IAALS Advances Justice with ABA President Linda Klein

IAALS simply would not be what it is without the support of our partners and friends. They are essential to our efforts and hail from a wide range of backgrounds, viewpoints, and sectors. Every month, IAALS will shine the spotlight on one such person and take you behind the scenes for a lighthearted glimpse into those upon whose guidance and support we rely. Together we are advancing justice.

Linda Klein, President, American Bar Association | Shareholder, Baker Donelson

When she became President of the American Bar Association, Linda Klein had a goal of traveling to every state to meet with bar members. It was a commitment that not everyone may fully appreciate. Is there really any greater proof of dedication to and passion for the job than committing oneself to a life in constant motion and going weeks without sleeping in your own bed?

But Linda’s passion for her work doesn’t surprise me one bit. She first caught my attention upon becoming the first woman president of the State Bar of Georgia (noteworthy also given that she was born north of the Mason Dixon line). And it’s for her passion for the law—and for her commitment to service—that we’ve come to know her here at IAALS.

Our association with Linda goes back to the first convening she attended of our Foundations for Practice project and dove right into that work. And over the years, her support as an Advisory Group member has helped that project make its mark on a national scale.

But that’s the thing about Linda, she is always willing to help and is sincere in her offer. As her tenure as President of the ABA comes to a close, what can we say about a woman so talented and so respected for her leadership? As an organization that has been fortunate to benefit from Linda’s guidance and involvement, all we can say is thank you, Madame President.

We caught up with President Klein for this month’s Partner Profile Q&A. 

What do you most value in a friend? My closest friends are active in the bar because they care about justice and about doing the right thing, values that are core to who we are. And their involvement in the bar enables my friends to work hard to make a difference, large and small. I value these attributes in others and hope I live up to them myself.

With what historical figure do you most identify? One hero I've thought a lot about lately is Patsy Mink, who was rejected by 20 medical schools because they didn't accept women. Mink decided to attend the University of Chicago Law School, which did admit women for some time. In 1951, she earned her J.D. but was the only woman in her graduating class. Law firms at the time would not hire married women, so she was unable to get a job at a law firm. She worked in the law school’s library for a while, then started her own firm. She was later elected to Congress from Hawaii and went on to co-author Title IX, the landmark legislation barring sex discrimination in education. We're marking the 45th anniversary of Title IX this year, and it's made a huge difference in the makeup of the legal profession.

What’s one thing that you are really bad at doing? I'm not the world's best cook, which is one of the many reasons I'm so grateful for my husband. Thank you, Michael!

What is your greatest extravagance? I strongly believe in contributing to the causes I most believe in—for example, the ABA Fund for Justice and Education, which funds our public-service projects. Contributions do not have to be money. When I believe in a cause I am "all in." 

Do you have any advice for recent law school graduates? Get involved in the bar and, as I did in my early days of bar involvement, join a committee, take on an assignment nobody else wants to do, and do a great job. You'll keep getting better and better assignments, and in the process you'll make lifelong friendships with wonderful, committed people who make a difference.