The last column of 2016 seems a fitting forum to offer some final reflections on KCBA’s 130th year with an eye toward the 131st.
First, I note that the King County Bar Association has witnessed — and participated in — a lot of history during these past many years.
During this century and a third, KCBA has seen 22 U.S. presidents, from Grover Cleveland to Barack Obama, come and go, including some great leaders and some dismal ones. KCBA and the republic have survived and ultimately prospered through each election, even with temporary setbacks.
Our predecessors surely saw many troubling local and national election results in their day, yet the bar remained united to advance its mission of promoting a just, collegial and accessible legal system and profession, and working with the judiciary to achieve excellence in the administration of justice. I have no reason to doubt KCBA will continue to succeed as we have always done.
Second, whenever those challenging times do come to our nation, state and county, KCBA’s history tells us we have a record of success.
From our work in 1886 to discipline lawyers who would deny due process to Chinese immigrants, to our leadership in 1938 to establish the first Legal Aid Bureau for the poor, to our vision in 1969 to create a minority law student scholarship program, this bar association has led public opinion and legal analysis to benefit our community.
While it might be easy to rest on our laurels, I’m a strong believer in renewing KCBA’s credentials as frequently as opportunities present themselves. And that’s what turns this month’s 130th anniversary reflection toward the future.
I begin by noting that I come at prognostication as an optimist. I understand why some people have crystal balls with permanent cracks in them that always predict doom and gloom ahead, but for me it’s far less depressing and far more inspiring to interpret the images in a positive way. So, while some might interpret data about potential large numbers of seasoned attorney retirements and new technologies for practicing law as signs of the apocalypse for a bar association, I choose to process that information as a sign of opportunity for KCBA.
So, what is ahead for KCBA in our 131st year in 2017? What’s coming in 2018, 2019 and 2020? What will King County attorneys need from their bar association? How can the Association best support the judiciary in the administration of justice? Are there ways to position KCBA to have a role in the future legal profession?
It just so happens that the KCBA Board of Trustees has been asking those same questions and identifying more areas of inquiry, as the trustees begin crafting a multi-year strategic plan for the unknown future that lies ahead.
Two simultaneous initiatives should help us identify the path ahead to that future. A “membership future” work group, chaired by Second Vice President Harry Schneider, will be collecting data and ideas from both members and nonmembers about the forces that those attorneys see as challenges and opportunities for the practice of law. We’ll be launching an online survey in January to collect this information. Also as part of this effort, the work group will reach out to sister metropolitan bar associations across the country to assess what lessons might be learned from similar experiences of our peers.
The findings from this work group will then flow into the Board’s second initiative, a “strategic plan” work group, chaired by First Vice President Andrew Maron. This group will develop a series of recommended (and prioritized) focus areas related to the bar’s external and internal programs and operations. The anticipated outcome is that the Board of Trustees will have a long-term (3–5 year) guide for remaining responsive and receptive to the changes ahead for the profession.
With a respectful reflection on where we’ve been and a careful look to where we are headed, I’m confident the bar’s next 130 years will be off to a good start.
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (206-267-7061).
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