On behalf of MCBA’s board of directors and staff, I would like to thank everyone who came to the installation reception. Over 100 people attended our first in-person event since last July’s summer BBQ and only our second since the pandemic began. It was at once strange and utterly normal to see so many friends and colleagues and be able to talk with a whole person instead of a tiny black square or at best a talking head. One advantage of having to postpone the event until March was daylight saving time: the new Jonas Center venue sits among woods but was filled with light and the outdoor space allowed us to mingle more like it was summer.

While the ostensible purpose of the event is to swear in MCBA’s new board and officers, we designed it primarily to give all of you a chance to reconnect and simply visit and have a good time. Word on the street is we were successful. I would also like to thank Judge Talamantes for swearing in me and the rest of the board and for his warm welcoming remarks that conveyed the joy of getting together again. And a thank-you to all of our judges—the entire Marin Bench attended (except for Judge Chou, who was out of town). Everyone did their part to keep our brief program moving briskly. Thank-yous to Ann Munene, who introduced our dazzling scholarship recipients; to the recipients, who gave us insight into where they’ve come from and where they’d like to go in just three minutes each; to Tim Nardell and Karthik Raju and our many donors for another successful scholarship drive; and of course, to Mee Mee and Denise for creating such a fun event.

As my boyfriend and I were driving home, I felt a little strange. I was enjoying the warmth of reconnecting and the great energy of the event but I felt a little drained too. It felt like being social not only took more energy than usual but was a little surreal after doing virtually everything from a room at home—down to appearing in court—for the last two years. Despite the fact that I teach (and not just meditation but actual academic classes), I’m a serious introvert. Many of you are not and many of you have been out and about more than I but I think a lot of folks will take some time to readjust.

I will not say readjust to a post-pandemic world, because we are not post-pandemic. I am carefully eyeing the statistics on the BA.2 variant of omicron and hoping it does not throw yet another curve ball into plans, but whether it’s this variant or another, we are assured that some curveballs will be coming. BA.2 is significantly more contagious than the already highly transmissible omicron. We are lucky that it has not evolved to also be much deadlier, but we can’t rule out the possibility some other variant will. With so much we still don’t know and so many unvaccinated and uninfected people in the world as potential laboratories, we simply do not yet know what’s going to happen.

Many people, myself included, do not want a post-pandemic world to look exactly like a pre-pandemic world. The convenience of remote appearances is attractive, not to mention an enormous benefit for the planet. But even an introvert like me doesn’t want to sit at home all the time—Tim (my boyfriend) commented the other day that there is literally an indentation on the couch now! And while I’ve actually had some lovely conversations over Zoom, once more than a few people are involved, it’s not a medium conducive to connecting. And I miss the random encounters and new introductions of in-person events. What to do?

For the near-term, MCBA will hold most CLE events, from section meetings to general membership meetings, over Zoom. We will hold social events in-person as long as it is safe. We have a fun Barristers' in-person Spring Section Mixer for all of MCBA's section members on May 19. And our May membership meeting will be an in-person supervisor candidates' forum on May 18.

Over the longer-term, we will continue to navigate the proper balance of remote and in-person activities. One challenge is how to incorporate the benefits of remote participation into in-person events when feasible. As most of you know, Marin has a limited number of venues for large events. Even when not incorporating pandemic protocols, they have their challenges. How soon will these spaces incorporate the necessary technology to allow participants to view a speaker from home and allow others to attend in person? It’s not that difficult—between delta and omicron, I gave a talk at Vivalon (the former Whistlestop) that had both in-person and remote attendees. But I’m not sure that all of our Marin venues have made that a seamless experience yet. And hybrid events also present economic challenges. Attendees at home do not want to pay the same fee as someone having lunch but we may be unable to meet a venue's minimum requirement with just the in-person attendees.

At the installation reception, I mentioned that I would like 2022 to be about “engagement.” There are many varieties of engagement and one is among ourselves. That is more challenging than it used to be. Not everyone is ready to attend large events, or even small ones in some cases. And as I alluded to above, a lot of us have some inertia about getting back out there. MCBA is endeavoring to enable everyone to participate as much as possible. We will be guided by science, safety, and what you want. On the latter front, I encourage you to engage with me or any board member—tell us what you’d like to see. And that holds not just for events but all aspects of membership. I am always eager to hear what you would like MCBA to do—or not do—so that we are providing the greatest benefit we can to our members.