Sections and committees provide leadership, insight and expertise to NJSBA
Sections and committees provide valuable insight and expertise when it comes to legislative advocacy and policy positions of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), President John E. Keefe Jr. told a room of new section and committee chairs last week at the New Jersey Law Center.
“You folks really are exemplars of the New Jersey State Bar Association,” Keefe said in his opening remarks at the New Leader Orientation. “When our sections and committees are engaged, our members are engaged, and that means we can speak powerfully on the issues that face our profession.”
The NJSBA has nearly 90 sections and committees, groups that are primarily focused on substantive areas of the law. Committees and sections elect their own officers, hold regular meetings, plan networking events and convene continuing legal education seminars. In addition, they play a valuable role in the NJSBA’s advocacy process.
NJSBA Trustee John Shahdanian, who is also co-chair of the association’s Legislative Committee, outlined the advocacy process.
Existing legislation can be flagged for NJSBA review by the government affairs staff or by a section or committee member. The government affairs department refers those bills to specific sections or committees, depending on the topic. Sections and committees can also draft their own legislation, if they feel there is a need.
In every case, recommendations are conveyed to the Legislative Committee, which makes a recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The board then takes final action on the NJSBA position.
“This is a unique way for the association to showcase your expertise for the decision makers in the state and help influence our laws,” Shahdanian said.
NJSBA Trustee William Mergner, co-chair of the Amicus Committee, explained the association’s role in advocacy though the courts. The Amicus Committee makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees about significant cases that warrant NJSBA participation as amicus curiae.
“In our committee and our organization as a whole, the reason we have credibility is that the court system sees you are looking out for a global interest,” he said. The courts look at us as “being an unbiased, credible source of meaningful guidance.”
Any section or committee can ask the NJSBA to consider participating in a matter that will have broad implications for their practice area. Most cases considered are at the Supreme Court level.
Diversity Committee Co-Chair Cedric Ashley outlined how the NJSBA has approached diversity and inclusion in recent years. “The bar is a better bar association today because of the diversity of the leadership,” he said. But diversity and inclusion is not just about a checklist, he added.
“It’s about who is at the table and who can contribute to the thought process,” he said. “It brings different thought processes to the table…Diversity and inclusion is about bringing different people to the table so that we can all succeed.”
The event wrapped up with a panel of successful section chairs discussing tactics for success. Panelists included Fred Giordano, former chair of the Insurance Law Section; David Gold, chair of the Entertainment Arts and Sports Law Section; Ayesha Hamilton, former chair of the Solo and Small Firm Section; and Josh Reinitz, chair of the Municipal Court Practice Section.
If you are interested in joining a section or committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org.