16 May 2014 ABA Conference Helps Keep Family Law Attorneys at Top of Game
We are just back from the Continuing Legal Education Conference of the American Bar Association, Family Law Section, held in Southampton, Bermuda. (Rough assignment, I know.) Although my spouse, Tommy, and I had a little time to enjoy the beach, it also was a busy conference for me as Chair of the ABA’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Committee and an important opportunity for my colleagues in the fields of family law and fertility law to learn about or get fresh angles on the latest legal decisions, new legislation and best practices impacting our practices and our clients.
Among the CLE sessions I attended was one entitled “Stating the Obvious: How Exciting Black Letter Law Intersects with ART Parentage Proceedings.” The panel discussion on how rapidly evolving technologies can sometimes outstrip legal precedent, with moderator Julie Tavoso Esq. of Chicago and speakers Hon. Terrence Lavin of Chicago, and attorney Steven Snyder of Maple Grove, MN, was exactly relevant to the issues that face ART attorneys nearly every day. When the law is not there yet, we sometimes have to innovate in order to provide our clients with the support they need; that innovation, in turn, can sometimes run up against a judiciary that doesn’t know what to do with it. In many cases my colleagues’ cutting-edge legal work leads the law. And the major take-away from this session is that we must all do more to help create more black-letter law (i.e., statutes which clarify the rights and responsibilities of the parties and the mechanisms of parental establishment).
Another great panel session was “Effecting Legislative Change in ART: Tips, Tricks, and Traps.” This session was designed to inform and inspire attorneys to participate in the legislative process in order to effect positive changes for ART families. I’m proud to have participated in one such effort that resulted in making things easier and less costly for Illinois intended parents. (See our post for more on this.) This session was skillfully led by moderator Noel Tucker, Esq., of Edmond, Oklahoma; and attorneys Casey Gillece of Chicago, Ronald Nelson of Shawnee Mission, Kansas; and Marshall Wolf of Cleveland, Ohio, all of whom shared their challenges in working around outdated, badly written or ill-informed—and sometimes ill-intentioned—laws.
We also took advantage of the conference to convene the group that is working on updates to the ABA’s Model Act of 2008, which when finalized will offer a template for legislators and attorneys to use in drafting new ART laws, incorporating best practices in the field.
We were sad to leave beautiful Bermuda behind, but our next stop, the Family Equality Council fundraiser in New York, for which Tommy and I were proud to serve on the host committee, was a great success. More to come on that topic.