Magazine Feature / People

Attorney encourages colleagues to contribute knowledge

As the baby boom generation enters retirement, the impact on the U.S. legal profession will be dramatic: As many as 400,000 lawyers are expected to retire in the next 15 years.

If attorney Karen Mathis has her way, many of them will pursue a “Second Season of Service,” during which they can use their considerable knowledge and experience to volunteer with a variety of community organizations that need their help.

“If every retiring lawyer gave 50 hours of volunteer service a year, we would have a 2-million-hour resource for each year,” Mathis says. “With these resources, you could create the next Peace Corps, the next Vista.”

Developing this network of volunteers is one of Mathis’ key initiatives as 2006 president of theAmerican Bar Association (ABA). Active in the ABA for nearly 30 years, Mathis is the third woman to serve as an ABA president and the first from Colorado.

A business, commercial and estate planning lawyer, Mathis is a partner in the Denver office of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter. She graduated from DU in 1972, cum laude, with bachelor’s degrees in political science, history and education — a perfect combination for her role as ABA president, she says.

“I love our country and the law, and I love to teach, and DU gave me the basis for all three,” she adds.

Encouraging lawyers to contribute their knowledge to a variety of pressing societal issues is a cornerstone of her agenda for the ABA. Another of Mathis’ main initiatives is addressing the problems of at-risk youth.

The ABA is working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which has declared youth violence a “communicable disease”) to sponsor a series of conferences addressing key issues. The organization also is conducting community roundtables at cities nationwide, bringing together stakeholders from groups dealing with at-risk youth to develop programs that address youth issues.

“The issues affecting our youth are deeper and more complex than ever before,”

Mathis says. “Our goal is to intersect in young people’s lives before they enter the juvenile justice system or, if they are already involved, before they cross over into the criminal justice system.”

This article originally appeared in The University of Denver Magazine, Winter 2006.

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