|KCBA President Steven Rovig presents Thomas Fitzpatrick with a recognition plaque at the August 20 Board of Trustees meeting.
"It would be an honor to represent the KCBA, which I have been a proud member for approximately 30 years," said Tom Fitzpatrick in 2009, just before being appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve as the bar's delegate to the American Bar Association.
Last month, Tom completed five years as KCBA's representative in the ABA House of Delegates, and under our bylaws cannot be reappointed to an additional term. He has served us there well, attending mid-year and annual ABA meetings, casting KCBA's vote on many important national measures.
But even more important than Tom's liaison for KCBA with the ABA has been his strong involvement in much of the work of KCBA back here at home. With decades of experience on national committees, task forces and special projects, Tom proved to be an encyclopedia of bar association best practices from across the country. And he put that knowledge to good use for KCBA.
As he departs his current position, I wanted to share with you a couple of examples of Tom's exceptional service to KCBA.
The first area of note was his work on guiding improvements to KCBA's Lawyer Referral Service. In 2010, KCBA created a task force to look at ways to enhance this program to better serve members of the public seeking attorneys and those participating lawyers' experience on LRS panels. Tom was an enthusiastic member of the task force, attending monthly meetings, taking on research assignments, presenting findings of national best practices and sharing insights from years of national leadership in LRS programs. The task force's final recommendations were adopted by the Board of Trustees and contained several important changes championed by Tom that have improved KCBA's referral program.
The second area was more recent. As Tom watched the bar play a leadership role over the years in championing drug policy reform, including the eventual passage of I-502 by the voters of Washington in 2012, he recognized earlier than most the ethical issues that lawyers would face as the law came into effect. How could lawyers advise clients on the new state law without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct that might see such advice as counseling clients to violate federal law?
Tom suggested to bar leaders that we seek guidance nationally since this would likely become a concern for other states as similar ballot measures were enacted across the country. This strategy eventually evolved into proposing a rules change with our own state Supreme Court and the publication of KCBA's first-ever ethics advisory opinion for members seeking guidance on these issues. Tom's leadership in all this work was recognized this past June when then-KCBA President Anne Daly honored Tom and his colleagues on our ad hoc I-502 Ethics Committee with the 2014 President's Award.
While we have selected an outstanding successor to Tom in James Williams, a partner at Perkins Coie, Tom has set a very high bar for service to KCBA by future ABA delegates (one that James will certainly meet!). And even though Tom has turned in his KCBA delegate credentials, I am confident KCBA will continue to benefit from Tom's passion, commitment, experience and great sense of humor for many years to come.
Thank you Tom!
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA's executive director. He can be reached by email (AndrewP@kcba.org) or phone (206-267-7061).