Spring 2010-#1. ABA Delegate's Report.

Authorby Richard T. Cassidy, Esq.

Vermont Bar Journal


Spring 2010-#1.

ABA Delegate's Report

THE VERMONT BAR JOURNALVolume 36, No.1Spring 2010ABA Delegate's Report Report from Disney Worldby Richard T. Cassidy, Esq.On February 8 and 9, 2010, the American Bar Association House of Delegates met in Orlando, Florida, at the edge of Disney World in connection with the ABA's Midyear meeting.

I hope you will agree that my oral reports at Vermont Bar Association Meetings have been notably brief. That's on the not unreasonable assumption that most lawyers don't feel a need to follow the House of Delegates in any detail. My policy has been to just give you the headlines. But as reasonable as that assumption seems to be, I am sure that some of you are interested in more detail and perhaps even in getting some flavor of what the meeting is like. This report is aimed at those of you who would like a little more detail.

In recent years, the House has been relatively quiet. Controversial resolutions have been identified early, often through sometimes heated communications through the House of Delegates' listserv. Some debates have carried over into the various delegate caucuses held in days before the House meets. Early discussion has served to identify key supporters and opponents who have more often than not negotiated out their differences. The result has been that discussion on the floor of the House of Delegates has mostly been calm, and that nearly every resolution reaching the floor has been adopted.

It is an economic law that if it is impossible for a trend to continue, it won't. And that same lesson seems to have application to the House. After all, how long is it reasonable to expect a parliamentary style body made up of over five hundred lawyers to get along?

And so, a slightly more cantankerous than usual House of Delegates convened this year.

Uniform Collaborative Law Act Withdrawn

The kick off was the usual heated House of Delegates listserv debate. ABA ethics gadfly Larry Fox from the Litigation Section fired the opening salvo with an attack on a resolution from a part of the House calendar that usually leads on to adoption by consent. At every midyear meeting, the Uniform Laws Commission (of which I am a member) presents recently adopted uniform laws for the House's consideration. Uniform Laws are the product of a painstaking two-year, line-by-line, consensus-oriented consideration procedure in which liaisons from relevant ABA sections participate, and generally present little controversy.

But Larry Fox attacked the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (the UCLA). He suggested that its central provision-validating four-party agreements in which lawyers and their clients agree to work collaboratively to settle a dispute, and that if they don't agree, the lawyers will withdraw before their clients go to court-is unprofessional. Opponents suggested that some parties would game the system in order to disqualify the other party's attorney at a critical moment. They questioned the ability of clients to give informed consent to such a process. Finally, they argued that UCLA undermines judicial control of the practice of law by getting legislatures too deeply involved in law practice issues.

Proponents of the Act, of which I am one, countered that, while collaborative law is not for everyone, it is a real force in the practice of law, and that lawyers and clients both benefit by having clearly established ground rules for this way of resolving disputes. We also pointed out that the ABA Ethics Committee, together with ethics committees of every other state to consider it, except Colorado, have found the practice of collaborative law to be ethical.

As the delegates gathered in Orlando...

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