We are on the cusp of a major demographic change in the lawyer population in this country. The Boomer generation of lawyers is entering retirement. Many of the generation’s lawyers, if not retiring, are already slowing down their practice and planning the next phase of their lives. These lawyers who came of age in the 50s and 60s have made a profound impact on our legal culture, particularly in the area of pro bono publico.
The Boomer generation has been hailed and assailed. A question remains for our discussion here: Have they raised up their successors- have they raised up you— in the ways of pro bono and community service in a manner that will ensure a healthy future for the legal profession and respect for the courts?
In presentations I make to local bar associations around the state, I often urge the members in attendance to reflect on their role as mentor and guardian—mentor of new lawyers and guardian of the keys to the courthouse. If each one of us has a responsibility to make life better for succeeding generations, then, too, a lawyer has a similar obligation for those within her profession. That obligation goes beyond seeing that new lawyers are technically prepared for their work.
Perhaps I should express the generational transfer of professional values as a covenant rather than a duty. We often speak of the promise of pro bono and of a time in the future when ”justice will rush down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”. Who among us will choose to enter into that covenant to march toward perfect justice and fair play? One might argue that we all do that work in our ordinary role as lawyer; however, we need strong and visible pro bono leaders in every generation of lawyers.
The Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia has played an effective role in bridging the gap between one generation and the next. The Division’s history reflects quality leadership—in giving birth to what is now the Georgia Legal Services Program, in addressing special legal needs in our communities, for creative responses to disasters, and much more. As a new lawyer and YLD member, you are following in the footsteps of young lawyers who became leaders for justice.
The stage is set for the next performance.
I urge you as young lawyers that you not wait to fill a void, that you actively plan now an agenda for pro bono publico and community service. Honor your pro bono forebears by imitation. Let them know you have been watching and listening.