GSB Vol. 17, NO. 7, Pg. 4. From the President.

Authorby Kenneth L. Shigley

Georgia Bar Journal

Volume 17.

GSB Vol. 17, NO. 7, Pg. 4.

From the President

GSB JournalVol. 17, NO. 7June 2012From the President Reflections on the Unexpected Privilege of the State Bar Presidencyby Kenneth L. ShigleyOyez!Oyez!Oyez!All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!"

A woman wearing a formal morning coat and a no-nonsense facial expression made this traditional announcement to a packed room that a court officer had ordered to silence several minutes earlier. From behind a maroon velvet curtain appeared eight of the nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Chief Justice John Roberts read a summary of a decision written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was absent. He did a workmanlike job of making slightly less soporific a decision concerning dischargeability of post-petition tax HabiUties in a Chapter 12 farm bankruptcy. I could understand why such cases are assigned to junior justices. Then Georgia's Chief Justice Carol Hunstein moved for the admission of 44 applicants, all but three of whom were members of the Young Lawyers Division. In the back of the attorneys' section of the courtroom sat three State Bar of Georgia presidents-Gerald Edenfield (2007-08, whose daughter Sharri was being admitted), Lester Tate (2010-11) and I, along with our younger friend, YLD Secretary Darrell Sutton.

After the justices disappeared behind the velvet curtain, we filed out quietly through bronze gates and downstairs to the Natalie Cornell Rehnquist Dining Room. Chief Justice Roberts dropped by to say a few words of greeting. Soon followed Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the most illustrious son of Pin Point, Ga., who spent quite some time with our State Bar of Georgia group. He invited questions and took time for personal chats and photos with each person. Fresh from a CLE program on theSupreme Court certiorari process, I mentioned one of my cases a decade ago in which Justice Thomas had written a vigorous dissent from the denial of certiorari. Amazingly, he immediately recalled the case, the core facts, the legal issues and a subsequent conversation at a conference with the author of the decision from which I had sought to appeal.

Just 19 days before the end of my tenure, this was one of many memorable moments in a year of unexpected privileges for an unlikely and undeserving State Bar president.

Many people who become State Bar president could have been identified as future bar leaders in law school. They progress through presidencies of their student bar association, young lawyers division and local bar association, then without missing a step smoothly ascend to presidency of the State Bar and beyond. Through long training and sociaHzation, they are carefully groomed for the role.

However, I was not one of those natural Brahmins of the Bar. The State Bar presidency was not something that I or anyone else had expected to be part of my career. Through the decade of my 30s I practiced in a firm where any activity that was not directly billable was frowned upon. Three years after leaving that firm and hanging my proverbial shingle, at age 42 I attended for the first time the State Bar Annual Meeting in Savannah. Initially, it was just an excuse to park our children, then 5 and 6 years old, with my mother and take a short and incidentally deductible vacation with my wife. Knowing that I ought to attend some meeting while there, and that my bride would prefer to sleep late if possible, I signed up for the breakfast meeting of the Insurance Law Section (now Tort and Insurance Practice Section). To my surprise, I left that breakfast as secretary-treasurer of the section and one year later became the section chair.

From that one serendipitous decision to attend an annual meeting and...

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