Lawyers With A Cause
A message from Jack McGehee, President of the NBTA
In August, I took over from David Rapoport as your new President in front of a Board that included 15 years’ worth of past presidents, making our group unique on many levels. The reason I took over was to promote my new cause in life—to protect the public. Let me explain.
Doctors did it right for the wrong reason. The first question now asked by a patient to her doctor is “Are you board certified?” Because of that requirement, insistence, demand by the public, today 85% of docs are board certified in 145 specialty areas. They did it to meet demand, not to protect their patients. Lawyers don’t face the same requirement, insistence, demand by the public, but we should change our paradigm. Only 3% of us are board certified. Said differently, on our first day out of law school, we are eligible to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court even though we shouldn’t. Board certification protects the public. It is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing.
As said by our U.S. Supreme Court, "There is no dispute about the bona fides and the relevance of NBTA certification…. Disclosure of information such as that on petitioner's letterhead both serves the public interest and encourages the development and utilization of meritorious certification programs for attorneys." From Justice Stevens in Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2281 (1990).
The NBTA, you and I, are in the best position to protect the public when choosing a lawyer and to protect other lawyers when referring a case. Choosing a lawyer is not like choosing socks over the Internet being sold by for profit vendors who don’t sell the very best socks, nor ones that even fit or match. Choosing a lawyer is different. It’s THE most important decision of the moment. Sometimes, it alone determines future quality of life. It must be done properly without being duped by a for-profit rating. Being Super is not what we’re about. Being a Best Lawyer is not what we’re about. We have “PROVEN, TESTED EXCELLENCE.” We protect the public. We are the guardians. That’s our cause.
My goal for our organization is to offer national board certification in more than our current five areas. My goal is to offer board certification in EVERY area of law. As we speak, 11 more specialty areas are on the assembly line, moving toward board certification. For example, immigrants are ripped off frequently. Lawyers with zero immigration law competence are free to charge a fee and do nothing else. Our first new board certified specialty area is immigration law.
I personally want to thank David, who spent three productive years as president. His recent predecessors — Paul Gibson, Jim Wren, Barry Nace, all the way back to Judge Paul Leary who also spent three years as president — built a great organization. They fortified a strong foundation, enabling us to build more. They launched us on a defined trajectory free of distractions. They gave us opportunity. Thanks to them, we have a rich history, bright future, dedicated staff and important cause.
I’m really looking forward to being at your service.
President, NBTA 2016