Does Iowa have enough lawyers? ABA president says it could use more

American Bar Association President Deborah Enix-Ross speaks at the annual Supreme Court Celebration banquet hosted by the Drake University School of Law.

Whether it’s wrangling over big-dollar medical malpractice verdicts or shortages of attorneys to represent indigent clients, Iowa’s legal challenges have a lot in common with those elsewhere around the country. Just ask Deborah Enix-Ross.

As president of the American Bar Association, the membership and lobbying organization for legal professionals across the country, Enix-Ross hears a lot from lawyers nationwide about issues in their jurisdictions. Last week, she came to Drake University to meet law students and practitioners and to give the keynote speech to the school’s annual Supreme Court Celebration banquet.

The Des Moines Register spoke with Enix-Ross, a dispute resolution specialist and mediator by trade, during her visit to get a national perspective on some of the legal challenges facing the state. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Encouraging diversity beyond, race, gender

Des Moines Register: When you’re doing these trips around the country, what are you hoping to learn? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Deborah Enix-Ross: A couple of things. Number one, I enjoy speaking with law students in particular, as they think about their kinds of careers that they would like to have in the law.

I’m particularly interested in law students of color to make sure that we have a diverse population. Diversity for me is not just gender and racial and ethnic diversity, but here in Iowa, for example, diversity of practices and not just everyone being in big law firms or big- city firms, but also thinking about opportunities to serve in our rural communities.

And then the third thing that I’m emphasizing is my initiative this year, which we call the Cornerstones of Democracy, the three C’s of Civics, Civility and Collaboration, talking about the importance of civic education and civic engagement.

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