|Philadelphia - Mayor Michael Nutter proved that he could work a room - even a huge one with hundreds of lawyers - at yesterday's Bar Association Quarterly Meeting and Luncheon in the Park Hyatt Hotel's grand ballroom.
The mayor's first address to the 13,000-member association, the oldest bar association in the country, was laced with humor although the mayor insisted that he's not a very good joke teller - he often forgets the punch line. But, he noted, he has impressive skills in sarcastic comebacks.
In a roomful of dignitaries, including Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham and the Honorable Ronald D. Castille, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the mayor admitted that it was still "quite embarrassing" to listen to laudatory introductions of himself. "I hope soon we can just go with 'He's here!'"
Mayor Nutter acknowledged the awarding of the Bar Association's iconic golden snuff box, its highest honor, to the former Chancellor of the Bar Association, Jane Dalton, whose remarks preceded his. Ms. Dalton spoke of the strides the organization has made over the last year, including the retention and promotion of women attorneys.
Mr. Nutter, who promised no lawyer jokes and stuck to that promise, then addressed some vital issues affecting the city and its law community in his 30 minute remarks.
"Historically, lawyers have played a central role in government, and will hopefully continue to. Your pro bono efforts are critically important and you've handled diversity issues impressively."
The mayor also outlined his determination to change the public's mindset about city government, emphasizing that in some ways, the city is actually a $4 billion corporation with citizens as stockholders who, in his words, "...have the right to expect high quality services and the lowest possible cost."
The mayor's commitment to increase the population of Philadelphia by 75,000 people over the next five years would, he suggested yesterday, inure to the benefit of lawyers as well as other professionals and businesses in the city.
One of the comments that drew loud applause was Mayor Nutter's promise that in his sweeping ethical reforms, the days of "...who you are or who you are connected to are over."
One special plea to the legal community came with the mayor's urging of law firms to help lower the criminal recidivism rate in the city, which is currently a sobering 72 percent, by making efforts to give those who have struggled a break by hiring them. The same urging to the city's legal community concerned reaching out to young people who need mentors and models.