If this column were a board meeting, you might consider this one a point of personal privilege.
For this last year, I have had the honor of serving as the elected president of the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE). This is the association for staff from all bar associations, large and small, from around the nation, and increasingly for those in other countries as well. NABE focuses on providing continuing education, networking, and other knowledge-sharing opportunities for its members.
My duties as president were pretty much what you would expect: leading board meetings and member business meetings, appointing people to committees and working with committees on issues affecting NABE, representing NABE within the American Bar Association, and the like. In other words, rolling the rock a little farther up the hill, much like the president of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
By most accounts, it was a pretty good year. We nearly completed NABE’s next strategic plan, with my successor to add the final touches. The task force developing NABE’s 75th-anniversary celebration is well into its work, a new webinar series was launched, and the committee responsible for developing the annual and mid-year programs experimented with new learning methods. Most of this, of course, had little to do with me but was the result of a delightful and hard-working board of directors and volunteer committee members who shouldered the burden.
NABE focuses on providing continuing education, networking, and other knowledgesharing opportunities for its members – staff from bar associations.
What I learned, however, was fascinating. I learned to be staffed. For a person who, like other State Bar staff, has spent the last 30 years working with and supporting our elected officers and key leaders, it was a bit unsettling at first to be staffed myself. Phrases like, “here is your script for the annual meeting,” or “you need to be done here by 4:30 because you have to be at the reception no later than 5,” and “here is a list of the people you need to recognize at the break,” were all words that had come from my lips in the past, but now were directed at me. It was, truth be told, kind of weird.
Now it is over. And there are many people to thank. Our three State Bar presidents, President Bob Gagan, President-elect Ralph Cagle, and Immediate Past President Pat Fiedler, have been extraordinarily supportive of my time commitments this year. Thank you. And thank you to my State Bar staff colleagues. I am out of the office a lot in an ordinary year doing State Bar work. This year I was out even more, and you did great. I also thank the folks of the ABA Division of Bar Services who provide the staffing for NABE, most especially Pamela Robinson, who is our staff director, and her boss Roseanne Lucianek. Some days I’m sure you felt like you were juggling bowling balls, but know that you were instrumental in this year’s successes, just as you are every year.
The final thing I learned is what every State Bar president I have known has said, but which I did not fully understand until now. Being past president is the greatest volunteer job in the world.