This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Fall 2020 (Vol. 89, No. 1), p. 1. By Hulett H. AskewFollowing Judge Cindy Martin as chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees is a daunting prospect, even in normal times. In these far-from-normal times, it is both challenging and at the same time comforting. Comforting because Cindy is a person of amazing sensitivity (as evidenced by her column in this issue) and capability. Her leadership, over the last six months particularly, has been remarkable and exactly what NCBE and the bar admissions community needed. Thus, I inherit a role that has been carefully cultivated for the last year and left in great shape. For me, it is challenging because she leaves a wonderful legacy that needs to be preserved and, ideally, furthered. (This legacy also includes an unparalleled productivity—the woman must never sleep!)
These are unprecedented times that have left many of us insecure, uncertain about the future, and wondering if social justice is ever to be achieved in this country. However, in times such as these, leadership is critically important to making sense of what is happening and helping us all do our best in very difficult circumstances. In our case, the bar admissions community (and we are indeed a community) has been blessed with the leadership of Judge Martin and Judy Gundersen, as well as that provided by Kathie Harrington, who has ably chaired the Council of Bar Admission Administrators (CBAA) during the past year.
I became director of the Georgia Supreme Court Office of Bar Admissions in 1990, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that leadership of the kind and quality we need and expect today did not exist then. The changes over the past 30 years have been truly remarkable, from the work undertaken by NCBE, to the evolution of the CBAA, to the responsibilities fulfilled by bar admission administrators throughout the country. The competence and dedication of the people involved, and the constant improvement of the processes we rely upon, stand us in good stead as we move into the future.
NCBE’s mission begins with the following statement: “NCBE promotes fairness, integrity, and best practices in admission to the legal profession for the benefit and protection of the public.” Our collective role in protecting the public through the bar admissions process is critical to a fully functioning justice system that works equally and fairly for all. But our work is often misunderstood and called into question. In response, and to fulfill the important duties entrusted to us, we must always be trustworthy, be consistent in our work, and live up to our own best practices. Let us commit to holding ourselves accountable before we can expect to be accountable to others.
I admire those of you in the jurisdictions doing this work, and I must say that I have missed working with the Georgia Supreme Court and the wonderful staff there since my retirement from that position in 2006. My role now, however, is to carry on Cindy’s legacy, and those of the chairs before her. I look forward to that challenge and to all that we can accomplish together in the coming year.
Keep the faith.
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