"Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?" I've always liked those lyrics from the Broadway musical "Rent." They capture how immense, yet simultaneously ephemeral, a year can be. Looking back over the last 12 months at the helm of KCBA, both modifiers certainly apply.
Summarizing all of the work of the Association, and in particular the Board of Trustees, over the past year would require more bandwidth than is available. But here are a few highlights:
- New Digs. High on the list of our achievements was the successful relocation of KCBA's offices last summer. The actual move was only one floor up, but it followed months of touring available buildings throughout the downtown core, analysis of options and tough negotiations. We had a ribbon-cutting open house in September and the reviews since then have been very positive.
Gone are the bat-cave, windowless conference rooms. Today the Board, sections and committees meet in bright, modern spaces with built-in technology to allow webcasting of key meetings. As a further bonus, our hard-working staff members now have a work environment that is efficient and pleasant.
- Speaking Out. Over the course of the last year, the Board has not been shy about speaking up on a wide range of issues. That included actively supporting the gun safety measure that was on last fall's ballot; working closely with Presiding Judge Susan Craighead and King County's executive and legislative branches to advance the construction of the Children and Family Justice Center, despite some tough political sledding; and forming a broad coalition of stakeholders to urge the Supreme Court not to scrap the requirement for a portion of required CLE credits to be "live." (By the way, much to our surprise, the Court rejected our arguments on the CLE requirement without discussion.)
- Membership Recruitment. KCBA successfully completed its 2014–15 membership campaign with 5,514 (!) members signed up and contributing to the Association through their dues and volunteer hours. As a consequence, not only is KCBA the oldest bar association in the state, it also remains Washington's largest and most active voluntary bar association.
- Pro Bono. As I said to the new admittees at this spring's swearing-in ceremony, the real jewels in KCBA's crown are our pro bono programs. Thanks to the inspiring efforts of some 1,200 volunteer attorneys, we continue to deliver free legal services to some of the most marginalized of King County's citizens.
About 10,000 clients are helped each year. We organize more than 30 neighborhood legal clinics across the county; support tenant housing clinics every day at the King County Courthouse and the Regional Justice Center in Kent; and connect struggling families with free family law advice every month. And if members are not aware, KCBA is virtually unique among comparable bar associations across the nation in operating pro bono programs of this breadth and depth.
- Communications. There is no question that KCBA has amazing programs and stellar services for our members. But we have not been as good at getting the word out to our members and the larger community. Following its retreat last summer, the Board launched a new initiative to bring our communications platform fully into the 21st Century.
As I reported last month, the Board recently received a communications audit that covered everything from the Bar Bulletin to the KCBA website to our social media presence. With the help of a consultant, short-term and long-term objectives have been identified to ensure that our communications efforts advance, rather than slow, KCBA's progress on a variety of fronts.
Just like raising a kid, it takes a village to keep our Association going strong in pursuing its mission of supporting the members, promoting a just and accessible legal system, seeking excellence in our courts and serving the public. At the risk of failing to acknowledge the contribution of everyone over the past year, I would like to express my special thanks to: KCBA's 2014–15 officers and trustees; our remarkable staff led by Executive Director Andy Prazuch and Associate Director Kathleen Jensen; and the leaders and members of our hard-working sections and committees.
It takes money, and lots of it, to achieve the goals of an association like ours. Year after year, the officers and trustees of the King County Bar Foundation continue to pull rabbits out of their fundraising hats. This year's Breakfast With Champions brought in more than $300,000 to provide critical support to our diversity scholarship and pro bono programs. For that, I say thanks a million.
I would also like to acknowledge the unique partnership that KCBA has with the bench, from the Supreme Court to the courts of limited jurisdiction. In particular, we are blessed by the high caliber of judges in King County and by the close working relationship we have with them in striving to improve the administration of justice in the county.
Lastly, thanks to you, the members of our Association for the gift of this memorable year. I have enjoyed (just about) every minute of it. And I am confident that I will be leaving KCBA in excellent hands when I pass the gavel to Kim Tran at our Annual Awards Dinner on June 18. I hope to see you there to personally express my appreciation for the opportunity to be of service this year.
KCBA President Steve Rovig is a principal with Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson P.S. where his practice emphasizes commercial real estate. Steve can be reached at email@example.com or 206-470-7620.