Jun 03, 2019
Reflections From Our Past Presidents
Jun 03, 2019
By The Marin Lawyer
In May, MCBA hosted a cocktail party honoring past presidents of our bar and current members of our bench. Threatening weather cleared, providing blue sky and warm temperatures for a lovely evening outdoors of drinks, hors d'oeuvres and lively conversation (and no speeches!) for the 100 attendees. Our pop-up history museum with old bar journals, membership documents and other ephemera was popular. Gone are the days when member luncheons were only $4 and membership for the year was only $10! The archived bar journals illustrated MCBA's strong tradition of educating our membership and improving access to justice.
A special thank you to our event sponsors:
Ragghianti Freitas, LLP
Foley & Lardner, LLP
Marie Barnes, MB Law | Law Office of Jonathan Pickett
Strick Schnasse Lawyers
Law Offices of Borton Petrini, LLP
Buell Law & Mediation
Friends of the Marin County Public Law Library
The Freitas Law Firm
In preparation for the event, we asked past presidents to submit a short paragraph or two with wisdom gleaned from their tenure. The following responses are a wonderful read.
View photos from the event on our Facebook page.
I became involved in the BAR early and worked my way through the chairs, becoming president in 1977. I only served half a year when I was appointed to the Superior Court bench by Governor Jerry Brown. I enjoyed my 20 years on the Bench. When I left the Bar presidency, we had approximately 560 members. As I look back at my career over the five decades here in Marin both as a lawyer and a Judge, I remember those years with great fondness.
- Judge Richard Breiner (Ret.) 1977 MCBA President
When I was President, the Bar was much smaller as was the Board. Jeanette Stewart was the Bar Exec. We had our board meetings at Dominican. During my presidency we developed a program called Tel Law which allowed people to call in and get general info in several areas of law and be directed to attorneys expert in the areas included in the program. Times seemed much less hectic then...there were no cell phones and everyone smoked! The good and the bad! I recall my service fondly and am proud that our office has over the years produced 5 Bar Presidents including the current one.
- Gary Ragghianti 1982 MCBA President
Just out of law school, I started my own practice in Sausalito in 1980 and did not know a single lawyer in Marin. The MCBA welcomed me with open arms and put me in charge of the Law Day committee. There, I worked with a handsome young lawyer named Neil Moran, and we married in 1985. Working my way through the chairs and offices, I got to know all the lawyers and judges in the County. In 1991, I served as president and three big things happened: (1) I presided over the swearing in ceremony of Judge Lynn Taylor, the second woman to serve on the Marin Superior Court. (2) on February 1, 1991, I gave birth to my second daughter, Sarah, without missing a single membership or board meeting, and (3) I became proficient in asking lawyers to do things, a skill which assisted me greatly when I was appointed to the bench in 1993. So you could say that the MCBA was instrumental in my success and happiness in both my professional and personal life.
- Judge Lynn Duryee (Ret.) 1991 MCBA President
Since it was about 25 years ago that I was President, my recall is that we did make CLE a more regular program and financially we were stable. Taking leadership positions is important to keep the MCBA functioning, but the time and effort involved are well worth it for the networking and new contacts that you make with members of MCBA and other community members.
- David Hellman 1992 MCBA President
My year as President of the Marin Bar is one of the major highlights of my career. It was an honor to be selected and honor to serve with my fellow board members. I enjoyed the challenge of writing the monthly President’s Report, working with the Executive Director to keep the business of the board running smoothly and running the monthly meetings. The relationships forged during my year as President and the years on the Board still remain and are an indelible part of what I look back on in my career as a lawyer. Those relationships help remind me that as lawyers we have so much in common starting with the stress and anxiety of law school and the bar, the burden and responsibility of representing our clients, the long hours of work and our responsibility to the Court and the community in which we serve.
- C. Clay Greene 1993 MCBA President
Shortly before the start of 1994, Past President Leonard Shaw gave me this advice:
“Here is the advice I got in 1973. You were elected because people like you. No matter what you say at the podium, the audience will smile. But they don’t want to hear you talk a lot. So, when you are running a meeting, stand up, introduce yourself, say what you have to say in as few words as possible, and sit down.”I did that, and no one ever complained that my remarks were too short. Thank you, Len, for the great advice. During my year, I wrote monthly columns in the Bar newsletter, “10 Things Lawyers Can Do to Make the World a Better Place.” When I re-read the columns recently, I found them wordy.
