Clean cut and personable, Kip Bollin gives the appearance and demeanor of an ex-Boy Scout. He exudes the charm and confidence of a natural leader, and he will no doubt need those qualities during his term as president of the Federal Bar Association, which began Oct. 1.
A litigation partner at Thompson Hine LLP in Cleveland, Ohio, Bollin describes himself as “somewhat of an anomaly these days” in that he went to work for the venerable Cleveland firm immediately following graduation from law school and two years clerking for the Hon. Sam H. Bell, of the Northern District of Ohio, from 1995 to 1997, and he’s been there ever since. “I feel very lucky to have been chosen for my clerkship,” he says. “It was like getting a master’s degree in legal research and writing, and, frankly, in how to be a lawyer.”
Today, his busy practice includes class actions, a wide array of product liability matters and litigation of business disputes. He also defends intellectual property claims and a host of class actions, which he says are on the increase nationally. Most of these causes of action are federal matters, and the many hours he has spent in federal courts over the years have given him both a familiarity with, and a healthy respect for, the federal judiciary.
That exposure and experience led to a growing interest in the Federal Bar Association. He joined the Northern District of Ohio Chapter in 1999, where his activism with the FBA has grown. Since 2003, Bollin has served on the chapter board. He chaired both the chapter’s younger lawyers committee and CLE committee and, following service in several chapter positions, he was elected president of the NDOH Chapter for the 2010-2011 term. He then went on to serve on the national FBA board of directors and eventually elected president of the national association.
Bollin has outlined an energetic agenda as the newly installed president of the FBA, both in terms of carrying on his predecessor’s plans and launching some new initiatives. “I’m really lucky to be following the Hon. Michael Newman, a U.S. magistrate judge sitting in the Southern District of Ohio. The man is a whirlwind, and what he has accomplished is astounding. I plan to continue and hopefully build upon what he has accomplished during his term.”
That will be a tall order, as what Newman accomplished is substantial. He started a civics education initiative that seeks to raise the level of awareness and understanding of the federal judiciary among middle school and high school students. The program aims at nothing less than trying to remedy a long-standing problem among American youth – a major void in understanding the role that the third branch of government plays in the constitutional system.
“Our educational system focuses a lot on the Executive and Legislative branches, but does not say much about the third branch, the Judicial branch,” says Bollin.
The program works by bringing together federal judges with students – about 10,000 of them in the program’s first year. The students visit federal courthouses to meet the judges on their own turf and get a true feel for what a courtroom is and what judges do. It is the first opportunity for most students to visit a courtroom, and to meet a federal judge.
“I think that’s important for a lot of reasons, but a major one is that one of our roles as lawyers in a democracy is to educate our fellow citizens on how the judiciary works, to let them know about the independence of the judiciary, that judges really do make decisions based on laws, on what’s right and what’s wrong, rather than on personal whims or political pressures.”
Kip Bollin also wants to raise awareness of the FBA itself. “We want to make the association a stronger professional home for lawyers, especially newer lawyers. It can be tough out there, and we truly see it as part of our mission to make sure newer lawyers have the support they need from the bar. That involves education, that involves training, and it involves networking and connecting newer lawyers with more experienced attorneys.”
This will involve the rollout, he says, of a nationwide mentoring program to help “bridge the gap” by pairing law students with mentors who are practicing lawyers. Dozens of FBA chapters across the country have already signed up to participate and the program will launch in October 2017.
Kip Bollin also plans to hold a Symposium for Rising Professionals, an annual event that will bring in national speakers and give newer lawyers the opportunity to make presentations on actual courtroom experiences and other lessons learned in their practices. The first one, slated for February 2018, will be held in Las Vegas.
“We’re also going to provide them an opportunity to engage each other, to network and begin developing their national contacts. I want this to be fun, but I also want it to be meaningful. I hope this will turn into one of our bigger events every year. I think it will help create the next generation of Federal Bar Association leaders.”