I am delighted to serve our membership as the MCBA board president for 2021, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak directly with our Marin Lawyer readership.

I first want to thank Susan Feder for her service as our outgoing 2020 MCBA president. She started 2020 full of optimism about informal networking and fun at our membership meetings and mixers. But after just one general membership meeting, we found ourselves in a changed world of shelter-in-place orders, closed courthouses, and virtually no opportunities for our membership to meet or socialize. With the tireless assistance of Mee Mee Wong, our outstanding executive director, Sue quickly pivoted. She presided over many Zoom membership meetings, section MCLE events, conversations with our local judiciary, and important discussions about inclusiveness and racism in our legal community. Sue always led these meetings and our board meetings with warmth, grace, and humor. I hope that everyone reading this message will join with me in personally thanking Sue for her exemplary service and leadership.

Now I take up the mantle of MCBA president for 2021 with great pride and humility. I am taking on this office with pride because I am mindful that it represents a vote of confidence from my fellow MCBA board members, whom I greatly respect. I am also mindful of the caliber of the eighty-five Marin County attorneys who have held this office before me. They include respected judges like Verna Adams, Beth Jordan, and Richard Breiner and respected leaders in our community, like this year’s lifetime achievement award recipient Gary Ragghianti. I am humbled to be in their company. I am mindful of the hard work that they and so many have put into building this bar association into what it is today. I am also mindful of the difficulty of the work ahead for the bar association, not just in the coming year but the coming decades. I want to do my part to keep this community strong at a time of crossroads in our local and national history.

At the end of December, like many others, I had great hopes for a better 2021 after a very tough year. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines and the tumultuous presidential elections behind us, it seemed that we could see "the light at the end of the tunnel." Unfortunately, the first week of 2021 has reminded us that "the night is sometimes darkest before the dawn." As much as I am shaken by the events of the past week, I still hope that the horrific imagery of an angry mob attacking the Capitol of the United States of America has more to say about the last four years and the past pandemic year than about the new year and the new decade that we are starting. However, I believe that nothing is predetermined, and that in both the big and small senses of our shared national history and our own personal journeys, the future will be what we make of it.

Here, amongst our group of Marin County lawyers, I believe that we should be mindful of the privileges that we enjoy. As Sue said in one of her president’s messages, the global pandemic has shown that while we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. As legal professionals, we have enjoyed the opportunity to continue to work from home or from the relative safety of our offices. The need for legal services has been great, and I expect that most of us have continued to enjoy well-paying work and/or continued public employment. In contrast, other Marin residents have struggled to provide “essential services” in stores, at construction sites, in customer service and making home deliveries. These essential workers have worked long hours for little pay and exposed themselves day in and day out to the coronavirus. Many others in our community have unfortunately lost their jobs. Those of us with small-business and restaurant clients know well how tough the past year has been. The December employment numbers and COVID infection rates suggest that the worst is yet to come. As MCBA president this year, I want to challenge all of us to meet the moment and do more both individually and as a legal community to help those in greater need both in Marin and beyond.

I also believe that we can do more if we remain a strong and collegial community. The Marin bar is blessed to be a small enough community that the values of collegiality and mutual respect still survive and thrive at a time when so much of our culture feels full of rage. We all need to do what we can to maintain our civic values while we welcome new members and strive to be a place where anyone—regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, politics, class, background, or religion—can feel welcome, and be heard and respected. The task of fostering local community is hard when so many social forces and media drive us towards specialization, narrowcasting, and polarization. It is even harder when the pandemic precludes the kind of informal socializing at restaurants, on the street, in the halls of the courthouse, and at our membership meetings, that can build camaraderie, good feeling, and trust. As bar president this year, I want to do what I can to keep our membership virtually but still vitally engaged through MCLE and general education opportunities. And, as soon as it possible, I can’t wait to be able to help host gatherings where we can all meet together again. I can’t wait to raise a glass of wine or soda and share a laugh with colleagues in person.

In the meantime, we will continue to work hard to offer compelling virtual programming for our membership. Here are some of our upcoming events:

Coming up on January 27, we will be hosting as our first general membership meeting a talk entitled “The News About the News” with Spencer Michels of the PBS Newshour. Mr. Michels will discuss the fragmentation of our public sphere and the universes of alternate facts that has taken the place of “objective” journalism. There will be time for questions and discussion of this important and timely subject.

On January 28, MCBA will co-host a fun, virtual “escape room” event underwritten by Judicate West. Teams of attorney sleuths will try to outwit their colleagues and claim title to “escaping the room” first. There is limited capacity for this fun event. Registration is free but we encourage everyone who registers to donate as a way of kicking off our 2021 MCBA scholarship fundraising campaign. In this time of great need in our community, we want to beat our past goals and raise at least $20,000 for the MCBA scholarship fund to be able to provide much-needed scholarships to deserving law school students.

And last but not least, on February 11, our scholarship drive with culminate with our 2021 Installation Celebration. Obviously, the pandemic will prevent us from holding our usual gala dinner. Instead, we will host a shorter, free, on-the-early-side-of-the-evening Zoom event to celebrate and appreciate our bar leadership, swear in the new officers and board, recognize our past scholarship recipients, and celebrate this year’s recipients: Samantha Cox-Parra, Jorge Lopez Espindola and returning scholar Samantha Zurcher. The event will provide the opportunity to meet the 2021 board of directors. Our directors are truly a wonderful group of people from many different parts of our local legal community who share a common interest in seeing our bar association succeed. During our scholarship fundraising drive that culminates at the Installation Celebration, we encourage all of you to take advantage of our free admission this year and donate your savings to support future leaders through the MCBA scholarship program.

If you’ve read this Message all the way to the end, I expect that you are as committed to the success of this organization as the rest of the board and I are! Please share your ideas with me on how to provide value to our members and keep our local bar association meaningful, inclusive, and relevant in 2021 and beyond. Or just send a note to let me know you are out there.