President-Elect Brigida Benitez--partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP--recently sat down with Kathryn Alfisi to do an interview for the June issue of the Washington Lawyer. She was officially sworn in as the 43rd D.C. Bar President at the Celebration of Leadership on June 17.
WL: What are your priorities as Bar president?
First, I want to promote the Bar’s continued leadership and support for access to justice and pro bono services. The Bar has been a leader in these areas, and the need is as great as ever. I think it should be a priority to support access to justice and pro bono services to fulfill that very important aspect of our profession. I believe that public service is the heart of our profession. I began my service to the Bar in the area of pro bono, and that remains important to me. We are really lucky to have what is regarded as the best pro bono program in the country. I want to make sure that I support the program and that I help any way that I can to improve it.
One thing that’s in the works is implementing a strategic planning process for the Pro Bono Program. The last time the Bar did this was in the early 1990s, so it’s a good opportunity to really assess where the program is, what it could be doing better, and what things should it focus on in the coming years.
Second, I want to address the impact of an increasingly global profession. This is an opportunity for our bar, and it’s an opportunity we should seize on immediately. We should position the Bar in the context of our global legal profession. We need to address the steps that the Bar can take to be ahead of the curve and how it can better serve its members throughout the District of Columbia, the country, and the world.
We have more than 100,000 members globally, we have a number of members who are engaged in cross-border practices, and we’re going to see more foreign lawyers who are going to seek admission to our bar. All of these things have implications as far as what we should be doing as a bar. We must ask, how we can better serve our members, and what kinds of procedures, practices, and rules should we be thinking about as we move forward? I plan to convene a task force to study these issues and make recommendations to the Bar.
Finally, I want to focus on strategic planning for the Bar. I served on the Bar’s first Strategic Planning Committee five years ago, and I think the development of a strategic plan has been key in maintaining the Bar’s focus on its mission and priorities. Five years later, I think it’s an opportune time to form a committee to reexamine the Bar’s strategic plan and its implementation. One of my priorities in doing so is to ensure that we are serving our members and increasing professional development opportunities for members at all levels and from all segments of the profession.
Underscoring these three key areas is a shared sense of the value diversity has played in our success and will continue to play in the future of our Bar. We are fortunate to have a tremendously diverse Bar in the broadest sense. I share the Bar’s commitment to diversity and to capitalizing on that diversity for our continued success.