Michelle Barclay: Congratulations on becoming the 61st President of the State Bar of Georgia. My colleagues and I loved the picture of you and your family on the cover of the August issue of the Georgia Bar Journal, and thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
President DelCampo: It is my pleasure.
MB: Would you please start by telling our readers about your path to becoming a lawyer?
President DelCampo: I attended Emory University for my undergraduate studies and was planning to apply to medical school. My organic chemistry grade at the end of the semester made it clear that I was not cut out for medical school. I switched my focus and majored in International Studies and Latin American Literature. I also got the lead role in a couple of student plays and I participated in a program called Model O.A.S. (Organization of American States), which is similar to a Model U.N. program. For O.A.S., I played the role of a diplomat and got the opportunity to stand up and argue in favor of resolutions. Through those activities, I developed a pretty good knack for public speaking and negotiating. So, during my junior year, I started to consider applying to law school.
I’m an alum of Georgia State University College of Law and I absolutely loved my law school experience. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge, discussing legal issues, the trial advocacy programs, and debating. After graduation, I started practicing in Greenville, South Carolina with a firm that did mostly civil defense work representing corporations and insurance companies. From there, I opened my own firm with a couple of other lawyers in Greenville, which I also very much enjoyed.
In 1998, my wife, who was a tenured professor at Furman University, decided to take some time off to be with our children—Michael and Corina—and we decided together to return to Atlanta, where I had grown up, and joined a firm in Atlanta. In 2002, I was asked if I would be interested in a judicial seat. Judge Denise Majette had resigned from her position on the DeKalb County State Court. I submitted my name for consideration and was appointed by Governor Roy Barnes. I served as a judge for over nine years and loved every minute of it. Eventually, however, I had to leave the bench due to the market crash and my financial obligations. I returned to the practice of law which was the right decision for me and my family at that time.
MB: You’ve had such a full set of experiences as a lawyer. What was your path to the State Bar of Georgia’s presidency?
President DelCampo: Lynn Borsuk, who was a member of the Board of Governors for the State Bar, suggested that I run to succeed her when she decided to step down. She made a compelling case. I looked into it, submitted my name, and was elected in 2006. Serving on the Board of Governors is a lot of work, but it’s vital work that allows our Bar to function successfully. I am a firm believer that much is expected of those to whom much is given, and the legal profession has given me a lot. I thought serving on the State Bar’s Board of Governors was a worthy way to give back to the profession that has given me so much. Once my children were grown, I stepped up and was elected to the Executive Committee. I then decided to run for an officer position, which puts you on track to ascend to the presidency of the Bar. By holding the different officer positions before taking on the lead executive role, the President is a much more effective leader when his or her time comes. As one moves up the leadership level of the bar, the work increases significantly. During Elizabeth Fite’s presidency, she made it a practice to include all of the officers in important decisions, and we’ve continued that practice since her tenure. I plan to continue that approach so that all incoming officers understand the Bar’s operations and again it helps with continuity of leadership for the Bar and for the staff.
MB: In your opinion, how did the pandemic affect the legal profession and how did it affect you personally?
President DelCampo: I believe the pandemic was both a blessing and a curse for the legal profession. It was a blessing because I think the entire legal profession collectively realized that we can do a lot of work remotely. We don’t have to attend every court hearing in person. We don’t have to fly out of town for every deposition. We can conduct mediations remotely. By allowing remote work, we can make the practice of law more efficient.
The curse is that we have lost some of the natural social interactions in the workplace. Now, we are finding that attoneys, particularly younger lawyers, prefer to work remotely and do not want to go into the office as much. That means those attorneys are missing the natural interactions that occur just by being around each other. Some of the best mentorship happens organically while in the office. If you are together, as colleagues, you can just ask, “Hey, I have this issue. What do you think?”. Face-to-face, casual interaction is important for personal and career development.
Personally, I have a home in Hilton Head which was a great place from which to work remotely. We were able to avoid the worst parts of the pandemic, as we had a great deal of naturally-occurring social-distancing, mild weather, and the beach. I also will add that the pandemic has changed my practice around mediations, too. During the pandemic, we moved to Zoom mediations which was not really that common before 2020. One of the significant benefits of Zoom mediations is that they tend to be shorter. We found that doing mediations by Zoom can be really effective and we had greater participation from all interested parties. Before Zoom, often times the insurance adjuster or the corporate representative might not show up in person because of travel restrictions. Because of the flexibility of Zoom mediations, we now can have all of the the decision makers present in a hybrid format if not everyone can be there live. I still prefer meeting in-person because I like people and being around people. Having that human interaction, I believe, can be very helpful in a mediation setting.
MB: What are your priorities for this year?
President DelCampo: My number one priority is to take care of our State Bar building in Atlanta. Our budget is in pretty good shape right now, so I want to focus on utilizing some of our unallocated money on our biggest asset which is our building. The State Bar building which houses all of our offices was built in the ‘60s. We bought the building in the late ‘90s and moved staff into those offices in 2001. From due diligence done before purchasing the building, we learned that big systems within the building had a 20-25 year remaining lifespan, and we are at that point now. This priority is not an exciting new program, but it is necessary and important. This priority will take more than one year to complete, so I have consulted to my fellow officers and we came up with a four-year plan for making upgrades. Some of our members only use the building for parking to attend a game or a concert at the nearby stadiums, but many lawyers also use it for depositions, client meetings, and to attend CLE programming. Prior to the pandemic, we had high schools using the building for mock trials and to visit our museum. We want to get back to that, and to upgrade and update where needed.
My second priority is to update our website, which is not up to standard for an organization like ours. We took I.C.L.E. under our auspices a while back, but our systems were not compatible. For instance, you sign up for CLEs and pay in one system, but CLEs for each Bar member are recorded somewhere else. We have hired a vendor that is charged with building a new website to provide a seamless transition between all the different parts of the Bar, including committees. We hope to have a prototype by the next annual meeting in June 2024. This is a lengthy process because it is a complex and complicated website, so it’s a big job.
My third priority is continued focus on Attorney Well-Being and that includes physical and mental health. We recently established the Center for Attorney Well-Being that will serve as an umbrella organization for all of the issues related to wellness, mental and physical. So we’re excited about that work with a lot of really good people working in this space. The law can be a stressful profession and we need to pay attention not just to our physical health, but to our mental health as well. Every time I give remarks or a speech, I remind lawyers to “Use Your Six” (six complimentary counseling sessions, which are completely confidential and entirely separate from the disciplinary functions of the Bar). I strongly believe in Use Your Six. All Georgia lawyers should take advantage of that program.
Finally, I want to continue to build a strong relationship with the Supreme Court of Georgia. We are very fortunate to have such excellent jurists on that bench, and we have two very engaged liaisons to the Bar—Justice Charlie Bethel and Justice Sarah Warren. I meet with them monthly and we are in regular communication. That level of engagement wasn’t happening previously but is very worthwhile.
MB: Last question, what do you do for fun?
President DelCampo: I love to spend time with my bride of 30 years. We love to dance, so you’ll see us dancing at State Bar meetings. We just love to have fun together. I also love to play golf, go to the beach, and spend time in Hilton Head. We also love to travel. Although, we do not travel much for pleasure right now because my wife and I travel a lot for State Bar commitments. The First Lady of the State Bar of Georgia is amazing. She’s so supportive and represents all of us well.