|The Colorado Lawyer|
Vol. 33, No. 7 [Page 37]
© 2004 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.
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CBA President's Message to Members
CBA, LBA, and Symbiosis
by Steve C. Briggs
|Steve C. Briggs|
Symbiosis: Any interdependent or
mutually beneficial relationship between
two persons or groups. . . .1
Double vision is helpful when serving as President of the Colorado Bar Association ("CBA"). A critical focus must be on the current events that affect our members—from the current judicial funding crisis, to increasing legislative attacks on judges and lawyers, to the causes and cures of our own dissatisfaction with the legal profession. More about these in the coming months.
At the same time, a no less critical focus must be on the Association’s structure, administration, and functions, not the least of which is member benefits. As always, in the coming fiscal year, our Sections will help with your specialty areas of practice, our Committees will provide a place where you can join forces with others who share your professional interests outside your practice, and our staff will assist you with your practice and answer your every question. Among items of interest in the category of membership benefits will be a new contract that will permit our members to engage in online legal research at little or no charge.
Right out of the chute, however, my focus is on what I consider the most important CBA relationship—its relationship with Local Bar Associations ("LBAs"). Historically, LBAs have been a cornerstone of the CBA. Despite increasing practice specialization and confounding issues of statewide impact, the relationship between the CBA and LBAs is just as vital today.
The Unique Roles of Lawyers,
the CBA, and Our LBAs
As lawyers, we have a unique role in forming and maintaining the structure of our society, in protecting individual freedoms within that structure, in providing handles on the levers of justice. We accomplish these things in a myriad of ways: representing the poor and the powerless, testifying in regard to pending legislation, speaking out when our system of justice is threatened, and providing law-related programs in our schools and communities.
Lawyers, of course, do not serve our communities just as lawyers. We also provide countless hours of service in local churches, civic clubs, and nonprofit agencies. Although these endeavors satisfy our needs and obligations as parents, as citizens, and as community leaders, our communities still need our contributions as lawyers.
In fulfilling our role as lawyers, the CBA is uniquely suited to help us address matters of statewide impact. The CBA also can provide forms of support and benefits to our legal community that LBAs individually cannot. The contract we’re negotiating to provide our members across the state with online legal research is just the latest example.
Nevertheless, we all live in our local communities. Legal matters arise that are of local concern to lawyers, such as the functioning of local courts. And we have a pivotal role to play in providing public legal education on matters of local interest in each community.
LBAs are unique in that they provide a way, that the CBA cannot, for us to combine our knowledge and resources in serving the legal needs of our local communities. LBAs thus play an equally vital role in helping to mend the fabric of our society. What is striking is that the relationship between the CBA and LBAs has been and continues to be symbiotic, each mutually benefiting the other.
The relationships between the CBA and the LBAs are not new;2 indeed, they have existed almost from the start. The first bar association in Colorado was a local bar association. It was a few years after the Denver Bar Association was formed in 1891 that the idea was hatched for a statewide organization. In 1897, a group of lawyers gathered in Colorado Springs to form the CBA. The idea was to get out of town so that clients could not reach them by telephone.
From the start, the importance of the relationships between the CBA and LBAs was recognized, but they operated with substantial independence. Then, in 1937, the CBA took steps to broaden membership and to improve the coordination of CBA and LBA activities. Among other things, the CBA bylaws were amended to provide reduced fees for CBA members who belonged to affiliated LBAs. The reorganization also provided for the establishment of a Board of Governors, comprised of representatives from the local, affiliated associations who would be responsible for future CBA policies.
Twenty years later, the CBA bylaws were amended again, this time to require that CBA members also must be LBA members. Not all LBAs have a reciprocal arrangement, but today, most have cooperated by making it mandatory that their members also be members of the CBA.
Symbiosis At Work
The relationships between the CBA and our LBAs can best be described as multifaceted symbiosis. Each performs its own role, but each helps the other.
LBAs play their own role in uniquely addressing local community concerns. Here are a few examples.
• Members of the Delta County and Seventh Judicial Bar Associations annually make themselves available at the courthouse to consult with low-income residents who need answers to civil legal questions.
• The Mesa County Bar holds a monthly "Call-A-Lawyer" night.
• The Denver Bar has been instrumental in establishing the Warm Welcome Court Child Care Center, a free drop-in facility used by victims, witnesses, jurors, and litigants who come to the Denver courts.
• Numerous LBAs provide special programs each year around Law Day, ranging from "Lawyers in the Classroom" to "Law Week on the Mall."
When added together, these efforts are just as important as any by our statewide association in improving both our overall system of justice and the image of our profession.
Although the LBAs are the best source for such programs, the CBA can provide valuable assistance, such as information and advice on similar efforts in the past. Just one example is our bank of resources about how to design and administer Law Day programs. The CBA also can fill gaps by providing forms of support and benefits to members that LBAs individually cannot. For example, the CBA’s nationally recognized website is a launching point to multiple sources of valuable information, not the least of which is up-to-date news about all the LBAs.
The CBA, through its statewide organization, can and does play its own role in planning for and responding to matters of statewide concern. This includes, for example, quickly organizing and presenting testimony on proposed legislation and constitutional amendments. Although the CBA is in the best position to take the lead on legislative projects, the LBAs can provide vital assistance. For example, before a legislative session begins, the LBAs can organize their members to establish a network of contacts with legislators from their districts. The LBAs can then coordinate with the CBA in seeking legislation that will improve the administration of justice.
In sum, the relationship between the CBA and the LBAs is a symbiotic partnership. The relationship is ongoing, but should not be taken for granted or ignored. Among other things, my two appointments to the CBA Executive Council are former LBA presidents.
This leads to other plans for the coming year.
Coming Soon to a Local Bar Near You
Several months ago, the CBA staff and I began formulating a plan of action that focused on the CBA/LBA relationship. In February 2004, we surveyed current LBA leaders and directors to obtain information on everything from suggested topics for the annual Regional Bar Visits to past experiences with the CBA and ideas for the future.
On May 7, we hosted a Local Bar Summit for our LBA leaders and directors. At a working luncheon, I presented a summary of current issues facing the CBA and LBAs alike. CBA staff explained the assistance available to LBAs from the various CBA departments. Lunch was followed by timely programs on issues of importance to LBA leaders, concluding with an "open mike" session. The reception that followed provided additional time to meet and greet those making up our powerful network of Bar leaders.
It also was several months ago that the CBA staff and I started planning the annual Regional Bar Visits for the coming fiscal year. These Visits will involve CBA officers and staff spending a day at an LBA in each of our seven CBA regions. This fiscal year, we’ve added two LBAs to the itinerary. You can check the times and locations on the CBA website.3
The Visits will include a morning program in which local judges can take part in judicial training. At the luncheon that follows, a judge from the Colorado Court of Appeals will address topics suggested by your LBA leaders. In the afternoon, you can join your fellow LBA members in informative and enjoyable CLE programs—at no charge!
In addition to these Visits, I am asking that CBA officers and executive staff be available to attend an LBA business meeting or special event in your area. Just give us a call.
The CBA and LBAs: symbiosis with the mostest!
1. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (NY, New York: Random House, 2000) at 1326.
2. My thanks to David L. Erickson for the historical information in this article. David wears many hats, including acting as CBA Historian.
3. Available at: http://www.cobar.org/group/index.cfm?category =1205&EntityID=dpwac.
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