Updated January 2018
Thank you for agreeing to serve on the College's Credentials Committee for your circuit. What follows is a protocol intended to provide some guidance and direction as you undertake your responsibilities. First, we will present an explanation of the process you are about to begin, with an emphasis on the recommendation of the committee. Secondly, we will offer various guidelines as to what you will be looking for as you review the candidates.
I. The Process
The College accepts applications for membership between September 1st and February 1st of each year. Applications are reviewed upon submission for general content and completeness, namely that both parts to the application have been received, that an applicant has been admitted to the bar for a period of twenty years or more, that both nominators have submitted statements and that the correct number of references are listed. All other diligence or background investigating is handled by the members of the Credentials Committee.
Shortly after the February 1st deadline, applications are forwarded to the appropriate circuit credentials committee. How a chairperson chooses to divide or distribute those applications is left entirely to the individual circuit committee. However, it is mandatory that diligence be performed for every candidate, regardless of any or all committee members' knowledge of the candidate. Standard diligence letters and reference forms are also provided to the committees. At the same time, notification is sent to every Fellow with the names of those who have been nominated. Comments, both positive and negative, are encouraged from all Fellows, and should be sent directly to the chairperson of the appropriate circuit.
After references have been returned, and along with any comments received from Fellows, the committee is to examine and review all information. If a listed reference has not returned the form, the Circuit committee must follow up with that source or the nominators. It will sometimes be necessary to conduct follow up phone calls or inquiries in an effort to verify certain information or resolve any questions that may arise during your deliberations. Once the review is completed by the committee, the chairperson is to provide the committee's written recommendations with respect to all candidates including a supporting explanation. The Nominee EvaluationForm must be used when submitting the recommendation.
Once committee recommendations have been submitted to the College's office, the Board Credentials Committee, comprised of Board members from each discipline, will do a thorough review of all submitted materials. Circuit chairs are invited to participate in a conference with the Board committee members to review their committee recommendations. Often there is need for follow up phone calls or clarification of certain information, which may be asked of the individual committees or which may be conducted by the Governors themselves. At all times, the final acceptance or rejection of a candidate is the responsibility of the Board of Governors. The Board will communicate to all Credentials Committee chairs the final determination for candidates from their circuit. Any questions at that time should be directed to the President of the College or the respective Board Liaison assigned to the Circuit from which the question arises.
A. Recommendations of the Committee
In an effort to simplify and standardize the recommendation process, the Board of Governors, with input from the Circuit Credentials Committees, created the Nominee Evaluation Form. This form requests relevant information needed to review a nominee. In addition, space is provided for a detailed explanation of the committee recommendation. Please provide an in-depth narrative. It is imperative that all recommendations, particularly negative recommendations, be appropriately supported. Committee members not in agreement with a committee recommendation should submit any concerns or questions they believe have not been resolved, either with the circuit report or as a separate mailing, addressed to the College's Executive Director. The form and all diligence must be submitted to the College's office by the designated deadline. If you wish, you may submit a cover letter with these materials outlining the recommendations of your committee; however, this letter does not relieve you from completing and returning a Nominee Evaluation Form for each candidate. Applications without a Nominee Evaluation Form will not be forwarded to the Board of Governors' Credentials Committee for final review.
With a "new Fellow" cap of no more than ten percent of the current membership, it is of great importance that the Circuit Committees seriously consider the quality of each candidate. To accomplish this goal, we are asking that committees assign each candidate one of the following descriptive rankings: "highly qualified," "qualified," "not qualified" or "unable to respond," accompanied by an explanation. Care should be taken to separate those ranked as highly qualified from those that do not reach this standard. In addition, we ask that each committee then numerically rank those candidates found to be "qualified" in relation to each other so that the Board Credentials Committee will have the Circuit Committee's best judgment as to the relative merit of each applicant.
II. The Standards
It is extremely important that consistent and balanced standards of review be applied across the circuits as evenly as possible. We want to avoid an applicant in Montana receiving far more scrutiny and being denied admission than that given an applicant in Vermont who is known personally to all committee members and recommended as a Fellow with no formal diligence performed. The following represents the express intent of the Board of Governors in that regard.
A. Basic Characteristics
The application form, which every nominator receives, is prefaced with a brief overview of the process and sets out fully the characteristics that all potential Fellows must possess. Attached you will find this list of characteristics which have been determined to be necessary for one's election as a Fellow. Although somewhat subjective, they are the basis for review of all candidates.
