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An Interview With the ABA President-Elect


In August, Stephen N. Zack will become the first Hispanic-American president in the 132-year history of the American Bar Association. The 61-year-old partner with Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami is the son of a Cuban mother and American father. His family moved to Cuba shortly after he was born and he remained there until age 14.

In his law practice, Zack is perhaps best known for representing Vice President Al Gore in the presidential-election trial of Bush v. Gore. His other notable clients include Philip Morris, the National Geographic Society, and former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. He was also the first Hispanic-American president of the Florida Bar.

On the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer this week, J. Craig Williams and I interview Zack about his agenda for his term as president. He talks about his plan to focus on civics education and to establish what he is calling the American Bar Academy. His plan is to set aside a three-day weekend during which ABA members would go into high schools across the country and present a civics curriculum to a selected group of high school juniors.

He also discusses his plan to create an ABA commission on Hispanic legal rights. He was surprised to find, as he prepared to become president, that there has been no such comprehensive study. When I ask him how the legal challenges faced by Hispanics differ from those faced by other minorities, he says that they do not overall, but that many of the issues come together in a unique way for Hispanics. He points to the Census as an example where Hispanics face language barriers, immigration fears and issues of self-identification.

A third major focus of his presidency will be escalating law school costs, he says. The debt law school graduates face inhibits them from pursuing careers in public service and legal services, he says. At the time of our interview, Zack was in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to extend the repayment period for law school loans and to provide loan forgiveness for law grads who work in public service.

A thread binding all of his platforms, Zack says, is to continue to work toward greater diversity and opportunity within the legal profession. "Unless our profession mirrors society -- and it must mirror society -- then we will not have the respect necessary for the profession to protect liberty and to do what our job is," he says.

You can listen to or download the entire interview from the Legal Talk Network.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 20, 2010 at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)


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