Georgia Bar Journal
August 2020, Vol. 26, No. 1
In working for all Bar members and by protecting the public, the State Bar of Georgia holds as its central mission three tenets: 1) fostering of duty and service to the public; 2) improving the administration of justice; and 3) advancing the science of law. These tenets stand as the foundation of what we as a bar association strive to achieve and upon which we build through our collective effort.
As we enter this new Bar year and face numerous unique and extraordinary challenges, I am especially reminded of our foundational principles and how they apply particularly to what we face today. I view these challenges as two public health crises: one a pandemic caused by widespread coronavirus infection, and the other brought about by a justice system fraught with racism, racial bias and resulting disparities. As a Bar, to succeed in our efforts to support all Bar members and to protect the public, we must work together; we must support each other; we must become and remain allies.
Allies are intentional. They actively participate in the work of the Bar. They are goal-oriented in each task to which they have been assigned. Through committees, sections and boards, allies are purposeful in the Bar work they do, the roles to which they were appointed and the actions they take. Allies seek knowledge and information to improve not only their understanding of the challenges to be faced and goals to be met, but also how to best address those challenges and goals. Allies remain focused on the proposed outcomes being sought on behalf of the Bar, its members and the public.
We must be intentional in minimizing the spread and impact of coronavirus in the state of Georgia, to protect ourselves, our families, our clients and our fellow Georgia citizens. We must be intentional in addressing a justice system that does not treat everyone fairly and equally, to also protect ourselves, our families, our clients and our fellow Georgia citizens.
Allies are advocates, too. Although it is impossible to walk in the shoes of another, allies empathize. They do not discount the experiences of others. Allies tackle myths, misstatements and jokes that can undermine the collective efforts of the Bar. They are vocal and speak up for those who do not have a voice, who are not seated at the table, or who are not in a position of power or decision-making that is often required to create widespread, lasting change.
We must be advocates for those most at risk for coronavirus infection and its complications, including death. We must be advocates for those most at risk of being unfairly and disproportionately impacted by our justice system, especially those who have lost their lives.
We must be vocal. We must speak up. We must not be silent.
Allies are risk-takers as well. They take positions that better society as a whole but may be unpopular in some communities. Allies work to understand and recognize that flaws exist in the justice system, in society and in every one of us. They have uncomfortable conversations that may expose their individual flaws and may run counter to their self-interests. Allies bravely welcome such conversations to the extent said exposure furthers the work that must be done. We must be risk-takers to protect others against coronavirus and against injustice, no matter how unpopular we may be as a result.
Allies are committed. They believe they are obligated to do something, to take some action and help in some way. Whether working within our Bar, in community groups, as activists, as demonstrators, through law firm diversity and inclusion efforts, or as court employees or judges, allies seek opportunities to positively impact our Bar and our state. They are committed to acting beyond the boundaries of their personal or professional lives.
Allies see the bigger picture—that we are all bound to each other and are, accordingly, each other’s keeper. We are responsible for each other’s well-being. In response to the global, national and statewide calls for action we have heard, as echoed by our members and by our fellow citizens, we must be committed to curbing the spread of coronavirus and systemic injustice, and also finding a remedy for both.
Now, more than ever before, the crises we face as a bar association are indistinguishable from those we face as individual citizens. Never before has the intersection of our lives and our livelihoods been so visible and pronounced. To address these two diseases that currently infect our country and state—coronavirus and racial injustice—we must work together. Together we can address the root causes of the infection and its spread. Together we can establish an environment where these diseases no longer flourish or thrive. Together we can find a cure.
Together, as allies, we can obtain and sustain a healthy and sound community, Bar and state. Will you be an ally?