ABA bringing a crowd to town As many as 3,000 expected this week for convention

January 29, 1996|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,SUN STAFF

The American Bar Association brings its annual midyear convention -- and as many as 3,000 lawyers and guests -- to Baltimore this week.

On the agenda: election of future ABA officers, discussion of legal subjects from domestic violence to legal aid and speeches from U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Republican Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum of Kansas, among others.

Controversial business expected: None.

"I would think this would be one of the quieter meetings in a number of years," said Robert T. Gonzales, Maryland State Bar Association president.

"There aren't many major issues up for discussion, but there will be lot of attention to smaller areas of concern -- programs designed to help practicing lawyers, to give help to solo and small practitioners. The focus will be there, rather than major social issues."

Still, the seven-day meeting, which begins Wednesday at the Convention Center, is a major undertaking.

It's the second-largest event on the ABA calendar, trailing the annual convention, which reaches attendance of 10,000 to 15,000.

Though smaller, this week's convention is expected to include important ABA business and discussion of significant issues.

For example, one of the most hotly contested races in recent history for ABA president is expected to unfold during the convention.

A nominating committee will select a candidate for president, who then will be considered for election in August by the ABA's House of Delegates. That body consists of 542 members, and includes delegates from state and local bar associations and one ABA delegate chosen from each state.

President Roberta Cooper Ramo of Albuquerque, N.M., the first woman to have the job, leaves office in August, and will be followed by President-elect N. Lee Cooper of Birmingham, Ala. The presidential nominee who emerges from this week's meeting, after becoming president-elect, will serve a one-year term starting in August 1997.

Candidates in the president's race are Jerome J. Shestack of Philadelphia and Charles M. Thompson of Pierre, S.D.

"It's an extremely close race. No certain winner has emerged," said Herbert J. Belgrad, a Maryland lawyer and Maryland's ABA state delegate.

For a week, the convention also puts Maryland in the forefront of the legal community, as lawyers from across the country file into the city, stay at local hotels and sample the local cuisine.

The convention agenda includes social events around the city and state, from a party at the B&O Railroad Museum to a private reception for a small group of convention delegates in Annapolis with Gov. Parris N. Glendening acting as host.

"The ABA speaks for the legal profession on a national and international level," Mr. Belgrad said. "Having the convention here not only brings economic benefit to community, but is recognition of Baltimore as a major law center in the United States."

Mr. Gonzales, the Maryland Bar president, said "We're the hosts. The convention is an opportunity to show the strength of the Maryland legal community."

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