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Forty-five years ago, William W. “Bill” Daniel took the bold step of inviting a number of criminal defense lawyers to join together as an organization: “I have talked to a number of persons throughout the State of Georgia during the past year or two about the organization of a Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,” he wrote in September 1974.  “Everyone that I have talked to has seemed to think that this was a good idea.” And while a number of lawyers met and agreed to come together to form GACDL, not everyone thought it was a good idea.  An East Point attorney, in a cover letter to his first $50.00 dues payment, wrote to Rees Smith, GACDL’s first Secretary/Treasurer, “I don’t believe that the Association will have too good a chance. It’s the type that only lasts as long as the strong man pushes and a strong man always gets tired somewhere along the way.  Hope you are strong.” Acknowledging the strength and hard work of Bill Daniel, Rees nevertheless wrote back, “No matter how strong the leader is, he can’t do it by himself.”

And he was right.  GACDL’s leaders have been strong, but its membership and staff have been stronger.  It is the active participation of GACDL members that has been the driving force behind this organization’s growth and development into the second-largest statewide criminal defense organization in the country. 

But there are many ways to be a member of GACDL.  A GACDL member can pay her dues, show up to one seminar in order to check-off the “get CLE hours” from her to-do list, and completely miss all the rest that this organization could mean to her personal and professional life.  There are so many demands on our time and our attention.  When the founding members formed our organization, there was no internet, no cell phones, no texting, no Facebook, no Twitter.  And while these innovations give us the tools to stay more connected, to see in real-time the needs of our clients and the importance of what we do to protect and defend them, it also is just plain distracting.  It has made it more difficult to focus and remain engaged in a purposeful, meaningful way.  This year, I ask us all to take the time to consider how GACDL has impacted us, how our involvement in it has improved the work we do for our clients, and how we can give to-- and necessarily get more out of--the organization.  

The first step is to purposefully engage in what this organization provides, through committee membership and the educational opportunities offered by our incredible seminars.  To remember that our job is to push the boundaries, to promote what is right about defending people who are accused of crimes, and to challenge the injustices within our criminal justice system. GACDL’s seminars, listserv, committees, and publications provide the resources to help its members defend our clients in wiser, more creative, more powerful ways. Let’s all commit to being more deliberate about what we put into this organization and pledge to energetically apply the innovative tools it provides to the very clients whose lives we protect and defend.

I look forward to serving as your President this year, and to my renewed commitment to making a difference in the organization that has sustained and energized me all these years.

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