We all know that acs is a volunteer organization. We volunteer to do service both inside and outside ACS—and sometimes we can use that "service model" to get the microphone so we can tell the public about the benefits of chemistry.
Sometimes our volunteer work is mutual aid. The advantage of an organization as large and as diverse as ours is that when one member has a problem, somewhere there’s usually a member with a solution.
Earlier this year, I received a letter from a member who had lost a job in a corporate restructuring. Among his ideas for improvements in ACS employment tools was the suggestion that ACS develop a legal resources group capable of helping members determine whether they need a lawyer in a situation like his, and if so, how to get in touch with the right legal specialists on a geographic basis.
The advantage of an organization as large and as diverse as ours is that when one member has a problem, somewhere there's usually a member with a solution.
As I saw it, this presented an outstanding opportunity for members to help members. I took his idea to a very special group of chemists who populate the Division of Chemistry & the Law (CHAL). I described the situation and asked if they could help. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, at many of the national meetings, they already held legal triage sessions called "The Lawyer Is In."
But I challenged them to do more. It turns out that when you're president, you can do that sort of thing, and people take you seriously. I am pleased and gratified to use this ACS Comment to describe a new CHAL initiative: the Legal Assistance Network. There are three parts to the initiative:
Legal Evaluation Services. CHAL will create a directory of attorney members who are willing to provide legal screening services to ACS members, on request. This is meant to help members understand the scope of their situations and to understand how to proceed. The attorneys in the directory offer a short but reasonable first consultation for no charge. At the initial consultation, the CHAL member will provide advice or, if the matter requires more work, offer to represent the ACS member on a fee basis, refer the ACS member to one or more other attorneys, or do both. The ACS member can then decide whether he or she needs or wants a lawyer, and if so, which one.
The directory, organized by state and area of law, will be posted on the CHAL website with links to the attorneys' websites, if any. It's important to note that neither CHAL nor ACS is giving legal advice; the attorneys in the directory are, and the directory will make that clear. CHAL's role is to act as a clearinghouse for requests.
Speakers Bureau. The division will create a list of speakers for other divisions and local sections on legal matters of interest. CHAL will recruit the speakers; provide a directory; post the directory, organized by topic and by speaker; and will also communicate the service to the membership.
Specific schedule and travel arrangements are to be negotiated between the local sections or divisions and the attorney volunteers themselves.
The Lawyer Is In. CHAL will expand and reschedule The Lawyer Is In program at ACS national meetings to a more favorable time—Tuesday afternoon at this year's fall meeting in Washington, D.C. As the group of lawyers participating expands, similar sessions could be offered at regional meetings. As a pilot, CHAL will provide The Lawyer Is In at the Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting in June 2006.
Full contact information will appear on the CHAL homepage: membership.acs.org/C/CHAL.
I specifically want to thank Carl Lippenberger, chair-elect of CHAL, for creating, scoping, and advocating for the Legal Assistance Network. In addition, I also would like to thank Howard M. Peters, another CHAL stalwart and colleague on the board of directors, for helping me get the opportunity to offer CHAL this challenge. I think this is a wonderful gift from members with special capabilities to members who need them.
During this year, and in conjunction with my Chemistry Enterprise 2015 project (C&EN Jan. 3, page 2; Jan. 17, page 75), we've spent time envisioning the future of chemistry. It's difficult to avoid envisioning the future of ACS at the same time. With so much changing in our core competencies associated with information delivery and publication, many of us have been looking for the next ACS "killer app"—the product or service that we never knew we needed but now can't live without.
Our greatest resource is our diverse membership. I believe the next killer app will be peer-to-peer tools that help us develop our networks, and we're already working on them as we redesign our Web presence. CHAL's Legal Assistance Network is a first step.
ACS Comments, which appear in C&EN from time to time, are written by society officers and committee chairs. They are available on C&EN Online at www.cen-online.org/html/acscomments.html. Comments are archived back to 2000.