Rockin’ and Rollin’
If you’ve heard me introduce myself, you’ve heard my signature introduction: “I was born in Sandusky, Ohio—the roller coaster capital—and was raised in the suburbs of Cleveland—the home of rock and roll. And my life has been going up and down and round and round and rock ’n’ and rolling ever since.” This year as CBA president has been no exception.
Oh, what a year it has been!
I am writing this message from my home with a stay-at-home order in effect due to COVID-19. By the time this issue reaches you, who knows where this pandemic will have taken us. Hopefully, we will be on the other side of its grip and will be starting to see the silver linings we have found as a result of it.
Because this pandemic is such a unique experience for all of us, I want say a bit about it. My last official act on the road for the CBA was a presidential visit to the Heart of the Rockies Bar Association in Salida on March 11. By March 16, the CBA office was closed and staff had transitioned to remotely working from home. The staff did an amazing job of transitioning and then adding to their regular workloads to help members adapt to the changes in our lives and law practices due to COVID-19. Helpful information continues to be accessible on cobar.org via a not-to-be-missed red link to the information.
Even though I was now working from home, the number of meetings and phone calls actually increased. Of course, the meetings were being done virtually. I wasn’t spending four to six hours driving from Pueblo to Denver and back for meetings several days most weeks, but the extra needs as a result of the pandemic took a lot of time and effort. I didn’t have as much quiet time at home as you might think. This was probably a blessing, as I also haven’t been feeling too confined or going too stir crazy.
The CBA has been very involved and working behind the scenes with the courts, the legislature, and the governor’s office on various legal and law practice issues caused by the pandemic and resulting stay-at-home order. Of course, access to justice is a major focus of the CBA’s work. During this pandemic, it has taken on a new urgency with the additional legal needs of so many in our state. Fortunately, the CBA and DBA already have programs in place to provide access to justice and pro bono legal services, such as the Federal Pro Se Clinic and Metro Volunteer Lawyers. The CBA has also developed a strong working relationship with the Legal Aid Foundation and Colorado Legal Services, and it continues to play a role in ensuring that legal services needed during the pandemic are available, including by assisting solo and small firms by providing information on monies that may be available to them through the Payroll Protection Program.
The CBA also dusted off our Disaster Legal Services Plan, which was developed by the CBA and ABA Young Lawyers Divisions in 2012 in response to Colorado’s fires and flood. This plan generated additional work regarding the unique need for various legal services due to a pandemic. The Disaster Response Team immediately began exploring the types of legal services that would be needed and how to provide them. The CBA YLD and the Disaster Response Team have been relentlessly working to identify needs and to find ways to respond to those needs.
Another important COVID-19 lesson learned: Technology works well, but the need for strong broadband access is critical. My virtual experience over these last weeks gives me hope that those around the state who would like to serve in leadership positions will be more easily able to do so. Interestingly, virtual meetings have resulted in all-time highs in meeting attendance.
My Focuses for the Year
I had declared early on during my president-elect year that I would be working on two elements of the REFOCUS 2020 Strategic Plan: the “E” goal (engage diverse and statewide populations) and the “U” goal (utilize new and young attorneys). I also added a friendly amendment to these goals by adding the phrase “serving our members.” To work toward these goals, we established a YLD Task Force and a Greater Colorado Task Force.
The YLD Task Force was up and running before the start of my presidential year. This dynamic group of young and new lawyers has already finished their assessment of what needs to be accomplished to invigorate and modernize the YLD. Their action plan was approved by the Executive Council, and the task force is now moving ahead with the plan. Details can be found in the November 2019 President’s Message.
The Greater Colorado Task Force is also up and running. This task force had its first meeting in January and is still in the assessment phase of its work, but the commitment and hard work of this group is already quite apparent. More details about the Greater Colorado Task Force can be found in the May 2020 President’s Message.
I also pledged to support the work of CBA past presidents who were tackling issues of diversity, equity, and inclusivity; access to justice; and broadband access. Their work has been ongoing this year.
REFOCUS 2020 has now been reauthorized by the Executive Council as the CBA Strategic Plan for an additional three years, extending it to June 30, 2023. Although a lot of work has already been done under this strategic plan, it was felt that the plan is still appropriate and that work on it yet remains.
Local Bar Visits
It hasn’t all been hard work. One of the pleasures of the last year has been traveling the state to visit local bar associations. A dear friend of mine observed that this year has given a whole new meaning to the phrase “bar hopping.” Yes, some of those visits did occur in bars and some adjourned to bars.
