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PRESS RELEASE: President Critelli’s Final Report to the Public

Jun 26th, 2005 | By | Category: Public Service

June 17, 2005

To the Editors of the newspapers of Iowa

The President of the Iowa State Bar Association’s
Report to the Public

Heard any good lawyer jokes lately? So goes the prelude everyone’s cache of legal comedy. Unfortunately the need for legal services and quality and training of those who render them are no laughing matter. The Iowa Bar is your Bar; we exist to serve you. Now in our 131st year, our mission is to ensure that you have access to high quality legal services at a reasonable price. But, in order to enjoy the full benefits of our great democracy, you must also have a basic understanding of the law and how it works. That too is our responsibility. You should expect no less from your legal profession.

As we conclude our Bar year, we owe you a report of our activities. With the adoption of new professional rules of conduct, all Iowa lawyers are mandated to aspire to donate two and a half weeks of legal services, without fee, “to persons of limited means or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means” as well as to provide them with financial support. For those who can afford a lawyer, we have explored ways to lower the costs of legal services. Additionally, your Bar has undertaken a study regarding the feasibility of creating a not-for-profit pre-paid legal service insurance company that would provide coverage for matters of a preventative nature at a low cost. Fear of cost should never deter anyone from obtaining legal advice. We recognize that an ounce of legal prevention is worth a pound of legal cure.
A growing segment of our population is Hispanic. In order to more adequately serve them, the Bar has established a Spanish language initiative for Iowa lawyers. Soon legal materials and legal services will be provided in Spanish.

We have not forgotten your legal education. The creation of a Peoples Law School will provide you with knowledge in the foundational areas of the law. Courses have been held around the state and will be featured at the Iowa State Fair. We urge you to participate.

We have been very involved in youth education. This year over 10,000 lives have been touched by our the Iowa State Bar Association Mock Trial program for middle and high school students. Through the program students learn about the law, lawyers, judges and trials. Now in its twenty-fifth year, we are starting to reap the fruits of our labor. Our prior mock trial students are now jurors, lawyers and even judges. Further, over six hundred seventy five high school seniors participated in the Bar’s American Citizenship program designed to enhance their civic knowledge.

But, most importantly, this year Iowa lawyers have donated their time serving on nearly 5,000 different community-based committees such as parish councils, or little league, or parent-teacher or club or association boards providing professional counsel, advice and services the value of which is truly staggering…all without fee.

Unfortunately through tragic event Iowans sought the services of the Bar. The unfortunate Terry Shiavo matter caused tens of thousands of you to take advantage of our living will program and obtained these important documents on line from our website or during the Iowa State Fair. The horrible homicide in Georgia made us all acutely aware of the necessity for security in our courthouses. Iowans deserve no less. Responding, the Bar’s Task Force on Courthouse Security, composed both of lawyers and non-lawyers from all walks of life is nearing completion of a report and recommendation on uniform safety regulations for our courthouses. We will be a leader in the nation in this regard.

But it does not end there. The law is not static, it grows to meet societal needs. Each year the Bar works with the Iowa Legislature to propose legislation that will further improve Iowa law and protect your rights, whether in the area of agricultural, business, corporate, probate, taxation, or intellectual property as well as a whole variety of other technical areas. With the exception of asking for a $5 per hour raise for indigent defense lawyers, which was rejected, there is no personal gain for lawyers in these matters other than the professional pride that Iowa law is “state of the legal art.”

So I ask you: What have you done to help your legal profession? Have you attended the Peoples Law School, participated in Mock Trial, or offered to assist us by serving on Bar committees? Come join us. As I leave my year as President and return to private practice, that is my challenge to you. Together we can make Iowa better place to live.

Nick Critelli, JD
118th President
Iowa State Bar Association
Des Moines, IA


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