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From the President: How the Bar Is a Beacon of Leadership

by Daniel DeWoskin
President, DeKalb Bar Association

For those of you who were able to attend the last DeKalb Bar Association meeting, you heard me speak about how our organization is in a unique position to stand out as a positive force in DeKalb County at this time. If you have seen anything in the newspaper or on television regarding DeKalb County, the chances are that it has been negative. Our former CEO has been convicted of perjury and criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion. Another former commissioner was sentenced to federal prison for defrauding taxpayers. Our county is mired in concerns about corruption, misuse of taxpayer dollars, uncertainty regarding incorporation of cities, and distrust of our leaders. An anticipated report from an independent investigation into the county makes it clear that the end is not in sight.

For our organization, this is an opportunity to stand up and stand out. As President of the DeKalb Bar Association, I am aware of how many of our members are engaged in philanthropic endeavors both inside and outside of their daily jobs. So many of our members are involved in Habitat for Humanity, participate in civic clubs like Rotary or Kiwanis, raise money for organizations that fight hunger in our community, or take on many pro bono projects.

Over the course of the year, I would like to hear more about these types of activities and get the word out. We all know how important service projects are for our community at large. As members of the legal community, these activities serve to help minimize the negative impression that some people have about attorneys in general. As attorneys in the DeKalb Bar Association, this is our chance to show leadership in Integrity.

In our last meeting, I mentioned that I did not think it is necessary for the Bar to create a new service project or even take on its own signature cause, but instead that we work to announce the good work our members are already doing and to, if at all possible, draw in some of our colleagues. I fully appreciate how busy we all are, but if there is an opportunity to bring in others in a service project, please let us know so that we may mention it in the newsletter and support the effort in any way we can.

In order for us to continue to have a strong organization, we need to participate. We must make every effort to attend Bar meetings and socials. We should encourage others in our community who are not members to join, and we should look for ways to get our fellow members involved. This is not news to anyone, but the timing is very important given the adversity that DeKalb faces at this very moment.

There are fantastic new developments in DeKalb despite all the negative news. This year has seen the addition of six new judges. With all of you, I congratulate them on their new positions and wish them an easy transition. Our bench is a source of great pride for DeKalb County, as it should be. The new traffic court division is a positive development that will enhance the public trust and efficiency of the handling of such cases.

By no means am I suggesting that we adopt a role of cheerleader for the county, but I do believe that we have a responsibility to our community that we already all recognize. We conduct ourselves in accordance with a strict code of ethics. Our mission statement dictates that we “uphold the honor of the legal profession . . . promote the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct by the bench and bar” and “apply our knowledge and experience of the law to the promotion of the public good.” This year, I would like to see us focus on how we can collectively work for the promotion of the public good.

We should all be honored that the DeKalb Bar Association is among those organizations that will participate in selection of the DeKalb Board of Ethics, thanks to recent legislation that made its way through the General Assembly. We have a fantastic organization that has flexibility and room to grow. I am certain that the best is yet to come for the DeKalb Bar, and I will work hard as your president to see that we remain beacon of leadership for the county. I look forward to a very productive year.

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