A year ago, I promised that much of my efforts as MCBA president would be focused on strategic planning and governance issues. We were overdue to prepare a new strategic plan, which was delayed during the transition to our new executive director, Kevin Ryan. It was clear that we needed to turn our attention inward and determine where to focus our efforts and resources if we wish to be a bar association that meets the needs of our members and the greater legal community in the next several years and beyond.
I am delighted that the Board of Trustees completed its work on the plan, with the able assistance of Jennifer Lewin from the ABA Division of Bar Services. The MCBA internal team will continue to work on strategies for implementing the goals and priorities in the plan over the next 36 months.
As a board member for many other charitable organizations, I have been involved in many strategic planning processes. Contrary to what you may think, I do not enjoy the process itself and have often been dragged into it whining and complaining. But I also recognize that when the process is well done, it is vital to the health and revitalization of organizations like ours. This process was no exception, and I think our entire board is proud of the result. If you are interested, you can go to the MCBA website and search for 2018-2021 Strategic Plan to see the product of our efforts.
As for governance, my vision was for our sections and committees to make sure that their bylaws or less formal working procedures reflected their actual practices, and that they developed written materials that could be distributed at the beginning of each bar year to their committee members or members of their governing councils. Instead of assuming that new members will “figure it out” as they go, or will learn informally from longer-term members of committees or sections about unwritten practices and rules (some of which were in conflict with the actual written rules or bylaws that many did not even know existed), we wanted everyone to start each year on the same page, if possible.
I very much appreciate the enthusiasm, energy and spirit of cooperation with which various groups tackled this project. Their efforts are reflected in the fact that new section bylaws were approved for the Litigation, Family Law and Real Estate sections; we approved new mission statements for the President’s Commission on Access to Justice, the LGBT Committee, Veterans Committee and Ethics Committee; and we approved Rules and Practices for the Awards Committee, and the first charter for our Finance Committee. Try to envision, if you can, the amount of effort that all these lawyers spent wordsmithing and coming to agreement on all these documents. It is extraordinary.
Another governance matter we addressed was to encourage every committee to designate a vice chair, who would be expected to become the next chair when the chair’s term expired. The idea was to better prepare our members for leadership and, by making this process more deliberate, to reach out to new and diverse members to be those leaders.
You might think that the ultimate goal of efforts like strategic planning and governance is order. But in fact, the goal of good processes is engagement. If strategic planning is well done, we will be better positioned to adapt and serve the changing needs and interests of our members and the community. And when our rules and processes are up-to-date and transparent, all our members feel included, and they know they will have the same opportunities to participate in the leadership of the MCBA, including the committees and sections where the real work of the association is accomplished.
It has been my mission as MCBA president to help make our association more diverse in its leadership and representation, as well as to be more responsive to underserved members of our legal community. I appreciate the opportunities I have had to nominate or recommend individuals who might not otherwise be recognized for presidential appointments, prestigious committees and awards.
My most lasting impact may well lie in a proposal that was approved by the MCBA Board of Trustees at our most recent meeting. This proposal will affect nearly half of our membership, yet they are underserved in our legal community. I am proud to announce that our board voted unanimously to create a Commission to Advance and Support Women in the Law. Its efforts will be focused on programming for and recognition of women lawyers, as well as serving as a confidential resource for women who are experiencing gender bias in their firms or the courts, pay inequity, or sexual harassment in any setting. Although at the outset this will be an MCBA initiative, GRAWA has agreed to designate a member to serve on the steering committee and we expect to engage in many joint efforts with GRAWA and, I hope, the RBBA in the future.
The MCBA can be proud of many other accomplishments for the 2017-2018 bar year, including the establishment of the Technology and Law Practice Committee, granting permanent status to the Veterans Committee, and formally joining the Lawyers Coalition on Racial and Social Justice, to name a few. I am proud to have served as MCBA president for this past year and I look forward to working with President-Elect Jon Getz as he leads our association for the next year.
Jill M. Cicero is president of the Monroe County Bar Association and is the managing partner of The Cicero Law Firm LLP. She can be reached at email@example.com.