FROM THE PRESIDENT
As we start a new year for the Charleston County Bar, I must acknowledge and thank President John Massalon and the outgoing Board members for the wise and able leadership over the past year. This past year has brought us the ability to participate in continuing legal education through webinar technology; the website continues to provide invaluable information for use in our various practices; we have financially supported worthy causes; we have forged closer and harmonious relationships with the community, and we have honored some of our best and brightest. To John and the "retiring" members of the Board - Randell Stoney, Eli Poliakoff and Lori Proctor - I say, "Job well done!"
Just as the annual meeting is a celebration of our past accomplishments, it is the opportunity to reflect and consider ways to improve our services to our membership. Our purpose for being here is to be of service to our membership. We want to undertake programs and pursue projects which afford the greatest benefits for the entire Bar; we cannot do so without your input. We have an energetic and enthusiastic Executive Board, but we need you to let us know how we can help you. Our Board represents a wide array of experience and practices; contact any one of the members with ideas on making the practice of law or the administration of justice better in our community.
As we are fond of saying, the practice of law is not an occupation, it is a profession. As practitioners of this profession, our obligations exceed our personal interests or those of the clients we serve; the administration of justice within our system is our highest obligation. Indeed, one of our obligations as professionals is to provide pro bono public service; Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct mandates this service. Once again, the Charleston County Bar is leading the state in providing legal services to those who would otherwise be unable to gain access to the legal system. Years ago, as federal funds for Neighborhood Legal Assistance dwindled, the leadership of the Charleston County Bar Association stepped up to the plate and established the Pro Bono Legal Services program. While the South Carolina Bar has supported state wide pro bono service, Charleston County Pro Bono Legal Services is the only locally supported program reaching out to help those unable to otherwise obtain this necessary representation. Marvin Feingold and Gerry Kaynard have ably guided these operations. For years, Pro Bono Legal Services has relied upon multiple funding sources - federal, state and local - to accomplish its mission. As the economy has suffered, government funding has become more scarce and left Pro Bono Legal Services with uncertain sources of funding.
During the past several years, the uncertain sources of funding have jeopardized the viability of Pro Bono Legal Services. In an effort establish reliable funding for pro bono, a bylaw amendment was proposed to fund pro bono through allocation of $25.00 per member, beginning with next year's dues assessment. Despite difficult economic times, no objection was voiced by anyone in attendance at the annual meeting, and the bylaw amendment was passed unanimously. This commitment to the less fortunate did not go unnoticed in the greater legal community. One appellate court judge remarked to me that the unanimous support of our Bar for this amendment reflects highly on our Bar - and I couldn't agree more. Rather than being surprised by this support, however, I did not expect any less from our membership.
We should not stop merely at providing financial support for Pro Bono Legal Services. Each of us needs to commit our time and personal talents to assist in the provision of services to those who need but cannot afford them. I must admit that, for years, my pro bono service has been limited to performing court appointments. I have been inspired by the efforts of our Bar to volunteer for Pro Bono Legal Services. I encourage each of the members of our organization - whether newly admitted, practicing a short time or firmly entrenched in our legal community - to do the same. The benefits to be attained in performing such service - both personally and to our profession, will far exceed the effort that we put into performing such service.
I look forward to the honor of serving as President of your Bar over the coming year, and hope I can fill the very large shoes of my predecessors!
With best wishes,