Article by Tiffany M. Graves 1 2017–2018 CABA PresidentPosted 01/01/2017
I have served on the Board of Directors of the CABA for seven years — two as the President-Elect and President of the Jackson Young Lawyers Association, two as a Director, one as Secretary-Treasurer, one as President-Elect and, finally, this year, as your President. It has been an honor to serve CABA in each capacity and watch our members become increasingly more active and engaged over the years. I want to thank you for trusting me to serve as your President. Your support this year has been incredible.
To say it has been a busy year would be an understatement. While I am proud of all of our programming this year, I am extremely pleased with the response to our “Flash CLEs.” As if the CABA calendar is not already busy enough, we decided to offer three additional CLEs this year as a benefit to our members. It is not lost on the Board how challenging it has become to recruit and retain members. We regularly have discussions about how to increase the value of a CABA membership in order to attract more attorneys from the Metro Area. We can no longer rest on our laurels as the “only game in town;” rather, we have to consider what we are offering and how we are offering it to assure membership growth and sustainability.
We held three “Flash CLEs” this year. We called them “Flash CLEs” because all but one was only an hour. Our idea was to provide an hour of instruction around a substantive area of the law that we would not otherwise cover at a membership meeting. The CLEs were all free to members and held at the Mississippi Bar Center. The first CLE was “Finding Your Niche: Merging Your Passion with Your Law Practice.” It featured a panel of attorneys who have developed successful practices in very specific areas of the law. The second was “Lawyers in Transition: Protecting the Present and Planning for the Future.” Members received extremely helpful advice on how to plan ahead and protect clients’ interest in the event of disability, retirement or death. Finally, the third CLE was “Closing the #Divide: How Young Lawyers Can Transcend Generational Differences as They Transform the Practice of Law.” The members who attended the last CLE were treated to a presentation by Nakimuli Davis-Primer, Chair of the Diversity Committee and the 2018 recipient of CABA’s Outstanding Service Award. Nakimuli has carved out a niche of her own related to the study of generational diversity and the law practice. The CLE was both informative and interactive. Several attorneys who would not necessarily describe themselves as “young” attended and offered their insights on how to navigate the practice as a new or young attorney.
Attendance at the “Flash CLEs” truly surpassed my expectations. When I first brought the idea to the Board, I was not sure how they would receive it, or what I was getting myself into by wanting to plan even more CLEs. However, it was immediately apparent after the first event that we were doing a good thing by offering them. The compliments I have received from many of you about the “Flash CLEs” has only helped to validate that. What I like most about the topics we chose is that they offered something for everyone. The “Finding Your Niche” CLE was attractive to young attorneys as well as our more established members who were thinking about adding a new layer to their practices. The “Lawyers in Transition” CLE saw attendance from a more “seasoned” group of attorneys who were considering or in the process of winding down their practices and wanted to know how best to go about it. We are grateful to Missye Martin, Deputy General Counsel of The Mississippi Bar, and Chip Glaze, Director of the Lawyers and Justice Assistance Program of The Mississippi Bar, for their insights on such an important topic for attorneys, young and old. Finally, the “Closing the #Divide” program brought in our younger members — those who are trying to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of our profession. All of our members matter to us, but it is crucial that our young lawyers know they have a place in CABA. We hope to find even more ways to integrate CLEs like that one to help young attorneys find their way and settle into the practice and the profession as a whole.
As you can see, I am pretty proud of the “Flash CLEs,” but we accomplished many other things this year that have brought me similar joy. We ramped up our presence on social media to better engage those members who routinely turn to Facebook and Twitter for information and insights. Our Women’s Initiative Committee hosted an extremely successful panel event which featured established women attorneys from a variety of practice settings. A long-term goal of mine, we held an all-day “How to Hang Your Shingle” CLE to assist prospective (and existing) solo and small firm practitioners with developing and innovating their practices. I started a similar program when I was the Executive Director/General Counsel at the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, and it has been my hope that CABA would take it up in some way. I am so pleased that we made it happen this year. Finally, we saw an uptick in attendance at our socials (several of which were co-sponsored by other bar associations), “An Evening Honoring the Judiciary,” and membership meetings. We topped 100 at our April membership meeting which featured a roundtable of appellate court judges.
CABA’s successes are a direct reflection of you, our active and involved members. We look to you to serve as speakers, authors, advocates and leaders to uphold the profession of law and protect our system of justice. You never let us down, and I thank you for your continued, and for many, long-standing support.
Before I close, I want to extend special appreciation to the 2017–18 Board of Directors and our Executive Director, Pat Evans. As you know, Pat is retiring after 29 years of serving CABA. It is hard to imagine CABA without Pat, but I am happy to share that we have found someone who we think can slowly begin to fill her shoes. Jane Collins Harkins, an attorney and instructor of accounting at Millsaps, started with CABA on May 1. She has been spending a lot of time with Pat learning the ropes and preparing to take over fully on June 1. I think Jane will do an excellent job for CABA, and I am pleased to have been a part of her selection.
With Pat’s retirement, a new era has dawned, and I am excited about CABA’s future. I leave you in the very capable hands of my successor, Bradley colleague, and friend, Will Manuel. Will has been my right hand, and I know he will do an outstanding job. I will spend my eighth year on the Board as your Past President, a role that I believe I will savor after this one.
Thank you again for allowing me to lead the CABA, the state’s largest and most active voluntary bar association. It has been an experience that I will never forget.