Dec 04, 2017
Dec 04, 2017
By Dorothy Chou Proudfoot
For many people, Thanksgiving has turned into the only two-day holiday (sorry if you had to work on the 24th). Though the theory behind the “day after Thanksgiving” holiday is most likely a matter of convenience, to sweep in that otherwise isolated Friday, I’ll posit an alternative origin myth that we need to have extra time to reflect on the multitude of reasons to give thanks. When it comes to MCBA, that is particularly true. As I reflected on this past year, I am grateful to a lot of dedicated people whose efforts have powered this organization and made it possible for me to have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as your President.
First and foremost, I want to thank and recognize Executive Director Mee Mee Wong, who is a force of nature when it comes to pushing this organization to excellence. I cannot begin to tell you just how much work she does and how often she goes above and beyond anyone’s expectations to deliver on every single event and project, whether regularly scheduled in advance or specially added to the lineup. Judicial Retirement Party? Judicial Induction? Volunteer Recognition? Lifetime Achievement Award? All done with class. We are so lucky to have her and we reap huge benefits from her vision. I also wanted to thank Membership and Events Coordinator Karen Howard who unfortunately leaves us at the end of the year, but has been incredible in helping to make everything run so smoothly.
I reflected on the fantastic work the Board of Directors has been able to accomplish, running this venerable organization. Our Committee Chairs continued to push our mission forward. We have had great programming under Programs Chair Barrett Schaefer’s leadership and coordination in our varied and engaging general membership meetings, and also in the incredibly special Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner honoring Judge Dufficy (organized by Gary Ragghianti, with an entertaining assist from the moviemaking wizardry of Judge Haakenson). I marveled at the fact that our Sections managed to run over 100 MCLE events, a tremendous feat for which all of our Section Chairs are to be commended. Our Barristers Section achieved an impressive national recognition from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division for our Mentorship Program. President-Elect Tom Brown steered our MCLE Fair to a terrific culmination with substantive programming. I know it was obvious how much I appreciated participating in the lunchtime interview of Warriors GC/VP David Kelly.
I also wondered just how many social events we organized, from the Installation Dinner (which some people in my office jokingly referred to as my “wedding” all year) to the mid-summer CalCPA Mixer to the Holiday Party. I have noticed that attorneys tend to publicize social events as “networking opportunities,” perhaps out of the fear that labeling them “social” makes them seem less important or less worthy of the expenditure of funds. I would suggest that we should unapologetically embrace our social events, because they are vital not only to the enjoyment of our profession, but to the effectiveness of our advocacy. Because success in our profession is more often based on relationships with other human beings (client, co-counsel, opposing counsel, judge, jury, etc.), and has very little to do with “pure” intellectual ability, our work in establishing relationships is important in how we develop wisdom in our practice.
I am also thankful for the opportunity to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion through my role in this organization. You know that the legal and business communities are filled with training and initiatives to increase diversity and promote inclusion. We are also starting to see sexual harassment training being taken seriously (finally). I would encourage you to put a face on those esoteric classroom principles and, at the very least, go out and have a conversation with someone who is not like you. Don't do it with the preconceived notion that you have something to prove about your enlightened state of tolerance (which usually only results in exposure of your own biases), or that the other person will have some tiresome agenda to push (it’s called having an opinion when it’s your friend, but why is it called whining when it’s someone you don’t know?). Try to go into this conversation demanding of YOURSELF that you learn one new thing about the “other”-ness of the person or about an issue important to the world in which we live.
We all thought we learned “critical thinking” at some point in our education. Unfortunately, over time, that reasoning evolves (or gets lazy) and turns into just being critical (of others), with no thinking involved. We should be better than that. We can be better than that. We must be better than that. The world still looks to California, the sixth or eleventh largest economy in the world (depending on whether you adjust for cost of living), and we as lawyers have a tremendous role in leading the nation and the world forward, rather than backward. In short, use your powers for good!
To this end, I have one more pitch to make for the value of involvement with MCBA. Over the years, I have learned that programs and projects that do not at first blush appear to relate directly to our practice areas are still important to round us out as attorneys and leaders, which are opportunities MCBA provides in spades. While it is important to maintain competency in our knowledge and skills with regular training, in order to elevate the quality of our service to our clients, we also need to step back and put everything we do into context. What do you want to see in the future of your practice, your community, and your world? Is there something you are doing that progresses toward or slides away from that vision? What can you be doing in your professional and personal life to achieve justice for all?
In closing, it has been my honor to serve as your President this year. I am grateful for all I have learned from this experience. I do have one more piece of information for which I debated whether I should just let it appear in the Gossip According to Matthew, but in the end I decided it was better to mention it here. After 16 years of service as a Deputy District Attorney, I have left the Marin County District Attorney’s Office. I am excited to start a new job in February as an Administrative Law Judge for the San Francisco Rent Board. I will always have fond memories of my time working in the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center, aka Big Pink/Blue Roof Inn/Gattaca. While I will no longer be in Marin every day, I still treasure my place in the Marin legal community with all of you. Take care.
Dorothy Chou Proudfoot is the former 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.