- Neil Moran 1994 MCBA President
“Coming Out” in 2019 is quite different than it was in 1995. While it took guts on my part, we all can be proud that in 1995 the Marin County Bar Association didn’t hesitate to elect me the first LGBT president of MCBA. Changes in societal attitudes and changes in the laws came about when enough of us boldly spoke our truth, causing others to understand we are all people, regardless of who we love, because love is love!
- Wanden Treanor 1995 MCBA President
I had the honor of working with a great Board of Directors. In my year, we created and adopted the MCBA'S Mission Statement and the Code of Civility.
- Terry Mason 1997 MCBA President
My term as President of the Marin County Bar Association provided me with the opportunity to participate in ways my practice had not: With the court in issues concerning the administration of justice, and in the Bar, where we fostered renewed activity in the Sections, reigniting the then inactive Barristers and starting the Intellectual Property Section, and initiating the Vendor Fair (now, the CLE Fair). Also, we focused on programs, including bringing in highly regarded luncheon speakers on then current relevant topics, and having regular afternoon meet and greet receptions for Members around the county. It was a very satisfying and rewarding experience: It furthered my appreciation of the community we live in, and at the same time, enhanced my practice.
- Peter Flaxman 1998 MCBA President
We had all held our collective breath waiting for midnight on December 31, 1999, watching countries around the world begin the new century and searching for any sign of the massive power and technology failures that had been predicted (remember “Y2K”?). We then breathed a sigh of relief as those predictions never came true. In mid-January, 2000, and thinking the biggest challenge was behind me, I was sworn in as MCBA President by the Hon. Judge (Ret.) Lynn Duryee during a rainy evening at the Marin County Country Club. It was a wonderful evening – and I enjoyed it. A good thing, as a massive controversy soon sprang up concerning the Marin County Family Law Court. There were protests, public outbursts and accusations from family law litigants. There were newspaper articles and burning telephone wires. My goals that year - to have more women lawyers actively a part of the MCBA and not just the Marin Women Lawyer’s group and to improve the diversity in hiring of local folks in the county - were sidelined as the MCBA Board and I had to deal head on with the Family Law controversy. Needless to say, it took a huge amount of time in interviewing Judges and attorneys and complainants about the issues and developing a plan of action. Thankfully, I had a wonderful board and we were able to keep the public calm and work with the Family Law Court as it made some internal changes. An exhausting, but, at the end, a wonderful year.
- C. Royda Crosland 2000 MCBA President
Writing the monthly President’s message was a major challenge for me. My first message said everything I had to say about the practice of law and the bar. The rest of my columns were musings on issues pretty much unrelated to the Bar and only sometimes to the practice of law. I received great feedback from local bar members who seemed to appreciate my observations and thoughts about life and life’s lessons. One column stood out. It was the message for the October 2001 issue. I was writing it immediately after 9/11/01 and tried to put in perspective an unbelievable event and tragedy.
My term was focused on being the fence-builder to re-connect the Bar with the Marin judiciary, after the Family Law Court “scandal” and the rift arising out of the unauthorized release of “confidential” comments part of the anonymous responses by association members to a bar sponsored survey of the Marin judiciary. My message to future presidents is to enjoy the experience, honor the relationship of the bar with the judiciary and always bring your “A” game to the job and the practice of law.
- Lawrence Baskin 2001 MCBA President
A few highlights of MCBA in 2002, an exciting and expanding year for the organization despite following the most horrific terrorist attack of 9/11/2001.
- Mary McLain 2002 MCBA President
MCBA offices moved into the Marin Justice Center at 30 San Pedro Road.
Every attorney is ethically obligated to protect the independence of the judiciary. In my experience, taking on a leadership role with the MCBA is one of the best ways to fulfill that obligation.
- David Feingold 2003 MCBA President
Want to promote equality and justice? In 2004, we created the Diversity Section for the purpose of promoting equality and justice in the in the legal community, in the justice system, and throughout Marin County. We haven’t quite achieved all of our goals, so we need your help. I encourage new members to make a difference and get to know lawyers of varying backgrounds and practice areas.
