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New ABA President: 'Just the Facts'

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 17, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Attorney Hilarie Bass took a page from Detective Joe Friday when she became president of the American Bar Association.

"Just the facts, ma'am," Friday reportedly said in the television series, Dragnet. Bass said as much in announcing a new program, ABA Legal Fact Check.

"With all the various sources of information out there, what we know is there's a lot of false information about what the law is," Bass said as she assumed the presidency. "The ABA should stand for being the accurate source of information about what the law stands for."

Bass announced many goals in her first speech as the incoming president of the 400,000-member organization. As every lawyer knows, the results will depend on the facts and the law.

At a time when fact-checking is political pulse-taking in America, Bass said ABA Legal Fact Check will not make partisan statements. It intends, rather, to become a definitive source of the law.

"So, if a statement is made in public discourse about what the law is that we know is incorrect, within a matter of hours we will post on our website what, in fact, the law says in that particular area, so that both the media and the American citizens can look to the ABA for the definite answer on what the law is," she told the Miami Herald.

Bass is a Miami lawyer and co-president of Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with 38 offices and about 2,000 attorneys worldwide. As president of the ABA, she plans to continue work on issues that she has championed throughout her career.

"During my leadership year, we will focus on the future of the profession: how we educate future lawyers, how we serve our clients and how we provide access to justice," she said.

New Priorities

Bass said the ABA has created a new Commission on the Future of Legal Education to deal with issues facing law schools. Among other challenges, the commission will study admission standards, bar passage rates, alternative teaching methods and more.

The ABA's Legal Rights of Homeless Youth Initiative will train volunteer lawyers to provide legal assistance to children in shelters across the country, she said. In November, the ABA will meet with organizations around the world to consider the plight of homeless children everywhere.

As the eighth woman president of the ABA in 141 years, Bass will also bring her personal perspective to an issue facing female lawyers: why are so many leaving the profession?

"We know that women start out after law school as 50 percent of outgoing lawyers ... but by the age of 50 the number of women remaining in the profession is close to half that," she said.

"It's critically important that we as professionals are hospitable to the diverse attorneys as well as all others," she said. "We need to make sure that we create an environment where diverse attorneys are incentivized to stay."

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