Former American Bar Association President Carolyn B. Lamm has been named "Lawyer of the Americas" by the Inter-American Law Review, published by the University of Miami School of Law. A Miami Law alumna who graduated in 1973, Lamm was formally bestowed the title at the law review's 30th annual banquet, held at the Coral Gables Country Club. "Ms. Lamm's accomplishments as an internationally renowned arbitrator and president of the American Bar Association complement and enhance the prestige of the Lawyer of the Americas award," said Lacee Monk, Managing Editor of the Inter-American Law Review. Each year, the law review names to its Lawyer of the Americas list an attorney or academician who has made significant contributions to the field of international and inter-American law. A litigator in White & Case's Washington D.C. office, Lamm is a prominent practitioner in international arbitration, trade matters and cross-border commercial federal court litigation. In 2011, she was named one of the "100 Most Powerful Women" in Washington by Washingtonian Magazine. Last year, The National Law Journal named her one of its "Most Influential Lawyers," and Legal Times named her among its "Visionaries" in 2010 for her role as president of the American Bar Association.
At the Inter-American Law Review's banquet in her honor, Lamm made the following remarks:
What an honor it is to receive the Lawyer of the Americas Award. I am deeply touched and appreciative. I congratulate you on the superb and well-respected Inter-American Law Review. You have every right to be extremely proud of the decades that the Inter-American Law Review has highlighted the international and inter-American law and indeed evidences a commitment to promote the Rule of Law in the Americas.
Some time ago, when I was much younger, I remember watching "To Kill A Mockingbird" for the first time. I remember Atticus Finch standing alone in that courtroom. I remember how I longed to stand beside him. To stand for what he stood for and fight the good fight for justice and to uphold the Rule of Law. I think we all have had that feeling. As all of us are lawyers, or will be, in the Americas, I expect we all want to stand with Atticus, and not to stand alone; that is why we work collectively through communities of interest and I must suggest through the ABA to protect and enhance the Rule of Law and access to justice.
History has taught us that no men are islands unto themselves. And THAT is what we must remind all lawyers. That no firm, no matter how large, can stand alone. No solo practitioner, no matter how talented, stands alone. No judge, no matter how respected, stands alone. No institution, however esteemed, even the Highest Court, can stand alone. And no Constitution, no matter how revered, can fight for itself. We ARE ALL called upon and bound together – and together to be the keepers of the Constitution and the rule of law. We simply cannot do the things we are called upon to do alone. But all of us – working together – can have a tremendous impact. That is why we work collectively to ensure the rule of law continues, including through the ABA and the Rule of Law Initiative.
In recent years, accelerated globalization and unrest have challenged dramatically our efforts as a legal profession to safeguard and promote the rule of law. In the past decade, the Americas and the world have witnessed three fundamental challenges to societies' respect for the rule of law: terrorism, economic crisis, and regime change and civil unrest.
During my term as the President of the ABA, I led the American legal profession – as did Steve Zack, my successor here tonight – to safeguard the rule of law at home and abroad. That experience is relevant to other legal systems in the Americas and serves as a basis for my observation that lawyers and bar associations have a positive role in promoting and protecting the rule of law today to deal with those challenges.
First – terrorism threatens the balance between security and freedom. From the 9/11 attacks in the United States to the Madrid train bombings in Spain and others – terrorist events in Colombia, kidnappings in Argentina – have shaped how our world views security. Often the immediate response to terrorism is to increase security at the expense of civil liberties and the rule of law. Lawyers throughout the ages have noted that safety and national security is the most powerful influence on a nation's conduct. Alexander Hamilton, another lawyer and founding father of the United States, recognized this trouble: "Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates."
The purpose of the rule of law, however, is to create the infrastructure necessary to respond in a balanced way – safeguarding civil liberties, and at the same time, protecting security. Following the September 11 attacks, American law professor and now legal advisor at the Department of State, Harold Koh, noted: "In the days since, I have been struck by how many Americans – and how many lawyers – seem to have concluded that, somehow, the destruction of four planes and three buildings has taken us back to a state of nature in which there are no laws or rules. In fact, over the years, we have developed an elaborate system of domestic and international laws, institutions, regimes, and decision-making procedures precisely so that they will be consulted and obeyed, not ignored, at a time like this."
Given our training and experience, the legal profession and the judiciary are in a unique position even in times of crisis to ensure that the rule of law is maintained; to secure their independence; and to provide justice and due process irrespective of political currents and fleeting passions.
Second – economic crisis transcends national boundaries and endangers the financial stability underlying modern society worldwide. In the many crises since 2007, governments have struggled to respond to the demands of both their domestic constituencies and their international allies; most recently in the Americas with Argentina. In these last few months, the world has focused on Greece and others in the EU.
During an economic crisis, a common response is to curtail efforts to promote the rule of law. People can easily lose faith in the rule of law if neither employment opportunity nor economic equity exist. Governments also cut back on funding the architecture necessary for the rule of law to exist. For example, state governments in the United States are struggling to fund the judiciary.
Again, the legal profession must seize the opportunity to assist the public in meeting the challenges caused by economic crisis. How? By calling attention to practices that exacerbate the economic crisis, as Steve Zack led the ABA to do with the Commission on Access to Justice. And by providing stability through the rule of law, we can promote growth of business and employment opportunities to restore individual confidence. By representing those who are charged in the crisis to ensure access to justice and avoid a "witch hunt or lynch mob" mentality which undermines us all.
Legal representation of the unpopular is essential for all. Both sides to even the most heinous allegations are entitled to zealous representation by counsel. From the earliest days of our republic, lawyers have defended the unpopular, as that defense protects the entire system of justice and each person's access to justice. Think back – in March 1777, John Adams and Joseph Quincy represented the British Army Capt. Preston, who allegedly led the "Boston Massacre," winning his acquittal. Condemned by many for the representation, these patriots devoted their talent to ensure access to justice and due process to one accused of a most heinous crime. Choosing to represent clients accused – often wrongfully – of heinous crimes is one of the most difficult duties of a lawyer, but one of the most essential to safeguard the rule of law for all. That work must be celebrated as it protects the rule of law for all.
The third recent challenge – regime change, unrest in much of the Middle East, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – even Syria and Yemen – leads to new domestic governance and uncertain relationships with other states and international entities. It can leave power vacuums that threaten the Rule of Law. It can also provide the welcome opportunity to pursue the rule of law, but one cannot be sure which path untested governments will follow. Regime change: The legal profession, again, has a powerful and unique role to serve in the aftermath of this challenge. We must help these countries with their new systems and establish the rule of law. In doing so, lawyers have the power to shape a nation's commitment to the rule of law and prevent corruption and oppression in the future. Lawyers are and always have been architects of society. What lawyers are called upon to do today – as our forefathers were challenged by different circumstances to do – is to promote and protect the rule of law.
Devotion to the rule of law and providing access to justice for all is an obligation that transcends national borders. As we face these very challenging times we live in, we must work collectively for our profession and our nations to safeguard the rule of law. We have the knowledge and the necessary skills. Together we can continue to make a difference for justice in our community, our country, and in our world.
Atticus stood alone. And in the end, he lost because the world hadn't changed. We can wait for our world to change, or, we can change it. We must today work to preserve and enhance the rule of law collectively. And none of us must ever stand alone. Thank you.