July 2014 Bar Bulletin
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July 2014 Bar Bulletin

My Journey with KCBA

 

In my candidate's statement, I quoted a speaker at this year's Bar Leadership Institute who urged aspiring bar leaders to "keep their eyes on the future with their feet planted in the present." In thinking about the coming year, I realized that this advice describes a journey. We know where we are, we imagine where we want to be and now the question is how we get there.

Doing the math at the start of my term as KCBA's president, I realized that I have been a member of our Association for 30 years this spring. That made me think back on the start of my journey with KCBA.

I had decided to head back west after three great years working in the other Washington. After washing up on the shores of Puget Sound, I had the great good fortune to land a job with what was then Hillis, Phillips, Cairncross, Clark & Martin. With a job in hand, frenzied efforts to pass the bar followed. In those days, just as the Earth was cooling, graduates of the University of Montana School of Law were admitted to practice on motion of the state's attorney general. A bar exam was, as a result, a new and challenging experience!

Once my Washington license was in hand, membership in KCBA followed shortly.

Seattle was then, and hopefully will remain, a place for ideas, not pedigrees. As such, the city and the legal community felt very welcoming. However, the year was 1984 and a young attorney wanting to advance his career was just not "out." Even writing that seems odd as I think about how the doors of the closet were eventually blown off. Today, Seattle, King County and Washington are served by openly gay members of the courts, the Legislature, and the city and county councils as well as the mayor of Seattle and, yes, a KCBA president.

In so many ways, my journey with KCBA - probably much like your own - has been more than a professional box to check. At times, it has been intensely personal. Returning my thoughts to the 1980s, an ominous cloud looms over my memories.

I left Washington, D.C., as AIDS was sweeping down the East Coast. Sadly, not long after I arrived in Seattle, fear and uncertainty began to spread with the HIV virus and a generation of young people quickly learned to deal with dying and death on an intimate and unavoidable level.

No one had any answers. However, with predictable ingenuity, the people of Seattle and King County responded with courage and humanity. Organizations such as the Northwest AIDS Foundation, Chicken Soup Brigade and many others rose from the ashes to provide care, if not hope, to the dying.

At that time, a group of dedicated KCBA members came together under the banner of Volunteer Attorneys for People with AIDS (VAPWA). VAPWA volunteers quickly learned that our pro bono clients often had no time to wait for an appointment. Client meetings and will signings were regularly held in hospital rooms and hospices. As the ink dried, clients could take comfort knowing that at least one part of their fragile lives was under control.

Through that early volunteer work with KCBA, I found an organization whose members and staff have inspired me time and again. From the first acts of its founders nearly 130 years ago to censure lawyers who had participated in anti-Chinese riots, to the early establishment of a law school scholarship program aimed at promoting diversity in the profession, to a nationally recognized drug policy project, KCBA has been a leader in our community and in our profession.

Once again in recent years, KCBA's advocacy for a just and fair society has played a significant role in my personal journey by opposing discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation, by supporting elimination of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and most recently by being a leading supporter of marriage equality. Incidentally, that last effort blessedly led to the end of an almost 29-year engagement as Brian Giddens and I were married before Judge Judy Ramseyer last September.

As you can see, not only do we have our feet firmly planted in the present with our eyes on the future, we also know where we have been. I have, as a result, absolute confidence that the objectives of our journey together as members of KCBA are as achievable as they are many. With each step, we will continue to move toward the goals of our mission statement: to support our diverse membership, to promote a just, collegial and accessible legal system, to seek excellence in the administration of justice, to benefit our community, to offer opportunities for public service to our members, and to speak out on matters of public policy.

I look forward to joining all of you on that journey.

KCBA President Steve Rovig is a principal with Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson P.S. where his practice emphasizes commercial real estate. Rovig can be reached at steve.rovig@hcmp.com or 206-470-7620.

 

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