On May 1 Assistant Dean for Student Services Jon Baris was sworn in as president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL). Founded in 1874, BAMSL is a professional association of more than 5,600 lawyers and judges, with 11 sections and more than 60 committees, a Young Lawyer’s Division and, with The St. Louis Bar Foundation, serves the educational, professional and practice needs of the organized bar, providing a broad range of programs and services to benefit the community.
Baris first joined BAMSL when he became licensed to practice law in 1996. “Like most people who get involved in bar associations, somebody I knew asked me,” he recalled. At one of the first events he attended someone asked him to volunteer for the Call-A-Lawyer program. Soon thereafter he became the program’s chairman. Over the years he has worked his way through various positions with the organization, serving as chair of the Young Lawyers Division, member-at-large of the Board of Governors and then into the rotation that would lead him to president: treasurer, secretary, vice president and president-elect.
So what has kept him so engaged? “It’s a great organization that gives a lot to its members and the community, which is something I’ve always wanted to be involved in,” Baris said.
For eight years Baris practiced law, practicing privately before switching gears to work for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. After a while he decided to make a change and leave active practice when he ran into Mary Pat McInnis, assistant dean of Career Services at SLU LAW, at, fatefully enough, a BAMSL event. “When I left Legal Services, I didn’t want to actively practice, but I wanted to stay in the legal profession. The opportunity to work with law students ended up being a perfect fit.” That interaction with law students was something he was familiar with and enjoyed, as Baris supervised them as interns at Legal Services. In August 2005 he joined SLU LAW as the Assistant Director of Career Services, moving into his role in Student Services in 2009.
The desire to keep touch with the life of law explains his dedication to BAMSL. “For me personally, especially when I stopped practicing and came into the law school, it was one of my outlets to stay connected to the practicing bar,” Baris said. “I also think it really is a duty to lawyers to give back to the profession and the community, and this is one of the ways I’ve chosen to do so.”
Throughout his year-long stint as head of the organization, Baris’ plan of attack will not necessarily be littered with the introduction of new programs or initiatives. Rather, he’s going to focus on developing and enhancing stronger relationships within the community of the legal profession. His ascension to the top of BAMSL could not have come at a better time for the organization or the School of Law.
“With SLU LAW moving downtown and becoming part of the greater legal community, a community BAMSL has been a part of since the 1800s, the interaction between students and the practicing bar is something I want to continue to build on,” he said. “Obviously law students and young lawyers are the future of the profession, and I hope I can bring my perspective of working with law students to the organized bar.”
Despite the added work load and heavy time commitment that comes with being the face of the organization, including leading executive committee and board of governors meetings, appointing committee and task force chairs, and attending events at legal and general community events, among a host of other responsibilities, Baris is looking forward to this new role he has spent a long time working towards.
“BAMSL is an organization that provides a lot to its members and a lot the legal community, whether it is advocacy for issues or an opportunity for lawyers to develop professionally and personally,” he said. “It provides education to both the legal community and the community at large, and I hope my being president can serve to be a huge benefit for the law school and vice versa.”