Hilarie Bass has always been a top shelf kind of person, excelling with a sui generis brand of curiosity, talent, and creativity with a big dollop of good humor. The Miami-native has shown brightly, even back in high school as a Silver Knight Award winner – in drama – before rising to head one of the largest law firms in the country.
Now Bass, J.D. `81, will lead as the 2017-2018 president of the American Bar Association, the 410,000-member top legal organization with a stated duty to improve the profession. In her acceptance speech at the annual conference in August, Bass urged her fellow members to take up with gusto the ABA’s goals of serving the underserved, taking responsibility for strengthening legal education and more aggressively embracing advances in technology and innovation.
She promised that the ABA would continue to ensure that its “greatest mission -- defending liberty and pursuing justice for all citizens – remains at the forefront of all of our efforts.”
“Despite the great freedoms and opportunity that exist in our country, we all understand that, as Americans, we have much to do to perfect our union,” she said. “The American Bar Association must not only be part of that effort but we, as lawyers, are duty bound to lead it.”
Bass said that they could not achieve that objective until “all of our citizens believe that the justice system treats them fairly, irrespective of their color, their gender, their religion, or their income.”
Bass, who is co-president of Greenberg Traurig, has previously served as chair of the ABA Litigation Section. From her position as vice chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees and a member of Miami Law’s Visiting Committee, she has seen current legal education firsthand.
She said that hardly a day passes that there is not a story reporting on the sad state of the nation’s legal education system, casting blame on one entity or another.
“The American Bar Association is the only group in this country capable of bringing all of those disparate groups into the same room talking to each other about whether and how this system of legal education should be redesigned,” Bass said.
Bass, who in 2014 made a $1 million commitment in support of Miami Law, which honored her by naming the courtyard the “Hilarie Bass Bricks,” strongly encouraged the members of the ABA to undertake a modernization of their industry.
“Most importantly, the ABA can provide leadership to the practitioners of this country who, for the most part, are practicing law the same way they always have, despite the technical innovations that have enhanced and made more efficient every other professional services profession,” she said. “The American Bar Association can, and must, provide unique leadership to the practitioners in this country and assist them in the adoption and implementation of innovation approaches to the practice of law.”
`CANES STEER INTO THE FUTURE
Bass is not the first alumna in an influential position at the ABA. Carolyn Lamm, J.D. `73 and a partner at White & Case, was president in 2009-2010. Miami alumna Deborah Enix-Ross is the incoming chair of the House of Delegates.
“I applaud Hilarie Bass – another extraordinary `Cane. She will make Miami Law proud,” Lamm says. “Her vision and superb leadership skills will enrich the ABA and our profession. I am confident she will be one our best ABA presidents ever!”
Lamm has continued her connection to Miami Law; she teaches International Investment Arbitration in the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. Program. A thought leader in the field of international arbitration, Lamm was appointed U.S. Panel of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes by President Bill Clinton. Prior to joining White & Case, she was at the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a trial attorney in the Fraud Section of the Civil Division.
Miami Law’s alumnae continue a great tradition of leadership in the community, and in the state and national conversation about the practice of law.
“My experience at Miami Law played a crucial role in my development and shaping the person I am today,” says Bass. “Law school taught me to solve people’s problems and the importance of equal access to justice. In my new role as ABA president-elect, I look forward to making a difference in the profession and continuing the ABA’s commitment to eradicating bias, enhancing diversity and advancing the rule of law.”
MIAMI LAW ALUMNAE ASSUME LEADERSHIP POSITIONS ACROSS LEGAL ASSOCIATIONS
In addition to Hilarie Bass taking the helm next year at the American Bar Association, Deborah Enix-Ross, J.D. `81, is the incoming chair of the House of Delegates, and Edith Osman, J.D. `83 and past president of the Florida Bar Association, is in the ABA House of Delegates as the Florida representative.
Enix-Ross, the senior advisor to the International Dispute Resolution Group and a member of the Debevoise & Plimpton`s Diversity Committee, has served as the chair of the Business and Human Rights Project of the ABA Center for Human Rights. She is a former chair of the ABA Section of International Law, where she was the Goal IX Officer and co-founded the Women`s Interest Network.
She is a visiting professor at Miami Law in the Spring 2017 semester.
Anna Marie Hernandez, J.D. `01, is the president of the Cuban American Bar Association; Nikki Lewis Simon, J.D. `99, is the president-elect of the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association; and Rebecca A. Ocariz, J.D. `98, is the president of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. The Honorable Lisa S. Walsh, J.D. `92, is the most recent president of the National Association of Women Judges.
Hernandez, the CABA president and a partner at Holland & Knight, is a member of the firm`s Commercial Litigation and Real Estate Litigation practice groups. She has extensive experience in handling matters involving commercial lease disputes, title insurance litigation, collection actions, commercial foreclosures, general business disputes, and protection of creditors rights.
Simon, who will take the reins of the GSCBWLA in July 2017, is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig. She serves as the director of the firm`s Client Development and Corporate Social Responsibility, aligning diversity and inclusion practices with client needs.
Ocariz, president of the FAWL, is a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP, focusing her practice on product liability and commercial litigation. She has served as the Miami-Dade Chapter of FAWL’s Secretary, Treasurer, as a Director and as a Committee Chair. She is also a recipient of the FAWL Leader in the Law Award.
Currently serving as the Florida representative in the ABA House of Delegates, Osman is the past president of the Florida Bar. A shareholder at Carlton Fields, her practice focuses on business litigation, matrimonial law, and mediation.
Judge Walsh, the outgoing president of NAWJ, sits on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in the Criminal Division. Before her present position, she was a County Court Judge, a Circuit Court Judge, and a Public Defender.