Jan 10, 2017
Happy New Year!
Jan 10, 2017
By Dorothy Chou Proudfoot
I am honored to embark upon my service as the first Asian-American President in the 80-year history of the Marin County Bar Association. This milestone is less about me than it is about a dedication to improving diversity and inclusion that the profession must embrace to maintain excellence.
We will celebrate that theme more next month at our Installation Gala and MCBA Scholarship Fundraiser at Peacock Gap Clubhouse on February 11. I thank the overwhelming number of early sponsors for showing their tangible support for MCBA, and encourage everyone else to jump on the bandwagon of sponsorship for a successful year!
I am often asked why I, as a Deputy District Attorney, with no need for any referrals to keep my caseload topped-up, would devote time and energy to MCBA. Of course there are plenty of other extracurricular interests competing for our limited time in the hectic pace of our modern world. How do I explain the six years of Board meetings, committee meetings, event planning, panel-moderating, scriptwriting, number-crunching, and downright juggling? Well, I point to the fact that through MCBA, exposure to attorneys in other practice areas has helped me become a better lawyer. Participating in MCBA has given me tremendous opportunities to grow into a better leader. Engaging in community-enriching activities through MCBA has made me a better person. I hope you feel the same way about your involvement with MCBA and have already renewed your membership!
We often look to the first President's Message of the year to find out what the President's agenda for the year may be. Sometimes it's a one-word idea, other times it's an alliterated slogan or some acronym to represent the signature issue for the year. My former Mock Trial students know my thoughts on developing a theme for the theory of a case, but I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to articulate where our Board, as a governing whole, wants to take this organization.
At the Board Retreat in December, we had a great discussion about our shared goals not just for the coming year, but for a 3-5 year time frame. This month, I want to share with you a verbal "theme and variations" on one of these goals: increasing the value of membership.
The Value of MCBA Membership
What is the value of our membership? You can think of this in terms of the value of your contributions to others as well as the value of this organization to you. Is the value of our membership the quality, meaningful programs we put on? Is it the engaging speakers we feature? Is it networking with the steadily-increasing membership of every experience level, practice area, and background? Is it the monthly newsletter full of events, newsworthy items, and substantive legal content? Is it Mandatory Continuing Legal Education credits? Is it prestigious awards to recognize the inspirational luminaries of our legal community? Is it the legal scholarships we fund in order to reach out a hand to bring along the next generation of new lawyers? Is it volunteer hours for the Court through the Modest Means Mediation, Civil Discovery Facilitator, or Settlement Conference programs? Is it facilitating quick legal assistance through Lawyers in the Library?
It should be apparent from these rhetorical questions that there are a lot of avenues along which we can advance this goal of increasing the value of membership. Nurturing new ways to increase the value of membership while strengthening existing elements will help us maximize the means by which we can INVOLVE our members in adding value to the organization, ENCOURAGE members to help others, and SUPPORT our members in their professional development. Does this further our mission statement, "To involve, encourage and support Bar Association members, to serve as a liaison to the Marin County courts, and to educate the community and enhance access to legal services"? I vote yes.
I want to take a moment to thank the outgoing 2016 Board members and officers for their years of dedicated service to MCBA: Hon. Michael Dufficy, Shelley Kramer, and Patricia Medina; 5 Year Past President Larry Baskin, Past President Randy Wallace, and Treasurer Jessica Stuart Pliner. We welcome our wonderfully diverse group of incoming Board members: Toussaint Bailey, Eva Bennett, Tim Nardell, Anna Pletcher, and Rob Rosborough. Many thanks go to Caroline Joachim, who has been our Newsletter Series Editor for three years, but is now passing this torch to Rob, who has jumped right into his Board role in a big way. I am also very happy to introduce our 5 Year Past President, Marlene Getchell. (Because she was not on the slate at the October meeting, we will call for a voice vote by the members at our January general membership meeting featuring Rhonda Hjort, who you won't want to miss!) Please join me in sending an especially huge thanks to Executive Director Mee Mee Wong for her indefatigable management of every aspect of MCBA, and Membership & Communications Manager Kathie Gaines, for going above and beyond time and time again!
A Call for Volunteers
Now to your role in this partnership. As you know from the December eblast, I am seeking MCBA members to appoint to our standing committees. The work of our standing committees is critical to our ability to accomplish our goals. Committees are great vehicles to get to know, work with, and understand others, not just attorneys. Our affiliate members in complementary professions are valuable members of MCBA and have much to teach us. Service on our committees also provides an excellent opportunity to practice engagement, demonstrate leadership, and fulfill our commitment to our legal community. My email address below will make it easy for you to tell me which committees appeal to you, or raise any questions concerning MCBA.
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
In closing, I have a couple thoughts to share about the Installation Gala. February 11 happens to be the date of the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the traditional 15-day Chinese New Year celebration (yes, that is over two weeks of revelry). Our Lunar New Year theme and program ensure that a good time will be had by all, so dress up, put your dancing shoes on, and enjoy a stimulating evening with friends and colleagues, with a different twist on Fund-A-Need. I promise no speeches longer than three minutes!
Dorothy Chou Proudfoot is a Deputy District Attorney at the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, and President of the Marin County Bar Association. She earned her B.A. and J.D. from UC Berkeley.