical obligation to implement reasonable measures to safeguard property and funds they hold for clients or third parties, prepare for business interruption and keep clients informed about how to contact them or their successor counsel.

Specifically, the opinion underscores the importance for lawyers to know these ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

• Model Rule 1.4 (communication), which requires them to take reasonable steps to communicate with clients after a disaster.

• Model Rule 1.1 (competence), which requires them to develop sufficient competence in technology to meet their obligations under the rules after a disaster.

• Model Rule 1.15 (safekeeping property), which requires them to protect trust accounts, documents and property the lawyer is holding for clients or third parties.

• Model Rule 5.5 (multijurisdictional practice). which limits practice by lawyers displaced by a disaster.

• Model Rules 7.1 through 7.3, which limit lawyers’ advertising directed to and solicitation of disaster victims.

“Lawyers must be prepared to deal with disasters,” the ABA opinion said. “Foremost among a lawyer’s ethical obligations are those to existing clients, particularly in maintaining communication. Lawyers must also protect documents, funds and other property the lawyer is holding for clients or third parties. By proper advance preparation and taking advantage of available technology during recovery efforts, lawyers will reduce the risk of violating professional obligations after a disaster.”

The formal opinion is the latest of several ABA initiatives in recent years that focus on disaster relief and legal issues.

ABA and Centers for Disease Control to co-sponsor webinar on disaster resiliency

The American Bar Association Health Law Section, Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services and Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Response, along with the Center for Disease Control’s Public Health Law Program, will hold a complimentary webinar on Sept. 25, from 1-2:30 p.m., EDT, titled, “2018 National Celebration of Pro Bono: A Focus on Disaster Resiliency.”

During the week of Oct. 21-27, the ABA will celebrate its 10th Annual Celebrate Pro Bono Week, with a focus on disaster resiliency. As a part of this celebration, the ABA is encouraging lawyers across the country to do their part with assisting with disaster resiliency efforts by offering pro bono assistance to survivors or evacuees of disasters or by helping communities to prepare for a disaster. Disaster survivors face countless legal issues, including health and education issues. And even before a disaster strikes, communities need legal assistance with disaster preparedness including business continuity planning, meeting insurance needs and more.

The webinar will offer an opportunity for public health attorneys, health care lawyers and law students to learn about the most common legal issues that disaster survivors face and how they can get involved in providing much-needed pro bono assistance in the communities where they live and work. Speakers will also provide information on resources on public health emergency law, and information to assist with pro bono representation.

The panelists will be: Keri Brown, partner at Baker Botts in Houston; Tracy Figueroa, disaster assistance group coordinator at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; Linley Boone-Almaguer, disaster assistance team manager at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; Jessie Campbell, pro bono and outreach director, Houston Volunteer Lawyers; and Michael Hofrichter, operations and compliance director, Houston Volunteer Lawyers. Moderating will be Chauntis Jenkins Floyd of Porteous, Hainkel & Johnson LLP in New Orleans and chair of the ABA Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Response.