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Hey ABA: Say Aloha to Stale Tradition

In a couple of weeks, the American Bar Association's annual conference comes to Hawaii. Despite the ABA's membership of 400,000, last year's conference didn't generate much buzz, at least among lawyers online. But apparently, the ABA decided to make a big splash this year by pulling out of sponsorship of a surfing competition for lawyers because of liability concerns  ("Lawyers group won't go near water," AP (7/26/06).

According to the news story, 40 lawyers signed up for the National Lawyers on Longboards Surfing Contest. According to Lea Hong, an environmental lawyer quoted in the article, the ABA's reaction is silly:

"It's really funny -- the ABA won't officially sponsor it for liability reasons," said Lea Hong, a Honolulu environmental lawyer and surfer.  Hong is planning to go ahead with the contest and a luau on the convention's last day. She said the ABA overreacted.  "They were freaked out about the liability issue related to a surf contest, even though we had liability insurance and everything," Hong said. Organizers of the surfing event have required that all participants sign a liability waiver, and lifeguards will be on duty in case anyone gets in trouble, Hong said.

Personally, I wonder whether this is really about safety -- or image. After all, the ABA sponsors golf tournaments, where people can get hit with a club or a ball, pass out from heatstroke or be thrown from a golf cart. But golf's considered a dignified lawyer pastime, whereas surfing is not. I'm guessing that the ABA doesn't want to affiliate itself with a youthful, vibrant, exciting activity that the ABA deems as "unbecoming" of lawyers.

Come on, ABA, loosen up! The story about pulling out of the contest for liability is all over the news. And it doesn't make lawyers look smart or dignified; it simply makes us look like silly party poopers. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 27, 2006 at 04:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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