UM Alumnus Elected American Bar Association President

The American Bar Association has selected a University of Montana alumnus to lead its 400,000 members as the organization’s 142nd president.

Bob Carlson, who earned his bachelor’s degree from UM in 1976 and a Juris Doctor in 1979, accepted the gavel at the ABA annual meeting in Chicago on Aug. 6.

Carlson, a Butte resident and shareholder with Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson P.C., will be Montana’s second president of the national organization – more than six decades after the first Montanan held the position.

An active member of the Montana and national legal community, Carlson served as president of the State Bar of Montana from 1993 to 1994, chaired the state bar’s board of trustees, and served as Montana’s state bar delegate on the ABA House of Delegates and state chair of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. Carlson served as the Chair of the ABA House of Delegates, the Association’s policy making body, from 2012 to 2014. He served as a member of the ABA’s Board of Governors, chaired the Executive Compensation Committee and served as a member of the Executive Council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents. The former UM Alumni Association board member also has served on the law school’s Clinical Board of Visitors since 1994.

William J. Jameson, a U.S federal judge under President Dwight Eisenhower and a member of the Montana House of Representatives, served as Montana’s first ABA president from 1953 to 1954.

The William J. Jameson Law Library at UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law is named after Jameson, a 1919 graduate of the University and a 1922 graduate of the law school. The State Bar of Montana has a William J. Jameson award named in his honor – the highest honor bestowed by the association. Carlson won the Jameson Award in 2016.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for not only a member of the Montana legal community, but for a graduate of our great law school,” said Paul Kirgis, dean of the law school. “Bob is already a tireless volunteer for the law school, the State Bar of Montana and ABA, and he is perfectly positioned to tackle the ABA’s goals of serving its members and improving the legal profession throughout the country.

“We wish him the best in this role and look forward to his successes.”

As a small-firm owner, Carlson will bring a different experience to the role, as recent presidents have hailed from some of the nation’s largest law firms. ABA Immediate Outgoing President Hilarie Bass is co-president of Greenberg Traurig, with more than 1,800 attorneys; Linda Klein, ABA president for 2016-17, is senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson, with 750 attorneys; and Paulette Brown, ABA president for 2015-16, is senior partner and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Locke Lorde, with 840 attorneys. By comparison, Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson has four full-time lawyers.

Carlson plans to continue the organization’s mission of advocating for access to justice and criminal justice reform but also hopes to focus on making a difference for practicing lawyers in their everyday work.

“As a Montana lawyer in a small firm, I know firsthand what a difference membership in the ABA makes for my practice and what a difference it makes in all our communities and our nation,” Carlson said. “As president, I want to deliver the message that the ABA is essential for all lawyers. We are the voice of the legal profession, an advocate for the rule of law and a place where every lawyer can access abundant resources to be a better practicing lawyer.”

Carlson’s one-year term as ABA president began when the organization’s annual meeting adjourned.