The Bar Is for Service

Brian Rosenthal Commentary


The Bar Is for Service

Besides the obvious, what do these people have in common: Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Harry S. Truman?

Before their most notable position, they were all public servants in various capacities, including legislative, community, county and postmaster roles.

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On behalf of the Arkansas Bar Association, I am pleased to announce we are initiating a Public Service Academy for member lawyers who seek to serve in any capacity, including on school boards and city councils, with volunteer organizations or in the legislative, judicial or executive branch.

Begun in North Carolina and recently established in Tennessee, our Public Service Academy will be the third such program in the United States sponsored by a bar association. We are very fortunate to have in Arkansas the first school in the nation to offer a master’s degree in public service, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, which will co-present our event. Other sponsors include the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law, University of Arkansas School of Law and several association sections.

Research done through the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research shows that a trend in other states is repeated in Arkansas. There are fewer lawyers serving in the Legislature.

While it is certainly not necessary for a legislator to be a lawyer, the association supports lawyers who wish to serve as well as who desire to give back to their communities and state in other ways. We have great examples of our member lawyers who have served as mayors, on volunteer boards and, of course, in the legislative, judicial and executive branches. We believe lawyers bring a particular training to help organizations analyze how rules, regulations and existing laws impact current and prospective ideas and proposals.

The initial Public Service Academy will be chaired by Maggie Benson and Nate Looney, outstanding lawyer member volunteers and graduates of the Clinton School of Public Service. They will also serve on our steering committee made up of former Chief Justice Howard Brill, the Vincent Foster Professor of Legal Ethics & Professional Responsibility at the UA School of Law; Circuit Judge Earnest Brown; and House Speaker Matthew Shepherd.

The Public Service Academy will be limited to about 25 diverse, statewide participants. Applications for the Public Service Academy can be found at ArkBar.com.

As we reflect on the legislative session, we congratulate our lawyer legislators and thank each one for their service to our state. This year, the association was fortunate to present two proposals that became law: the Uniform Directed Trust Act (Act 1021) and the Uniform Protected Series Act (Act 665).

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The association’s legislative efforts are guided by our in-house governmental relations leader, Jay Robbins, and our volunteer efforts have been led by Aaron Squyres. The association’s Legislative Committee this year was made up of Taylor Chaney, Suzanne Clark, Lee Curry, Glen Hoggard, Karen K. Hutchins, Jamie Huffman Jones, Patti Julian, Paul Keith, Carla Martin, Cliff McKinney and George Rozzell. Our members volunteer to draft legislation, analyze and debate bills and testify. The association successfully supported or opposed 15 other bills.

Our association is voluntary and our volunteer leaders serve for short periods. We are led by a professional staff that is in turn led by Karen K. Hutchins, who currently is the president of the National Association of Bar Executives.

As I begin my year as ABA president, I want to thank the association and its members for the opportunity to serve our profession and for the many people who volunteer to serve the association. I also want to congratulate Suzanne Clark on an outstanding year as Bar president. If you ever have a suggestion for the Arkansas Bar Association, you may send it by email to BRosenthal@RoseLawFirm.com or KHutchins@ArkBar.com.

Finally, if you would like to be involved in our dynamic association at any level, please email me, and I will personally work with you to find the right service opportunity.


Brian Rosenthal, a partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, will be sworn in as president of the Arkansas Bar Association on June 14. Email him at BRosenthal@RoseLawFirm.com.