Login | August 09, 2020

Incoming Akron Bar president discusses plans/challenges

Legal News Reporter

Published: June 19, 2020

July 1 officially marks the changing of the guard at the Akron Bar Association and despite any challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tradition will continue, with outgoing president Karen Adinolfi passing the torch to current president-elect Hamilton DeSaussure Jr.
“Hal and I have been working closely over the past year and I am confident he is totally prepared to lead the organization even in these uncertain times,” said Adinolfi, a shareholder at Roetzel & Andress, who focuses on employment law matters.
“We normally hold our annual meeting in late June at which time we swear in the new president-elect, who is Lisa Okolish Miller,” said Adinolfi. “Given the pandemic, I can’t imagine we will be able to hold an in-person meeting, but we will still find a way to swear in the new president-elect.”
Incoming president-elect Miller, who serves as law director for the city of Barberton, said she’s looking forward to working with DeSaussure and Adinolfi.
“I am very excited,” said Miller. “I’ve known Karen for many years both professionally and personally and I have served on committees that Hal has led. They are both impressive leaders. I feel very humbled to follow in their footsteps and the footsteps of those who came before them.
“Hopefully Hal and I can build on some of the things that Karen has done and find new and creative ways to serve members and continue the organization’s tradition of excellence well into the future.”
“I am looking forward to collaborating with Lisa, Allen Nichols, staff and association members to ensure the bar association continues to provide a point of connection, while adding real value and resources--virtually or in-person--for existing members and to developing strategies to attract new members,” said DeSaussure, a partner at Brennan Manna Diamond (BMD).
Born in Wiesbaden, Germany, DeSaussure’s father, the late Col. Hamilton DeSaussure was an attorney in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps, so the family moved around quite a bit when DeSaussure was a child.
They settled in Hudson, Ohio around 1970 after his father retired from the Air Force and became a faculty member at The University of Akron School of Law, where he taught courses ranging from torts and conflicts of law to those focusing on specialized areas such as the law of the sea as well as international and air and space law.
“My father was a large part of the reason I decided to go to law school,” said DeSaussure. “Two of my three sisters also decided to become lawyers.
“I find law extremely interesting and intellectually stimulating,” he said. “I enjoy the creative process of figuring out how to solve the puzzles that are unique to each case.”
After graduating from Western Reserve Academy, DeSaussure obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
He received his juris doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law in North Carolina in 1983, returning to the Akron area where he began his career as an associate at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs.
“I started doing litigation at Buckingham and I have pretty much handled insurance and commercial business litigation since then,” said DeSaussure.
In 1996, he left Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs to join Oldham & Dowling, partnering with Akron Bar Association past presidents Bill Oldham and Bill Dowling who had been colleagues of his at Buckingham.
Prior to starting at Brennan Manna Diamond, he was working in the Hudson office of the now-defunct law firm Day Ketterer, which closed in the fall of 2019.
A member of the Akron Bar Association since 1983, DeSaussure has served on the board of trustees and is a past chair and former member of the Akron Bar Association Commission on Judicial Candidates. 
He has also been a member of the fee arbitration and the common pleas, municipal & appellate courts committees and the law school liaison subcommittee as well as other committees.
DeSaussure was on the Akron Law Library Association (not affiliated with the bar association) board from the 1990s until 2012 when it merged with the Akron Bar Foundation. He remains a member of the Akron Bar Foundation Law Library Committee, where he helps oversee the committee’s grant-making decisions.
DeSaussure, who lives in Hudson, Ohio with his wife Mary, has served as an At-Large member of the Hudson City Council for the past ten years.
The couple has three adult daughters. The eldest is Annie, a French professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania; their middle child Margaret is on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, where she serves as a linguist and Hilary, the youngest, is an associate at Brennan Manna Diamond.
As incoming president of the Akron Bar Association, DeSaussure said his main focus is on maintaining and attracting members.
“At this point and time all nonprofit organizations are undergoing membership challenges and the Akron Bar Association is no exception,” said DeSaussure. “The issue is particularly challenging in the era of the pandemic when even gathering for face-to-face meetings is not possible.
“This has and will continue to be a huge challenge,” he said. “We have been able to continue to offer our CLEs (continuing legal education) remotely and all of our committee meetings have taken place remotely as well.
“With so many of us working from home, I believe that having a way to connect in a professional setting is even more important.”
DeSaussure said the bar association’s membership has remained steady during the pandemic.
“We want to minimize lost memberships and continue to offer reasons for new members to join. The goal is to increase membership, even during this period of uncertainty,” he said.
Another important issue facing the organization, said DeSaussure, is the changing CLE landscape.
“With the loosening of restrictions surrounding CLEs, a lot of organizations are offering CLEs online at reduced costs,” said DeSaussure. “In some cases, they are being offered for free.
“I think we will continue to see declining revenues from CLEs and we will have to come up with creative ways to adapt.”
DeSaussure said there are many reasons to join the Akron Bar Association, which not only provides members with access to key services like CLE, networking and leadership opportunities, but is also an important resource for lawyers looking to connect, even in this time of social distancing.
“The bar association is a valuable point of contact for lawyers and is a means of tying the profession together as a whole,” DeSaussure said.
DeSaussure’s daughter Hilary has been a member of the Akron Bar Association since May of last year.
“My dad encouraged me to join the bar association even before I took the bar exam,” said Hilary, who primarily focuses on civil and construction litigation at BMD. “I was already planning on joining since I knew I wanted to practice in the Akron area.
“My father has been an important role model,” she said. “I don’t think I would have seriously considered law school without his encouragement.
“He has a great way of breaking down large issues into small and doable steps. He brings a unique perspective to whatever he is doing and I know he’ll use his perspective and life experiences to tackle any problems that the bar is facing,” said Hilary. “He cares a great deal about the organization and I believe he will be an excellent leader.”