OCBA President's Page
The Brag Sheetby James Parks, 2018-2019 OCBA President
My term as president of the OCBA ends on June 30. The old adage that the best title is one that starts with “past” (president, trustee, board member) has been reverberating these last few weeks. I am likewise reminded by well-wishers, congratulating me on my year as OCBA president, of the two best days in the ownership of a boat: the day you buy it and the day you sell it. It did not go too fast or too slow – it went just fine. I liked it.
I was surprised at the commitment of time required. I tried not to whine about the myriad speeches, presentations and events (see – that was the beginning of a whine). Mary Beth, my wife of 42 years, has been a saint. With all the weekly bar activities, my idea of a rousing Friday night is Jet’s pizza and two hands of gin rummy. Well – three hands if I am winning.
I have been very fortunate to make friends with many people whom I never knew or were merely acquainted with before this year. Big bonus.
At our firm, we utilize a year-end memorandum to elucidate individual contributions, billable hours, accounts payable and receivables for the consideration of our board and compensation committee. I refer to it as the “Brag Sheet.”
This article is the Brag Sheet from your association board.
Lawyers Line: When I was sworn in at the Annual Meeting last June at the Townsend, someone (whom I do not remember) promised they would buy me a drink if we could just get the lawyers line back at the courthouse during motion day. They said, “You don’t need to do anything else; just get that damn line back.” We did that. I really wish I could remember who that was. You know who you are … cheapskate.
Inclusion: We promised to start the uncomfortable conversations that may lead to more inclusion of diverse lawyers in our legal community and association. In April, we held a forum at Jaffe, attended by approximately 70 lawyers of various races, persuasions, color, religions, generations, sexual orientations and identifications. We engaged in open conversation, which was very enlightening and often courageous. We made it real. We discussed factors that are impediments to inclusion, including bigotry, racism, homophobia, innate bias and the like. It was a start. I think we moved the needle, but that remains to be seen. Your board is committed to continuing this effort. They are committed to real change and the creation of an association with a culture of acceptance where inclusion is a foregone conclusion. You have elected an incredibly talented, committed and high-spirited board, from whom you should expect great things.
Fiscal Solvency: We solidified a two-year agreement with Oakland County to deliver the training and continuing legal education (CLE) of attorneys on the criminal appointment list in Oakland County Circuit and district courts to help Oakland County implement Standard 1 of the new standards set forth by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act. The contract provides the association $175,000 annually for delivering 12 hours of required CLE per year to each of more than 500 attorneys throughout 2019 and 2020. As a nonprofit organization whose primary source of funding is dues, it is difficult to ensure dues income keeps up with rising operating costs. Non-dues sources of income, like this training program or our District Court Case Evaluation service, help provide some financial stability.
Governance: Your association has bylaws, protocol, history and a plethora of policies guiding us through our business. However, like so many voluntary boards, we sometimes operate without benefit of the knowledge of historical decisions, the terms of policies or protocol and/or the rules of governing this association. This year, members of our board took on the herculean task of reviewing history, policies, protocol and the bylaws in depth, including reading through nearly 15 years of board minutes, to make sure our policies and procedures manual was up-to-date and in compliance with the current bylaws. Additionally, they reviewed current policies to see if they still make sense. Various subcommittees within the board made recommendations for changes or additions, and some needed policies are still being developed. The result will be more consistent and better-informed board action assuring uniformity and compliance. It also assists the staff in their daily handling of the operations.
Membership: We’re bucking the trend! For the first time in more than a decade, we are on target to actually grow in membership this year. Frankly, that’s remarkable in these days where the national trend of membership in associations, religious affiliations, clubs and the like are dismal. We were no exception until this year. Over the past few years the board, alongside the Membership Committee, has taken a hard look at the perceived value of OCBA membership and made improvements to the benefits we offer. We discovered that many of our members aren’t fully aware of all the benefits. The introduction of our quarterly Membership Maximizer events and our new website is helping to get the word out. We also realized that we’ve been a little too reliant on technology to market to new members and have gotten away from personally asking people to join. We’ve shifted our strategy and it’s beginning to pay off. This truly is an exciting trend.
Many of our new members joined this year because they were referred by another OCBA member. Let me reiterate – people joined because people actually ASKED them to join. What a concept.
New Lease: Our existing lease is expiring. We were committed to fiscal responsibility first. Then we had to decide whether to stay or move – whether a different, more central, location was “too far from the courthouse” and/or whether a new location would increase participation. After much gnashing of teeth and “spirited discussion,” our new digs will be our old digs. We are signing a lease with the present landlord, but the space will be taken down to the studs. We are working with professionals to ensure the space is maximized to serve the staff and our members. It will be a hassle for the staff to move twice (vacate to permit the renovation, then move back in); however, they are a resilient bunch and are up to the task. The space, configuration, furniture and vibe will be completely new and exciting.
Thanks: Thank you to each member who helped us grow, thanks to all those who helped us with the accomplishments I shared, and thanks to every one of our members for being part of our professional, civil organization. Lastly, I thank you for your trust in me and for allowing me the privilege of serving as the OCBA’s 86th president.