Speech: CBA Mid-winter February 2013

JANET FUHRER’S REMARKS FOR CBA NATIONAL COUNCIL

FEBRUARY 17, 2013, MONT TREMBLANT, QC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj4TrZwNc1w&feature=share&list=UUQUtK9j3PVm4myh4PHEp-2g

Good morning colleagues and friends. I am honoured to speak with you today about our Canadian Bar Association. Bon matin. J’ai le privilège de prendre la parole avec vous concernant notre Association du barreau canadien.

The CBA understands the need to innovate and the vital role that we play in supporting our members in today’s globalized, competitive, market-driven economy. We understand the individual challenges faced by our members and offer services designed to meet their needs. Mais faisons-nous assez? As a member association, we need to ask ourselves, are we doing everything we can for you the member, in terms of practice fulfillment, competence and your ability to earn a livelihood? What can we do better to ensure a well functioning, fully representative CBA within available resources? As President, these are the questions I will address.

 

The interaction with constituencies – Branches, Sections, Conferences, CCCA – is an ongoing dialogue. We need to make the meetings we have more effective. Inclusive advance preparation is essential to encourage thoughtful discussion. As President, I would commit to: 1) everyone present being heard to build consensus on difficult issues; 2) minutes being completed and circulated within days of a meeting when memories are still fresh so action items can be undertaken sooner; 3) timely follow up with support given where needed; and 4) having everyone feel that they are part of the team. I have chaired our firm’s partnership meetings for several years and sat on our firm’s Executive committee twice. From Board and Committee meetings to partnership meetings, these techniques and others allow everyone to know they are contributing to the important work of the organization and getting it done. Plus nous incluons les autres, plus nous renforçons notre ABC.

 

Recognition of outstanding achievements and contributions is key to member engagement and volunteer succession. I enjoyed travelling across Canada and visiting the Branches. Reflecting on my experiences, I was struck by the variety of awards and the calibre of recipients. From the legal aid champion in BC to the Manitoba author on the right to food, to a young-ish lawyer in Nova Scotia dedicated to the rights of individuals with disabilities and to a new grandmother in the Northwest Territories recognized for her team spirit. These talented, hardworking people and so many more, make me proud to be a lawyer and member of the CBA and inspire me to do more. Je suis fier d’être une avocate et un membre de l’ABC et je me suis inspiré de faire plus.

 

Being President is a big job and about more than any one individual. Your President must guide and work with the tremendous team of volunteers and staff. Nul doute que ceux d’entre nous qui travaillent bénévolement pour l’ABC savent bien que nos contributions servent à relever les défis. En qualité de présidente, mon devoir serait de garantir que les compétences et les points forts de chaque personne sont harmonisés avec les buts de l’ABC énoncés dans notre nouveau plan stratégique.

 

I am excited with our new, nimble strategic plan. I am pleased to have contributed to the final plan adopted by Council through the incorporated suggestions made on behalf of the Professional Development Committee. For our strategic plan to work, the President’s goals must be linked to and support the plan in service to you the members. Les buts de la présidente doivent aller dans le même sens que le plan stratégique au service des membres. During my three-year term as Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for the Ontario Bar Association, I worked closely with the senior OBA management team to ensure that the strategic plan was a dynamic tool for guiding the Branch forward. As President, I would recognize when to put more effort or resources into attaining specific strategic objectives.

 

Your President must have a bird’s eye view of the moving parts of the organization to coordinate national efforts and to be an effective national voice. Our constituencies, our standing and special committees are doing amazing work, including the Future of Legal Practice project, the Envisioning Equal Justice initiative, the online Measuring Diversity in Law Firms Guide, the establishment of a Children’s Law Committee by the National Sections Council, the weneedlegalaid.com and REAL initiatives of the CBABC, the Smaller Communities project of the Alberta Branch, advocacy by the OBA to save and reform articling, a rejuvenated and thriving CCCA and too many more to mention. I want each part to know what others are doing and for all to feel proud of their work.

 

I have no doubt that everyone in this room, as a CBA member, is committed to diversity, increased membership, stellar professional development, effective advocacy, improved laws and administration of justice, and independence of the bar and judiciary. But as a member association, our focus must be first and foremost you, the members. Practice fulfillment, competence, livelihood will be priorities for me with every project we undertake. It is your new or renewed membership, your interest in belonging and volunteering, which are needed for the important work of the CBA to be done.

 

That work must include change leadership as the profession faces profound shifts and challenges. Globalization, commoditization, project management, alternative fee arrangements and social media, all are aspects of the changing landscape of legal practice. I am committed to using new technologies to improve service delivery to our members. I have come to recognize the value and reach of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as effective communication tools. As your President, I would commit to my own President’s blog as a way to reach as many members as possible, including law students who live and breathe social media and the latest technology.

 

I also would work to establish a national mentoring committee. Based on various mentoring relationships throughout the years, I have come to recognize that mentoring can be useful in many situations beyond the traditional, in person, senior/junior model.

 

In the end, for me, it’s not about what the Canadian Bar Association can do for me but what I can do for you, the members and the CBA.

 

I want to thank Paul Sweeny for running too. This campaign has been so invigorating and beneficial to the vibrancy of the CBA. I am confident and optimistic about our future and look forward to shaping it with and for you the members comme votre présidente/as your President.

 

Merci beaucoup/thank you!