Vol. 43, No. 6
In and Around the Bar
CBA President's Message to Members
The Bar is Your Best Bet
by W. Terry Ruckriegle
The Bar is your best bet! It may come as no surprise that the President of the Colorado Bar Association is telling you that. I’m going to explain to you why and how the CBA is your best bet. I will do so by providing an overview of presidential activities during the past year that have convinced me that CBA membership is vital to success as a legal professional.
Why: The CBA is a Primary
Network in Your Professional Life
You are going to develop professional relationships with countless men and women who cross and re-cross your path throughout your career. Of course, to make the very best of your legal profession, you will find that participating in CBA committees and sections and bar programs will enhance your professional and personal networks.
As I have traveled around the state and met many CBA members, I could not help but notice that not everyone enjoys the benefits of the many membership services the CBA offers. I have observed this at your local bars, in the specialty bars, in the sections in your area(s) of practice, and yes, even at the national level at the American Bar Association (ABA).
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend two swearing-in ceremonies of Colorado appellate judges. Both of the new judges have a breadth of professional experience in diverse practice areas. Both judges acknowledged that their professional growth occurred through participation in bar activities, sections and committees, and projects. More important, each of them acknowledged by name attorneys and judges who had given them guidance and encouragement in their careers, and who had demonstrated their own commitment to the legal profession. These were colleagues they had become acquainted with or had become friends with through bar meetings or bar-related events.
Many rewarding experiences come from serving as CBA President. One is the opportunity to travel around the state, visiting each of the local bar associations. Over the past year, I have met many of you and renewed several acquaintances. We would have lunch or dinner, often a little ethics CLE, and always the valuable conversation before and after. I was particularly awed by the fact that someone at every local bar function approached me and reminded me that we either had worked together years ago or they had tried one or more cases in my court. Many of them are either leaders in the bar or on the bench now enjoying their own stint of public service.
How: Professional Opportunities Abound
I’m certain each of you has come across something that causes you to wonder about a law and why it exists; to think that there should be a law about some particular issue; or to consider that a statute needs to be amended. By joining a section in your practice area or in an area of law in which you are especially interested, you will find opportunities to participate in a CBA committee or subcommittee, which often develop projects or suggest changes to statutes that the CBA sponsors or supports.
Those of you on the bench also can make suggestions for legislative issues through CBA committees or sections, as well as through State Judicial. After all, you frequently may encounter some of these issues firsthand.
Charting Your Career Path
If you are a young lawyer—under the age of 37 or in practice fewer than five years—joining the CBA Young Lawyers Division is a first step in broadening your professional experience. And if you are truly interested in becoming a leader in the CBA, join the CBA leadership training program known as COBALT. Under the steady guidance of Dana Collier Smith, Assistant Executive Director, the COBALT Executive Committee selects up to twenty bar members each fall to take part in a six-month program to enhance, promote, and inspire leadership of the legal profession. The Executive Committee considers all areas of diversity when selecting the class, and there is no age cap. Participants meet once a month, usually over the weekend. To date, we have had more than 155 COBALT graduates. Nominations for the 2015 class, including self-nominations, are due July 1. Visit the COBALT website today at www.cobar.org/cobalt for complete information.
Another opportunity is to serve on the CBA Board of Governors (BOG). The objects of the BOG are:
to advance jurisprudence
to secure more efficient administration of justice
to encourage the adoption of proper legislation
to advocate continuing legal education
to uphold the honor and integrity of the bar.
The BOG is the representative policy-making body of the CBA and comprises of members from around the entire state. Participants are from local bar associations or may be representatives from sections and certain other designated organizations. Watch for opportunities to join.
By the time this column comes out, the CBA BOG will have had the opportunity to hear presentations from proponents and opponents concerning multiple initiatives proposed for the November election. Initiative Proposal #79, titled "Election of Justices and Judges," is one item on the November ballot. This Initiative would amend the Colorado Constitution to require "at least" a two-thirds majority vote for a justice or judge to be retained in office. The stated purpose is to inspire confidence in the judiciary, because "a simple majority is no longer sufficient."
Another November 2014 ballot issue, Initiative Proposal #94, titled "Duties of Independent Ethics Commission," also would amend the Colorado Constitution to create a new body to replace the Commission on Judicial Discipline. One major change would allow discipline for conduct that may be otherwise subject to appellate review.
Initiative Proposal #76, titled "Recall of State and Local Officials," repeals and reenacts a portion of the Colorado Constitution allowing for recall of any legislative, executive, or judicial elective officer. The stated intent is to increase public accountability of public officers.
These subjects are of the highest importance to members of the bar and the public. Each of you should have significant professional investment in them. Your participation in the CBA BOG matters to the advancement of jurisprudence; its impact is broad, and reaches your colleagues and citizens throughout the state. I encourage you to seriously consider participating in the CBA BOG and make a difference in how the legal system works in Colorado.
