Illinois Bar Journal

June 2014Volume 102Number 6Page 264

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President's Page

The Year in Review

A look at the projects, programs, and other accomplishments that made up the 2013-14 bar year.

A year ago, I wrote my first president's column and outlined my plans for the coming ISBA year. Suddenly, the future is now. The focus of my year boiled down to membership and ensuring ISBA's relevancy to the profession.

We started in March 2013 with Board strategic planning and then followed through from many angles, all toward the ultimate goal of increasing membership in the ISBA. We concentrated on new attorneys, small firm and solo practitioners, and women and minority lawyers. Allow me to recap some of the progress we made this year.

First, not only did we stem the small but steady decline in membership over the last decade, we actually saw our membership grow by 500! A number of factors sparked this remarkable turnaround, including our bold move to offer free online CLE to members and our targeted marketing efforts showcasing the tangible value of our "big three" benefits: free CLE, free Fastcase, and free E-Clips.

Second, we could not have embarked on this offering without the sponsorship of the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company. I can't say enough about our true partnership this year. Last year the ISBA made thoughtful but significant budget reductions to accommodate the revenue decline expected from moving to free CLE. With the Mutual sponsorship and diligent adherence to the budget, I can proudly report that the ISBA is currently operating in the black.

Third, after learning that young people, including young lawyers, are no longer joining organizations in the same numbers as did prior generations, we established a New Lawyer Task Force chaired by Marron Mahoney and Brian Monico. Their earliest report noted the need for better communication about already existing ISBA programs and benefits to law students and newer lawyers.

They created a new microsite within the ISBA website devoted to young lawyers. Together with YLD, they held a reverse mentoring event pairing younger lawyers with senior lawyers to learn technology. In May, they organized a networking event based on the "speed dating" concept where law students circulated through "dates" with more senior ISBA members. Speed networking was followed by an old-fashioned reception with members of the Board of Governors in the new member-friendly space at the Chicago office.

The YLD stayed very busy with their annual events, including A Day at the Races (which sported many young families this year), the Cubby Bear Holiday Party, the Bean Bag Tournament, and the Spring Soiree. In addition to these fun and fund-raising events, YLD also presented a professional development series of practical programs. I, along with YLD members, also attended area law school events to spread the word about ISBA benefits to new lawyers. A special thanks to YLD Chair Jean Kenol for his leadership.

Fourth, I concentrated on promoting the ISBA to women and minority lawyers as well as promoting the many women and minority lawyers in our organization. I was not alone in this endeavor, and I thank the standing committees on Women and the Law and Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law, and the Diversity Leadership Council.

We started the summer with two Law and Leadership Institute programs in Carbondale and Chicago. The LLI provided legal immersion programs for diverse high school students and was entirely funded through the ISBA and its members and groups.

In August, the ISBA partnered with the 7th Circuit Bar Association to hold the hugely successful "30 Female Blackstones" program commemorating the 120th anniversary of the first national meeting of women lawyers at the 1893 Columbian World Exposition in Chicago.

At the ISBA Midyear Meeting in December, we held a sold out diversity reception featuring a gigantic group photo reflecting the diversity of our membership. The following day at the Assembly Meeting, we reported on the ISBA "diversity scorecard" which saw increases in the diversity of our officers (most diverse in our history), Board of Governors, Assembly, and overall membership.

In March, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin published my article on early women legal pioneers for National Women's History Month. We followed that with two spectacular events in Chicago and DeKalb. The Celebrating Women in the Profession luncheon at the Union League Club featured nationally recognized Prof. Joan Williams of UC Hastings College of Law discussing her book What Works for Women at Work to a buzzing crowd of more than 200 women and men. Several bars co-sponsored with us.

Just a week later, the ISBA Women and the Law and Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law Standing Committees gathered a star-studded panel of women justices and lawyers to discuss their personal journey overcoming obstacles to leadership. Many NIU law students - our future members - were on hand for a moving Myra Bradwell re-enactment and the luminous panel discussion. Kudos to WTL chair Mary Petruchius and both standing committees.

I was graciously invited to numerous ethnic and gender bar association events, which I attended and often spoke at, including the Korean American Bar, the Indian American Bar, the Cook County Bar, the Black Women Lawyers, the CBA Alliance for Women, the WBAI, the DuPage Association of Women Lawyers, and the Lake County Women's Bar.

Fifth, we began the process of realigning our staff structure for maximum efficiency and membership benefit. We interviewed staff, staff officers, board members, ISBA officers, and other members to learn what services matter most and how we can best deliver those services within our budget. We learned some new perspectives and we confirmed some traditional values.

As part of that process, we conducted a communication survey to learn the current ways members receive information. We also embarked on a satisfaction and compensation survey to see how our members are faring at work and in life. We last did this type of survey in 2005, so it seemed timely to take a current snapshot of our membership.

Sixth, the ISBA was active on the advocacy front. We wrote letters to the editor, lobbied legislatures, and testified at hearings on many issues affecting Illinois lawyers, including the unauthorized practice of law, the rewrite of the Illinois family law statutes, sequestration and federal budget cuts effecting our courts, national proposed change in accounting methods affecting law firms, increased funding for Legal Services Corporation, judicial retention streamlining, and changes to Illinois Supreme Court rules to provide more efficient and cost effective e-discovery.

The ISBA produced more than two-dozen "Two Minutes with the President" videos, providing important information to ISBA members about people, community events, and changes in the law. We also produced a significant cable TV program on the rule of law featuring ABA and ISBA presidents as well as nationally recognized judges.

Seventh, we partnered with other bar entities, including the CBA, Illinois Judges Association, 7th Circuit Bar, Illinois Bar Foundation, and the ABA, on CLE programs, bar activities, and social events to benefit lawyers in our state. I was personally gratified to work with many bar leaders and dignitaries, including dear friends like Tim Eaton, Justice Mary Schostock, Judge Deb Walker, Bob Clifford, and Julie Bauer.

And I can't write my last column without thanking the entire Illinois Supreme Court for their support of lawyers in Illinois. Particularly, in this "year of the woman," I need to thank Chief Justice Rita Garman, Justice Anne Burke, Justice Mary Jane Theis, and 7th Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood for their unflagging support of anything I asked them to do.

Last, I appointed two governance committees, one from the Board and one from the Assembly, to challenge our notions of the status quo of the ISBA governing bodies. Does having a 204 member Assembly, a 27 member Board of Governors, and three vice-presidents serve the best interests of our association in 2014? Do those large numbers allow us to respond to issues in a nimble fashion? Does the cost of supporting that structure use our member dues to best advantage? We may not have the ultimate answers to those questions, but it's essential to the ongoing relevancy of our organization that we continue to challenge ourselves, ask tough questions, and adapt to evolving conditions.

With that recap, I take my leave as ISBA President. It has been an incredible year, and I thank all of you for allowing me this opportunity to take a lot and give back a little. Special thanks to my husband (a/k/a "the Empress's driver"), Judge Jim Holderman, for his amazing support throughout this adventure. I send my very best wishes for success to incoming ISBA President Rick Felice and his fellow vice-presidents Umberto Davi, Vince Cornelius, and Russ Hartigan. Enjoy the ride, guys.

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