City of Residence: Perry
Occupation: Attorney, Walker & Walker
Q: Most have heard of the Bar Association, but many may not know exactly what it does. As president of the Houston County Bar Association you’re in a good position to explain.
A: The Bar Association is, one, a professional association comprising attorneys. It’s a voluntary organization with members serving in areas from defense attorneys to prosecutors to judges.
Q: What’s the purpose?
A: We have outward and inward purposes. We do community outreach type things to serve those around us and we do networking and social things so lawyers can get to know one another. Plus, we promote professional development among our members.
Q: But because lawyers often oppose one another, is friendliness a good thing?
A: I think most lawyers genuinely like and appreciate one another. We’re professional, and once the courtroom door is closed we’re on good terms even if we we’re on opposing sides. We’re all seeking the best for people and the best outcome in any case. If being an attorney meant I had to be on bad terms personally with other lawyers, if I couldn’t stand them, I think I’d have to find another line of work. But I find most attorneys to be hard-working, honorable people who want to help others.
Q: And off-work settings facilitate that?
A: I think so. We depend on one another for knowledge and information and go to one another for advice. You can practice law under a rock, and I guess some do, but in my opinion you don’t want to be that attorney or be isolated like that.
Q: Outside the networking, what benefit is the association to members?
A: The benefits are many, but another main one involves professional development. Attorneys should keep learning all the time, but they definitely need to get a certain number of CLE hours each year. That’s continuing legal education hours. We host a CLE event each year, usually free of charge or very cost-effective. Last year the topic dealt with professional liability issues, and this year we plan to address defensive law changes in representing immigrants subject to criminal convictions. Also, we have luncheons and bring in speakers who sometimes talk about wider interests than just the law. Recently we heard from the 21st Century Partnership about issues facing Robins Air Force Base and the community. It all adds up to value added back to our members.
Q: You express a high view of lawyers, but they’re the brunt of a lot of jokes.
A: The luncheon I mentioned was the first one I presided over, and I figured I’d go online and get a good joke to start the program. After a couple of minutes, though, I just quit. Everything was so distasteful and ugly. I do hold lawyers in high esteem.
Q: How about the outreach aspect you mentioned?
A: We’re a professional organization versus being a service club, but still because of who we are, the kind of people who are part, there’s a desire to have a positive impact and give back to our community.
Q: What are some ways you do that?
A: I suppose No. 1 is our scholarship program. We give away six $500 scholarships to seniors going on to college each year. We give those out in conjunction with Law Day, which this year in Houston County is April 28. Winners don’t have to be going into law.
Q: How do they qualify?
A: Entry is closed this year, but we have members who get information to school counselors. Or someone could contact the association. This year’s essay reflected this being the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary. It’s fundamental to our idea of individual rights and the essay question had to do with what new rights students think might gain Constitutional protection in the future and what rights might lose protection.
Q: What other things does the group do in the community?
A: Each year we give a Liberty Bell Award to a non-lawyer recognizing community service that strengthens our system of freedom under law. Each year we have a holiday toy drive for disadvantaged children, we support a food drive and we collect clothes for the public defender’s office. Also, we indirectly have attorney referrals through our member directory at our website, www.houstoncountybar.org.
Q: How many members do you have?
A: Right about 85.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.