Working to Make Justice Accessible to All
Last November, the CBA BOG voted to pass a resolution directing the CBA President to present to the Chief Justice and the Colorado Supreme Court a written request seeking approval for a variety of funding mechanisms to increase legal aid for low-income individuals and families through Colorado Legal Services. Some suggestions, such as increasing filing fees and directing a portion of attorney registration fees toward legal aid, were not considered acceptable; others were more favorably viewed.
We at the CBA will continue to work with the Supreme Court, the State Court Administrator’s Office, the Access to Justice Commission, Legal Services of Colorado, and the Legal Aid Foundation to improve our state’s provision of vitally necessary civil legal services to qualified citizens. I am extremely pleased to report that our visit to Washington, DC for ABA Day was successful in obtaining signatures on a commitment letter of support to fund the Legal Services Corporation at almost a 20% increase for FYI 2015.
Adopting Proper Legislation
One of the highest responsibilities of the CBA rests with the Legislative Policy Committee (LPC). Under the experienced direction of Michael Valdez, CBA Director of Legislative Relations, the LPC meets Fridays at 7:30 a.m. during the legislative session to discuss bills before the Colorado Legislature and other related issues.
The LPC relies substantially on feedback and input from the various CBA sections and committees as a basis for determining whether to sponsor, oppose, or support House and Senate Bills, as well as rule-making proposals before the Colorado Supreme Court. There are many bills to read weekly, but the effect of participation has tremendous impact. When your section or committee leaders ask for input on matters before the Colorado Legislature, keep in mind that your opinion is important. Take the time to study the proposals and bills, and weigh in. Step up and be part of the process!
Continuing Legal and Judicial Education
The CBA and the Denver Bar Association are the corporate "members" of the non-profit Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, Inc. (CLE). CLE’s core functions are to provide publications, as well as live and replay programs, for the continuing education of the Colorado legal profession and the members of the public who are served by Colorado legal professionals. CLE regularly presents dozens of seminars and annual conferences on every legal topic of interest to our profession, including: advising nonprofits, business and commercial, criminal, elder and family, hanging your shingle, mediation, natural resources and water, practicing with professionalism, real estate, and trusts and estates. These programs are not just occasions to obtain your CLE credits; they are your opportunity to "pay it forward" by teaching those professionals who want and need to learn skills in other areas of law. So, offer up your expertise when the time comes.
Reaping What You Sow—
With Lots of Help From the CBA
Most of the people I have come in contact with during my presidency are already believers in the bar, but some attorneys have candidly asked, "What’s in it for me?" Usually, at the risk of being trite, I revert to my generational fallback words from my post-WWII parents: "You get out of something what you put into it." That is absolutely true—just ask the new generation of attorneys who are seeking jobs.
CBA Products—Essential to Your Practice
Here are some up-to-date, concrete examples of how the CBA continues to develop and progress, keeping its members in mind every step of the way. During my local bar visits, two major CBA products repeatedly were mentioned as favorite benefits: The Colorado Lawyer monthly publication and the Casemaker legal research tool.
The Colorado Lawyer is a reliable educational tool. It provides summaries of recent appellate decisions, rule changes, and other court business; substantive legal articles in a wide range of specialty areas written by CBA members and legal experts; and CBA news and updates about committee, section, and member activities.
Casemaker is the online legal research engine, similar to Lexis® or Westlaw®—except that it is provided to all CBA members at no charge. As part of the CBA’s goal to be essential to your practice, I am proud to announce that effective May 1, 2014, all of Casemaker’s premium services are free to CBA members. This free benefit has an annual value of more than $1,200. In fact, all of the recent updates to Casemaker make it easier to use. Also, it has been expanded to include all fifty states and now allows searches of federal cases. For an in-depth discussion of these premium Casemaker services, see the Law Practice Management article in this issue starting on page 55. Also, if you have never used Casemaker or need to improve your skills, keep in mind that CLE-accredited trainings are offered monthly at no cost to CBA members. Reba Nance, CBA Director of Law Practice Management/Risk Management, can help you with questions about Casemaker. Contact her at (303) 824-5320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Call to the Bar—It Really Is Your Best Bet
During my year as CBA President, I have become even more persuaded of the professional value of working in tandem with the bar. The CBA has many products and services to assist and advance how we practice our trade. There are incomparable educational resources available to members, numerous social and civic activities, and many valuable products at our disposal. By participating in the bar, we have countless opportunities to meet other legal professionals and develop friendships and professional relationships; to be involved in the necessary amendments to and developments in the law; to educate and be educated in the appropriate legal skills; and to obtain membership benefits that enhance the quality of your practice.
Best wishes as you go forward in your professional career. Keep in mind along the way that the CBA truly is your partner in law!
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