A Final Message from DBA President Nancy Cohen ~ June/July 2017

Nancy-Cohen-Headshot

This will be my last Docket article as your president. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Denver Bar Association president. I have had the opportunity to work with a fantastic Board of Trustees, staff and committees. My goal was to begin implementing the DBA Strategic Plan, strengthen the membership experience and analyze our core programs.

The practice of law will look very different in five years. Baby boomers are retiring, and admission to law schools continues to decrease. The DBA recognizes that the profession is changing rapidly and is prepared to meet these challenges.

I want to use my final letter to highlight what the DBA has been doing to be more relevant for our members. In May 2016, the DBA adopted its strategic plan, which has been published on denbar.org. Prior to that, your feedback helped us formulate the plan and goals of promoting member success and engagement:

  • Improve the DBA member experience through better engagement, promoting diversity and inclusivity, improving communications, engaging new and young lawyers, and actively recruiting new members.
  • Focus on core programing, including professional development, pro bono work, and public engagement, through ongoing evaluation using the values of being inclusive, purposeful, impactful and professional.

After the adoption of the DBA Strategic Plan, a Strategic Program Review Committee was formed and composed of Janet Drake (past president), Franz Hardy (president-elect), John Vaught (past DBA president and president-elect of the CBA for 2018–19 term), Maureen Watson and Josh Berry (DBA trustees), Dan Sweetser (treasurer), Kevin McReynolds (DBA Budget Committee member), Executive Director Patrick Flaherty, Deputy Executive Director Greg Martin, and myself. We reviewed every program the DBA currently offers to make sure that they are all in line with the strategic plan. DBA staff directors also provided reports about our programs. This helped focus the committee’s work to determine membership engagement and program impact. I applaud and thank the collective efforts of the committee and the staff. On May 11, 2017, the DBA Board of Trustees adopted the Strategic Program Review Committee’s recommendations. Some of the highlights include: improving membership recruitment and retention; strengthening the DBA Mock Trial Program; evaluating all of the clinics that the DBA offers to determine which are most impactful; continuing to strengthen Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL); and improving governance.

The DBA staff has been busy and recognized the importance of these goals well before the committee finished its review. The DBA has a new website that is easy to use, providing the latest details about DBA events and CLEs. The CBA and DBA hired Vanessa Babarsky, membership marketing manager, who created the DBA Membership Appreciation Month for the month of May. The DBA offered free CLEs and professional headshot services, gave away fun prizes, and held a new member welcome panel and reception.

Toni-Anne Dasent was hired last year as the new director of MVL. The number of clients that MVL serves continues to increase, and more lawyers are needed to take pro bono cases. If you are interested in getting involved, you can reach Toni-Anne at tdasent@denbar.org. The Barristers Benefit Ball was once again successful in raising funds for MVL. Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed.

The DBA Board of Trustees adopted revisions to its by-laws as recommended by the By-laws Review Committee. I want to thank Franz Hardy, Shannon Stevenson and Gillian Bidgood for their dedicated work on this project. An important change involved how long committee chairs can serve as chairs. The DBA wants to get more people involved in leadership positions, so the number of years that a chair can serve is limited. Modifications to the YLD’s by-laws were approved by the Board of Trustees.

The CBA presidential visit to the DBA was held in February 2017 at the law offices of Rathod | Mohamedbhai. Our theme was “breaking bread together breaks down barriers.” We enjoyed wonderful cultural foods — some made and bought by DBA members — and heard from CBA President Patricia Jarzobski, CBA YLD Chair Jake Eisenstein and Dr. Robin Yasui, co-founder of the Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado and chair of the Minoru Yasui Legacy Project. More than 100 DBA members attended.

DBA committees have been hard at work as well. The Bench-Bar Committee has introduced a series of courtroom chats at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse. The Access to Justice Committee’s Mi Casa and other clinics continue to be highly successful for the community and our members. The DBA is also participating in the CBA President’s Diversity Council. This collaboration with the various diversity bars will help strengthen the DBA’s goal of inclusiveness and diversity in a way that provides a pipeline for leadership opportunities at the DBA.

The DBA YLD has done a fantastic job working with new members. The Barristers After Hours events are consistently well attended. The DBA YLD and the CBA YLD are working with Chief Judge Loeb and Judges Bernard and Jones to hold an appellate program for new lawyers on September 27 at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center. Patricia Jarzobski and I also met with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Alumni Council. We heard great comments about how we can engage law students to participate in the bar associations.

As many of you know, CLE has a new executive director, Vince O’Brien. The DBA is working with him and the CLE team to provide CLE programing that is relevant to DBA members.

Having discussed the past year, it is time to turn the discussion to the present: Congress is considering cutting funding to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which will greatly impact Colorado Legal Services if passed. LSC was created with bi-partisan support during the Nixon administration because Congress found “there is a need to provide high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel.” I am participating in a CBA/DBA Stakeholder Meeting on LSC Funding to figure out ways to educate our members about the devastating impact that such cuts will have on our community for people who are dealing with family law matters, wrongful evictions, and cuts to veteran or senior benefits. I love the generosity of lawyers and their willingness to give back to our community. We currently do not meet the need for legal services to our indigent community, and now is the time to educate our Congressional delegation and the community about the importance of LSC funding and its positive impact.

This has been a trying time for the judiciary, both nationally and, to some extent, in Colorado. As lawyers, we have an obligation to defend the rule of law and the judiciary. Many people don’t understand the significance of why our forefathers created three branches of government and don’t realize that “[i]t is emphatically the providence and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803). Not everyone agrees with judicial decisions or even sometimes with their reasoning. Whatever foibles you think the judiciary has, the alternative to not having an independent judiciary is the loss of democracy. Lawyers do such great work in the community by volunteering their time and donating to great causes. Please go the extra step and educate your family, neighbors and colleagues about the importance of an independent judiciary.

Thank you again for the privilege to serve as your president. It has truly been one of the best jobs I have ever had. The work we have accomplished has been a team effort, and I have been very fortunate to collaborate with a dedicated board and staff who have given so much of their time to help the DBA reach its goals. I know Franz Hardy will continue to implement the strategic plan and achieve great outcomes. And to the DBA members: Thank you for all you do for the profession and our community.D

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