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John W. Damisch's take on the 2009 Annual Meeting

It is tradition that longtime ISBA member John W. Damisch (John the Farmer) provide his personal recap from annual meetings. Here's his colorful take on last weekend's 2009 Annual Meeting at The Abbey in Lake Geneva. An excerpt:
Again everyone at the party was dressed fit too kill ... especially our leaders ... all in tuxes.  As I said I put my 53 year old tux on in the men's room ... I had to spend about 10 minutes "sucking it in" and finally got the pants buttoned at the top.  I had skipped lunch hoping that would help but it didn't.
This is an unofficial report on the Annual ISBA meeting at Lake Geneva only from my prospective (others will have their own reading which you must respect!!!). I went to ISBA meeting on Thursday... left Northfield about 10 a.m... In keeping with the ISBA budget crises my plan was to camp (my 10th year) at the Big Foot State Park... It is a great park; quiet and near the east end of Lake Geneva. But the temp was 91 and I was concerned that I would not have a/c ... so I called a friend (a contributor to IBF prize package for a couple of years) and asked if I could park in the driveway of his summer cottage on Lake G in Williams Bay ... and plug in electric for a/c ... I was all parked with the a/c running by 3 or 4... This program is in keeping with the new ISBA budget policy of keeping down the costs of meetings  (stay in the park or camp on the beach) ... I took my scooter (again ... only charge mileage from home ... not for cruising around) and went the 3 miles to the Abbey ... checked in... The Abbey is all a/c ... and the place is right on the water... Cocktail/reception was more that cocktails ... started at 6 ... they had several serving tables set up ... with turkey, roast beef ... put it on a bun ... all kinds of salads, snacks etc ... and of course a wide open bar ... all sponsored by the Illinois Bar's Insurance Co... Maybe 200+ people there... The amazing thing about the attire of the guests was how our officers and board members were dressed!!!!  They are all clothes horses ... our incoming pres. sets the hi class tone ... John O'B is always dressed to the "nines" (whatever that means) ... so I assume his first, second, third, and all wannabes were dressed accordingly...They were all beautifully dressed and coiffured ... I was embarrassed being in a polo shirt and shorts ... but then I do not aspire to high office... It was a great party ... and lots of activities for the kids... Friday my friend from DeKalb who has the beach house called and said lets go water skiing ... so we spent most of Friday on the water ... in his power boat from Fontana to williams bay and even the town of Lake Geneva ... the water was wonderful...and lots of sun...back to the Abbey in time for an late afternoon meeting ... (more later ... about the annual dinner). A Frugal Farmer got two nights in a row out of the tux and stiff shirt ... so I had to knock off my report in time to take my wife to the Grand Ball Room of the Hilton (still a gorgeous room) ... Since my trailer was 3 miles from the Abbey I took my tux etc. and changed in the men's room of the Abbey and stepped out just as O'Brien was having the family portrait taken of his beautiful extended family... wife, brothers, inlaws, children, son in law (a Boston Lawyer) and a raft of cute little grandchildren. The cocktail party/reception was outstanding.  I thought the price of 100 buck was a bit much but the evening proved to be well worth the expense and I talked to enough of my adversaries and co conspirators that I will write it all off as a business expense ... There was a lot of brass and many judges in attendance... Chief Federal Judge Jim Holderman (a fellow farmer) was there in a well tailored white tux coat. Chief Justice Fitz sworn in the ISBA underlings and then swore in the new principal guru, John O'Brien ... All of the speeches were very short (thank goodness) ... no long commencement speeches that you could sleep through so by the time the band started playing there were 100 couples on the dance floor ... The meal was too much (over budget) with read meat and chicken ... and all the trimmings ... the waiter came around many times with wine ... this was in addition to the full buffet at the reception... For me the band is too loud ... but then I just joined AARP so I am in a different class than those ineligible for AARP... I would say that if you are active in the law practice and have any cases in court you should have been there to rub elbows with your court house adversaries and the judiciary. Again everyone at the party was dressed fit too kill... especially our leaders ... all in tuxes.  As I said I put my 53 year old tux on in the men's room ... I had to spend about 10 minutes "sucking it in" and finally got the pants buttoned at the top.  I had skipped lunch hoping that would help but it didn't ... so when I got back to my trailer quarters after the ball when I unbuttoned the top button  "it " all fell forward ... so much for the tux until tonight and next year in St. Louis. (St. Louis is where Mark Hassakis says his inaugural party will be held ... I would highly recommend taking your significant other and your kids to St  Louis next year and go up in the Arch and to Hassakis' ball. The big discussion at the ISBA ANNAL MEETING that is of concern of every ISBA member in attendance or not ... that is the question of the budget. ISBA has about an $8 mil budget. Income comes from dues, advertising, investments etc. Our money is down and with lawyers having trouble finding work ... or with fees going down whether it is real estate or other areas of the law. The ISBA budget committee figured if every program, personnel etc. stayed the same and the income went down there would be a $500k deficit... So the budget committee parred off as much "fat" as possible and there was still a $70k deficit... So the budget committee determined that they would have to cut the meeting expense ... there was evidently a lot of haggle and the compromise (if you can call it that) There was a proposal that any one with an office within 75 miles of the meeting place, the member would not get paid for mileage and expenses. Those with offices more that 75 miles would be paid 90% of expenses. That called for a lot of "b.....t....ing" by many members. The anti proposal rightfully claim that many member contribute days of volunteer work to keep ISBA a truly professional organization ... with meetings, seminars, foundation, pro bono work, seminars, etc ... and since a meeting may take up to two days with travel over night etc... Why should that volunteer not be at least paid for his/her expenses? It is a good argument...  But then where should the deficit come from? ...There was an undercurrent discussion at the meetings and reception. There was out and out lobbying by incoming pres O'Brien for the adoption of the resolution by the Assembly. I listened to both sides of the discussion... I was told that Illinois is the only Bar that reimburses  expenses... The members of every committee spends a lot of time promoting ISBA and its programs ... but there are benefits from being on a committee ... and being an officer of a Council. Often it promotes the member's reputation and standing in his/her profession. Being on a committee/council is a benefit to one's practice...and young people especially should get involved early in the program since it will pay off in real dollars over the years... The issue is a good issue ... but we elected our President and Board of Governors and they have a professional Executive Director ... and we are the shareholders of this big company and we must rely upon our leaders to do what is best for our organization Judge Naomi Schuster is on the budget committee and she explained the facts of life best to a group of us at the reception ... we either cut programs or cut expenses ... we do not have the skyway bridge or Chicago parking meters to sell and let the future be damned... So the Assembly had a discussion and adopted the resolution ... if you live under the 75 mile radar you will not be paid your expenses  (go home at night and come back tomorrow)... More telephone conferences ... no more Koehler Wisconsin or the Fairmont hotel for the Board of Govs ... and a belt tightening all the way around. Our Ag Council met and our Council membership has been reduced ... I receive a nice plaque as the outgoing Chair of the Ag Council ... a great breakfast and terrific lunch and I was out of there about 12:30 on Sat. ... in time to change back into my tux ... and since the frugal farmer did not spill catsup on the stiff tux shirt I wore it again Sat to the Hilton Hotel ball... See you all next year in St. Louis......and hope we all survive the budget crises. John W. Damisch (John the Farmer)
Posted on June 29, 2009 by Chris Bonjean