Committee Chair Corner: Mitch Smith

March 16, 2020 11:45 AM
J. Mitchell Smith

Committee Chair Corner – Transportation Committee
J. Mitchell Smith
Germer, PLLC

I am fortunate to write this Committee Chair Corner article on the heels of returning from a fantastic Midyear Meeting in Pebble Beach, California and after completing a reading of the One Hundred Years IADC book, which is displayed proudly in my office. As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I am fortunate also to lead a Committee “of about” 312 men and women, all of whom are top tier attorneys from around the globe working diligently for their clients in varied transportation industry-related fields. Indeed, the name “Transportation Committee” is perhaps a misnomer as there is no set “transportation” law codified in statutes or set forth in the common law. Instead, our Committee members serve a variety of companies and individuals who provide a myriad of services to clients in the transportation industry—be it related to rail, freight, maritime, aviation, trucking, or drone transport just to name a few but all of which touch upon some aspect of the law – transportation in character or otherwise.

The diversity of our Committee becomes apparent when one examines the many different ways in which our Committee members provide legal work to clients in transportation-related industries. For example, one member may represent a railroad in a catastrophic rail crossing accident, another member may advise a trucking company on the potential impact pending new governmental freight hauling requirements may affect, another member may seize vessels in various ports of call or have to “babysit” a detained foreign crew until the vessel puts out to sea.  Still others may draft vessel charter agreements, calculate the specifics of economic damages in an instance of allision or collision of maritime vessels, or review proposed passenger bill of rights’ issues for a regional airline. Practitioners representing freight haulers and transport businesses face a regulatory landscape that is changing constantly, while packaging and shipping companies are presented with unusual and unique privacy and security questions. How about the local wine merchant who cannot ship wine to Kansas or Chile? That is transportation law.

I highlight these examples to demonstrate how broad our “transportation” practices are and how lucky our “transportation” lawyers are to represent clients in such exciting legal fields. Every day brings new opportunities and challenges which translate into good business. It is my hope this article will get our IADC members interested in joining our Committee, and getting slumbering Committee members awake and active.

The Transportation Committee has been energetically reinvigorating its monthly newsletter submissions this year, seeking with vigor partner Committees to co-sponsor internal and major CLE’s at the Midyear and Annual meetings, planning, hopefully, a Webinar presentation, and producing and presenting a couple of podcasts for IADC Speaks, which will highlight how our Committee members serve many and various clients in numerous transportation industry-related legal arenas—whether those arenas be courtrooms, conference rooms, legislative committee rooms, railyards, air fields, ports, highways, or byways.

The Transportation Committee’s Vice Chairs include:

  • Mike Bassett – Vice Chair of Programs and Projects & Vice Chair of Webinar
  • Andrew Bowman – Vice Chair of Membership
  • Timothy Crawley – Vice Chair of Communications
  • Heather Devine – Vice Chair of International
  • Tanya Petermann – Vice Chair of Diversity
  • Alan Polivnick – Vice Chair of Publications

All of these fine folks are working very diligently to improve the substantive output, internal energy, and ongoing viability of the Transportation Committee. Thank you to the Transportation Committee Vice Chairs!

A Committee meeting was held during the recent Midyear Meeting in Pebble Beach. The gathering was small but the discussion was lively and beneficial. I believe the Committee is on an upward trajectory. We discussed re-tooling the Committee’s focus to being one that highlights how member attorneys serve clients in industries which touch upon transportation (one would be surprised how quickly traditional views of transportation expand) as opposed to being transportation law focused. We discussed also the possibility of expanding sub-groups within the Committee to include E-commerce, Uber/Lyft transport, and other transportation industry-related areas. And, again, a commitment was made to produce and promote a couple of Committee podcasts for IADC Speaks. I can brag also that the Transportation Committee was one of the first, if not the first, Committees to utilize the new Communities platform on the re-designed IADC website and new mobile app. I encourage our members to utilize this effective communication tool and join in the conversation—or start one. The app is fun and user-friendly. Finally, I invite all to join our next Transportation Committee call scheduled for Thursday, March 19, at 12 noon CDT.  All returnees and interested newcomers are welcome.

So, all aboard, all ashore, place your seats in an upright position, buckle up, and hop on the Transportation Committee. See you at the next stop!

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