APRL History

The Origin of “APRL” – Chapter One

John A. Weiss

Weiss and Etkin,
Tallahassee, Florida

Our name evolved over a three-year period. The acronyms that I have uncovered in my files, going back to 1987, are, in order and to be explained below, NARC, ALLA, NORC, LRL, NALC, APRC and APRL. The first document I have in my files is a memo from Chuck Kettlewell to “Respondents’ Counsel” dated January 27, 1988 and referencing the upcoming Philadelphia Mid-Year Meeting of NOBC. The memo starts out:

Jack Weiss and I were talking recently about the possibility of some of us getting together to discuss common problems while attending the NOBC meeting in Philadelphia. I have attached a list of people who I have identified from the NOBC Associate Membership List as being active in respondents’ counsel work, and am sending this memo to each of you.

The memo went to me, Kurt Bulmer, Nick Cooper, Mike Hoover, Richard Lindner, Craig Simpson and Jim Wrenn.

Chuck and I had previously thought about calling ourselves, if I remember correctly, NARC–National Association of Respondents’ Counsel. Jim Wrenn replied by memo dated January 29, 1988 and suggested ALLA–American Lawyers’ Lawyers Association. On February 6, 1988, a memo was sent to “Officers and Members of NOBC” from “NORC (?)”. I am almost certain the memo was authored by Chuck. The memo’s first paragraph read:

We are pleased to announce and you may or may not be pleased to know, that at this, the MIDYEAR MEETING (1988) of the NOBC, a new organization has been formed, tentatively to be known as the National Organization of Respondents’ Counsel (NORC), which consists primarily of associate members of NOBC, who devote their practices, in whole or in part, to handling attorney grievance matters.

According to Nick Cooper’s February 15, 1988 memo, the NORC meeting took place on February 6th and was attended by Chuck, myself, Kurt Bulmer, Mike Hoover and Nick Cooper. By letter dated March 9, 1988, Jim Wrenn once again suggested ALLA and pointed out that much of the work of our future membership would be work other than representing respondents. Fast forward to July 20, 1989. Chuck and I had been discussing our fledgling organization with Jeanne Gray and on that date she sent out a memo to “ABA Colleagues” regarding the ABA Annual Meeting on Lawyers Representing Lawyers. In her memo Jeanne stated:

Efforts are underway to identify, on a national level, those lawyers who concentrate their practice on representation of lawyers on ethics and professional responsibility matters. Formation of a national organization is contemplated, and a brief breakfast meeting is scheduled for the ABA Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii on Saturday, August 5, 1989 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

My notes indicate the meeting on August 5, 1989 was attended by Jeanne, myself, Steve Tober, Steve Smoot and John Sheppard. There may have been one or two ABA staffers there; Jeanne may have notes in that regard. My minutes of that meeting are sparse but they are captioned “LRL”– Lawyers Representing Lawyers. We decided to meet at the ABA Mid-Year Meeting in Los Angeles in February 1990. By letter dated November 22, 1989 to Jeanne, Chuck wrote:

After some thought and talk with others, I recommend against the name National Association of Lawyers’ Counsel (NALC). In addition to sounding like all the other “national associations or organizations” it does not really reflect the distinguishing nature of this group….I strongly recommend the name Association of Professional Responsibility Counsel (APRC).

On November 28, 1989, I wrote Jeanne and said in part “I like APRC. While I do not dislike NALC, I prefer APRC.” (Did I really say I prefer APRC?) A month later, on December 29, 1989, Jeanne sent a memo to 16 lawyers (Kurt Bulmer, Ralph Cagle, Nick Cooper, Bob Cummins, Mike Gentile, Mark Harrison, Geoff Hazard, Chuck Kettlewell, Ron Mallen, Sarah McShea, Steve Peterson, John Shepherd, Steve Smoot, Steve Tober, John Philip White and me) and announced that the “next meeting of APRC will be…on Friday, February 9, 1990 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Los Angeles.” Jeanne followed up with a January 19, 1990 memo to ABA Colleagues announcing that “the Association of Professional Responsibility Counsel (APRC) has been formed for those lawyers who concentrate their practice on…ethics and professional responsibility matters.” My notes from the February 9, 1990 meeting are captioned “APRL meeting” . But, I think I filled that in later on in the meeting. I say so because after listing the names of the 19 individuals attending I have in my notes “By Chuck: Name: No decision or motion. Organizational Committee [consisting of Kurt Bulmer, Chuck, myself and Mark Harrison] will decide.” My recollection is we decided that day to drop APRC and change it to APRL. There is some controversy as to who first pointed out that APRC sounded, well, lewd. My notes are silent on the issue. We have been APRL nonstop since Feb. 1990.