As of the writing of this message, I have visited 18 local bar associations and have six visits remaining. I never made it to Fort Collins for my scheduled visit in early March because of a jackknifed semi on I-25. Then along came COVID-19. The last few visits will likely be done in person in June or virtually with local bar leaders.
The local bar visits are truly a highlight of the presidential year. It has been a time to meet bar members and to renew old acquaintances, lawyers who I have known over the years but hadn’t seen for a long time. It has been particularly fun to see lawyers who started their careers in Pueblo and who moved on with their careers in other locations.
There have been unexpected benefits to being the CBA president.
A High School Reunion
When I started this most recent leadership journey as CBA president-elect, I quickly realized that a fellow Executive Council member, Bonnie Schriner, CBA volunteer extraordinaire, was actually a classmate of mine at Magnificat High School in Rocky River, Ohio. Bonnie and I didn’t really hang out in high school, but I knew of her and both of us were members of the class of 1965 (I dropped out my senior year). What are the chances that two girls from the same high school in Northern Ohio would both end up lawyers in Colorado and many years later both be on the same leadership team at CBA? Getting to know Bonnie has been a wonderful presidential perk.
Treasured Time with My Granddaughters
Here is one of my favorite stories from the year: My youngest daughter, her husband, and my two youngest granddaughters live in Thornton. I have stayed with their family frequently during my past two years in CBA leadership. One night, sitting around the dinner table at their house, my youngest granddaughter Makena, who is 6 years old, very excitedly said, “Grandma, I know two presidents!” We had been discussing the American Civil War. I asked Makena which two presidents, and she responded George Washington, and then she hesitated. I said, “Well, who is the second president?” I expected her to say Abraham Lincoln or Donald Trump. She very proudly said, “And you Grandma!” Ironically, days later in Salida while speaking at the Heart of the Rockies Bar Association, my husband took a picture of me speaking and behind me on the wall was a picture of George Washington. I now have a picture of Makena’s two presidents, George Washington and me. Frankly, I never dreamed my name would be used in the same sentence with George Washington!
During this stay-at-home period, Makena has learned how to Google. She surprised her mother recently by showing her pictures of me that she had found on CBA sites, Facebook, and Instagram.
Writing this last President’s Message has given me an opportunity to think back on the year. It was a year of moments that inspired and educated, moments that made me grow as a person, moments of reflection and of making memories. I have so many great memories from this time—too many to set out here. So here are just a few: picnicking in a park in Montrose with lawyers and their families and friends; getting to know CLE presenters during the local bar visits; seeing old friends and making new ones; traveling the state and being reminded of its great beauty and amazing diversity; attending dinners and banquets to honor attorneys for the great work they do to make Colorado a better place to live and work; seeing attorneys who are now well into their careers who appeared in front of me when they were just starting out; and listening to touching introductions of me when I was speaking. But perhaps my favorite memory—Makena’s reaction to her grandmother being CBA president—reminds me that for me, the one thing that is even more important than the law is family.
Roll the Credits
Those of you who know me, or who read my President’s Profile last July, know that my undergrad degree is in communications and theatre and that I worked in theatre before going to law school. It seems to me that the movies get it right when they run credits at the end. Granted most of us don’t actually read them, but they still underscore the importance of the team that made the movie possible.
The CBA cast and crew members for my presidential year number in the hundreds. I wish I could acknowledge each and every one of you by name, but please know that it was your work and the fact that we all worked as a team—or in theatre terms as a company or troupe—that made this an amazing year. So without further ado, here are the production credits for my CBA presidency.
First and Foremost
CBA’s Volunteer Leaders
Immediate Past President
Board of Governors
Joint Management Committee
Section and Committee Leaders
Joint Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity
Steering Committee and Working Groups
Diversity on the Bench Coalition
Legislative Policy Committee
Colorado Lawyer Advisory Board
Disaster Response Team
Greater Colorado Task Force
YLD Task Force
Federal Pro Se Advisory Committee
Colorado Bar Foundation
Legal Community Leaders
Legal Aid Foundation
Presidents’ Diversity Council
and Diversity Bars
Local Bar Leaders
CLE Presenters for Local Bar Visits
Governance Liaison and Executive Assistant
Communications and Membership Team
Information Technology Team
Access to Justice and Local Bar
Legislative Policy Team
Sections and Committees and Public Legal
Colorado Lawyer Staff
And last but not least, thank you to the entire CBA membership for letting me represent you in 2019–20. I am humbled and honored to have been your president.