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UM alum, law school grad, takes the gavel as American Bar Association president

Bob Carlson, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana in 1976 and his law degree in 1979, took the post as president of the American Bar Association this week at the organization’s annual meeting in Chicago. (UM photo)

A 1976 graduate of the University of Montana will serve as the next president of the American Bar Association, an organization of nearly half-a-million members, the school announced this week.

Bob Carlson, who earned his bachelor’s degree from UM in 1976 and his law degree in 1979, took the post this week at the ABA’s annual meeting in Chicago.

“As president, I want to deliver the message that the ABA is essential for all lawyers,” Carlson said. “We are the voice of the legal profession, an advocate for the rule of law, and a place where every lawyer can access abundant resources to be a better practicing lawyer.”

Carlson is a shareholder with Corrette Black Carlson & Mickelson P.C. and a resident of Butte. He’ll serve as the second ABA president from Montana, though he’s 60 years removed from his predecessor.

That former title belonged to William J. Jameson, a 1919 UM graduate and U.S federal judge under President Dwight Eisenhower who also was a member of the Montana House of Representatives.

The law library at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at UM bears Jameson’s name, as does the highest honor given by the State Bar of Montana. Carlson won the Jameson Award in 2016.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for not only a member of the Montana legal community, but for a graduate of our great law school,” said Paul Kirgis, dean of the law school. “(Carlson) is already a tireless volunteer for the law school, the State Bar of Montana and ABA, and he is perfectly positioned to tackle the ABA’s goals of serving its members and improving the legal profession throughout the country.”

Carlson served as president of the State Bar of Montana from 1993 to 1994, chaired the state bar’s board of trustees, and served as Montana’s state bar delegate on the ABA House of Delegates, along with many other highlights.

Carlson said he plans to continue the ABA’s mission of advocating for access to justice and criminal justice reform, though he also looks to make a difference for practicing lawyers in their everyday work.

“As a Montana lawyer in a small firm, I know firsthand what a difference membership in the ABA makes for my practice and what a difference it makes in all our communities and our nation,” Carlson said.