As we mentioned in the last issue, our own Cole Portis concluded his year of service as the 141st President of the Alabama State Bar on July 15, 2017. The theme that governed his presidency was “Love Your Neighbor.” That theme was applied in three main areas: loving Alabama lawyers, loving the Alabama State Bar, and loving the citizens of Alabama and beyond. Following are the three main accomplishments of each of these areas of focus.
Loving Alabama Lawyers
Cole, along with Bar representatives, traveled the state with the goal of meeting with the lawyers in these circuits to see what they had to say. This was accomplished in cooperation with the Alabama State Bar Local Bar Task Force, whose purpose was (and will continue to be) to reach out to the local bars in the circuits, including local minority bars, in order to strengthen relationships with these constituent groups. The task force also hosted a Local Bar Leaders Retreat in conjunction with the meeting of the Board of Bar Commissioners.
During conversations with lawyers throughout the state, lawyers admitted to many struggles as the dynamics for practicing law have changed quickly. As a result, Cole established Lawyer University, a practical education for lawyers to compete in the current legal environment. Lawyer University focused on the business of the legal profession, available technology to be more efficient, and emerging areas of law to expand one’s practice.
Cole created the health and wellness initiative at the Alabama State Bar. Being a lawyer is one of the most stressful occupations in America. We must be cognizant of the need to care for our own well-being so that we can continue to render service to others. The task force began the foundation to educate and assist lawyers to pay attention to their physical health, mental health, and spiritual condition (mind, body & spirit).
A significant need voiced by members of the State Bar was an affordable and comprehensive health insurance program. Due to the current regulations established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and health insurance exchanges, it is no longer possible to establish a group policy through a professional organization. However, the Madison County Bar Association already had a health insurance program for its members that was established before ACA, so it was grandfathered in. The ASB partnered with the Madison County Bar to allow lawyers to join their association in order to participate in their health insurance plan. Representatives from the Madison County Bar will have a booth at the Beasley Allen Legal Conference Nov. 16-17 to provide information to Alabama lawyers about the plan.
Loving The Alabama State Bar
Three huge goals were accomplished in the mission to love the Alabama State Bar and each will have a lasting effect.
ASB Executive Director – With the June 2017 retirement of longtime Alabama State Bar Executive Director Keith Norman, it was of critical importance to find a new leader for the organization. In February, it was announced that Birmingham lawyer Phillip McCallum had been selected as the new ASB Executive Director. Phillip is a founding shareholder of McCallum, Methvin & Terrell, P.C. He served as ASB President from 2012-2013. He was a tremendous selection for this position.
ASB General Counsel – Longtime Alabama State Bar General Counsel J. Anthony “Tony” McLain passed away on Jan. 1, 2017. He was a member of the Bar’s staff for 28 years. It was the sad duty of the Bar President and staff to find someone to fill the sizeable shoes he left behind. Douglas McElvy was appointed General Counsel to the Alabama State Bar in March 2017. McElvy has been very involved in the Alabama State Bar and served on the Board of Bar Commissioners from 1991 to 2003, as well as serving four terms on the Executive Council. He was elected Vice President of the Bar in 2002, then served as its President for the 2004-2005 term. Doug is a man of high integrity who understands the importance of balancing mercy and justice.
Finally, Cole helped lead efforts to develop a new strategic plan to carry the Alabama State Bar forward into the future. It had been 10 years since the development of the last strategic plan.
Loving the Public
During his term, Cole made sure that pro bono efforts continue to grow and expand, and to educate lawyers and the community to be able to serve them and provide access to courtrooms for those unable to pay.
Lawyers at the Alabama State Bar participated in a very successful Legal Food Frenzy. This was the third year for the event, which helps to raise money and collect food to benefit Alabama’s eight regional food banks. The campaign raised the equivalent of more than 72,000 pounds of food. Additionally, lawyers helped to successfully gather a number of needed and necessary goods for lawyers in Louisiana after a period of significant flooding earlier this year.
Cole and Joy are foster parents. Due to his passion to help these children, he wanted lawyers to join him in a project to provide foster children with new suitcases filled with necessities. Dubbed the “Suitgrace” Initiative, the program realizes that often foster children are removed from abusive or otherwise dangerous situations with little but the clothes on their back. The “Suitgrace” Initiative strives to provide them with clothing, toiletries and other items to help them as they transition to a foster family.
In addition to these major accomplishments, Cole says the Bar was able to work closely with the Chief Justice and Judges through Alabama to secure additional court funding beyond what has been allocated in recent years. Cole was grateful for the opportunity to educate our Governor and members of the Legislature on the necessity to properly fund the third branch of government.
Augusta S. Dowd of White Arnold & Dowd, PC, (Birmingham) succeeds Cole as the Bar’s leader. She was installed as the Bar’s 142nd President at the Annual Meeting.
We want to thank Cole for his excellent service. He set an extremely high bar, but I believe the new president will carry on the tradition of looking out for lawyers in Alabama and will do a fine job.
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