- Matt White 2004 MCBA President
MCBA 2005. The biggest issues of the day were: MCBA’s efforts to support an independent judiciary by opposing a judicial recall effort brought by disgruntled litigants against the judges in the family law department, courthouse security, courthouse child day care, and getting the MCBA Directory updated. Lastly, Tamalpais High School won the state and national mock trial competition and all of Marin’s elected representatives, state and federal, and the State Attorney General showed up to congratulate the team at a Bar event.
- Len Rifkind 2005 MCBA President
My time as 2007 President of MCBA is one of the greatest highlights of my career. It gave me the opportunity to ask what I could do to have the most positive impact possible for the benefit of MCBA members and the Marin community. I truly enjoyed working with the Marin Board of Education to create the “Parents, Teens and the Law” symposium, bringing some fascinating speakers to the General Membership meetings, and getting to meet more of my colleagues. I encourage every member to take advantage of the opportunity serve as President.
- Jeffrey Lerman 2007 MCBA President
What I loved most about being President was the enthusiasm board members had on working on board projects. During my tenure as President we created a program for law offices to become “green” businesses. It was a lot of fun working with the members of the board.
- Marlene Getchell 2009 MCBA President
My “theme” as MCBA President was connecting with the Marin community. With lots of help from the board, the bench and other MCBA members, we started some great projects that I think still benefit the community: We launched the Discovery Facilitator Program, resurrected the Bench-Bar Committee and instituted the non-profit profiles in The Marin Lawyer. I would encourage all younger members to pursue MCBA leadership to connect with other local lawyers and be of service to the broader community.
- Jessica Karner 2012 MCBA President
The greatest joy of the job was getting to know, and working with, the people on the Board and so many members who stepped up to participate on committees and sections. I am very proud that we had a Board-driven agenda, formed at the retreat through our review of member polls, which included the young lawyer mentor program, the Superior Court Modest Means Mediation program, stabilization of our budget, concepts for a digital Marin Lawyer, renewed financial commitment to (and member participation in) MCOE’s high school Mock Trial program, and continuation of the great work started in the prior years. I enjoyed every minute of the job and treasure the lifetime relationships that formed through our work.
- Joel Gumbiner 2013 MCBA President
The year I served as President, we lost our long time executive director and had to search for a new one. There was a lot of concern about the change by board members. I was certainly sad to see Robin go as I enjoyed working with her and thought she did a good job for MCBA. But I also felt that MCBA could benefit from new leadership. Hiring Mee Mee Wong, making sure she had the support and authority to improve MCBA, and seeing all the great changes she made to professionalize and modernize MCBA was the single most important change that happened during the year I served as President.
- Elizabeth Brekhus 2014 MCBA President
Leadership Lessons Learned by a Past President
1. Delegate as much as you can to competent people. Let them do their jobs. When the process and result is successful, the people get all the credit. If and when everything goes south, the president accepts responsibility.
2. Do not fear failure in what you do and how you do it, fear mediocrity.
3. Your job as a leader is to make everyone around you better.
- Randy Wallace 2015 MCBA President
It was an honor to work with MCBA Board, The Court and Marin County Law Library to launch “Lawyers in the Library” and provide a legal counseling program to our community. It was a privilege to serve as an MCBA President.
- Lawrence Strick 2016 MCBA President
I will always be grateful for the experience of serving as the 2017 MCBA President. My tenure taught me how to be a leader. One of the many things I learned was that the key to being effective is to amplify the efforts and achievements of others. Leading with this mindset will move the organization farther and faster than putting all the weight on your own shoulders and trying to do it all yourself. I am proud of the high caliber of events and programs we were able to deliver to the Marin legal community.
- Hon. Dorothy Chou Proudfoot 2017 MCBA President
My goal as president was to promote the Mission of the MCBA, which is 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. The Board sought to achieve this by hosting interesting and provocative speakers, revitalizing the Bench Bar Committee and maintaining the very successful Lawyers in the Library and other programs founded by my predecessors. It was an active time in the local bar, with the District Attorney election on the heels of the retirement of Edward Berberian and the appointment of a new member to the bench. I enjoyed my time as president, getting to know more members of the bar and also working with such a dedicated staff and Board.
- Thomas S. Brown 2018 MCBA President