By Andrew Cohen
Paul H. Chan ’84, general counsel for the University of Denver, is the new president of the Colorado Bar Association (CBA). The CBA’s first Asian Pacific American leader in its 113 years—and only the 10th to ever preside over a state bar association—Chan began his term July 1.
Before joining the University of Denver in 1997, Chan spent most of his career at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. He worked as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Appeals and Human Resources sections, and later as the office’s managing attorney.
A past president of the Denver Bar Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and Colorado Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Chan is active in local charitable and cultural organizations. He has also served on the Colorado Board of Law Examiners and on commissions and advisory boards for the Colorado Supreme Court, Governor of Colorado, Mayor of Denver, and Denver Public Schools.
As CBA president, Chan wants to bolster the organization’s efforts to assist legal professionals and members who have suffered during the economic downturn. Last year he helped form the CBA Economic Task Force, which partnered with CLE in Colorado, Inc., to provide more than 2,000 members with membership dues and CLE tuition assistance, free and subsidized CLE programs, career assistance and stress management counseling, networking events, and other services.
“Due in large part to these programs,” says Chan, “the membership in our voluntary bar association actually increased between 2009 and 2010 and we’ll continue these efforts in the coming year.”
Chan will also focus on CBA’s long-term sustainability by promoting the use of new technologies to deliver services to its nearly 18,000 members. In particular, he touts equipment that makes it easier to attend meetings remotely, webinars and downloadable CLEs, and new online career resources.
Chan notes that the practice of law and the way business is conducted have changed dramatically, even over the last few years. “When was the last time you sent a fax or looked up a case in a reporter, not to mention when you first realized you needed a Facebook and LinkedIn account?” he says. “Volunteer bar associations must ensure that they remain relevant and valuable to their members, and that the benefits they offer truly respond to their needs.”
Like all CBA presidents, Chan will chair the group’s Legislative Policy Committee. In this capacity, he’ll monitor current political events—including any threats to the judiciary.
In 2006, an unsuccessful Colorado ballot initiative sought to impose judicial term limits. Now, Chan says, another proposed initiative “seeks to eliminate our nationally recognized merit selection and retention system for judges. The Bar must continue to stand vigilant and lead the fight to protect the integrity of the judicial system in the face of political challenges like these.”