B. Diligence and Range of References
Diligence is mandatory for every candidate. The basic reference letter and form, which are distributed to all committee members, provide an easy way for members to proceed with this facet of the review. If a committee member is responsible for handling diligence on a candidate who is personally known to him/her, formal diligence must still be done.
Often we are faced with the question of considering the spectrum of references provided and the weight that a committee should place on the variety of such references. Although the application form states that "where appropriate a broad array of references, including regular adversaries, is strongly encouraged," committees should keep in mind that there will be exceptions to this standard, specifically academics, sitting judges, arbitrators, government officials and in-house counsel, whose exposure to opponents or court cases may not be as common. This lack of exposure to opponents or major litigation experience is not in and of itself reason for a recommendation against membership. References should be of a professional nature as opposed to a social nature, and where appropriate inclusive of opponents, judges, arbitrators and clients.
C. Reference Letter v. Verbal Comments
The solicitation of comments from our Fellows regarding the candidates is a very important aspect of the election process and should be given serious consideration. However, when reviewing a candidate's materials, please keep in mind that any verbal comments which directly contradict a written reference from the same person, cannot be accepted. As we acknowledge a Fellow's right to remain confidential in his/her remarks, we are unable to accept any contradiction of those remarks. It is also important to remember that written reference letters are confidential and any copies not returned to the College offices with the Nominee Evaluation forms should be destroyed at the completion of your Circuit Credentials Committee duties.
Candidates are not required to maintain a national reputation as evidence of their qualification for admission. There are many qualified potential candidates who have established distinguished careers whose reputations may be limited to a local or regional community. Personal phone calls to the various references may be a valuable source of information as well as an internet search of the candidate, a check of the state bar associations for disciplinary actions or follow through with the nominators themselves. Review of a candidate's published or spoken works may also provide some important insight. In some cases, nominees already have colleagues who are Fellows who would be able to clarify any questionable information received.
E. Length of Service
As stated in the bylaws of the College, a nominee must have been practicing in the field of labor and employment law for twenty years. Simply to have passed the bar twenty years prior is not sufficient evidence of a nominee's labor and employment law commitment. If establishing the length of service of any candidate in the field becomes an issue, this application should be referred to the Board of Governors for final review and determination.
As a basic rule of thumb, if there is even the slightest doubt regarding critical information, please follow through with your diligence.
We hope that this information will provide you with a solid foundation for discharging the important task at hand, that of determining who are qualified and worthy applicants to become Fellows of the College. Ultimately there is no surefire way to safeguard the effective and fair application of these standards. It is up to the individual committees to fully enforce this protocol in determining who will be invited to join our ranks. We encourage you to call our Executive Director, Susan Wan, if you have any questions regarding this material or the application of the process to any candidate.
The qualifications for election are set forth in Articles II and III of the By-Laws of the College. The Board of Governors believes that the By-Laws set forth very specific standards and expects that all Circuit Credentials Committees will use them when evaluating the candidacy of a nominee. The By-Laws also require that nominees have been in the field of labor and employment law for at least 20 years and have proven to their peers, the bar, bench and public that they possess:
- The highest professional qualifications and ethical standards;
- The highest level of character, integrity, professional expertise and leadership;
- A commitment to fostering and furthering the objectives of the College;
- Sustained, exceptionally high quality professional services to clients, bar, bench and public; and
- Significant evidence of scholarship, teaching, lecturing, and/or distinguished published writings on labor and employment law.
In addition to the traits described above, a Fellow is expected to display other traits in the day-to-day practice of law. The list below is by no means complete, but is provided to nominators and nominees for their guidance in determining whether a candidate meets the expectations for a Fellow.
A Fellow is an individual who:
- Would stand out to newer attorneys, as a model of professionalism in deportment and advocacy; a person who should be emulated;
- Has earned the respect of the bench, opposing counsel and the community;
- Displays mutual respect in an adversarial relationship;
- Presents an accurate picture of outcomes to clients;
- Avoids allowing ideological differences to affect civility in negotiations, litigation and other aspects of law practice;
- Engages in complete but not excessive discovery;
- Seeks and agrees to reasonable accommodations on matters such as continuances;
- Knows the workplace and has an active interest in resolving employment issues;
- Is a student of the law; who engages in negotiations with an objective of agreement; and
- Pursues settlement at appropriate stages in a proceeding.