Finding Opportunity in Adversity
August 2009 President's Message
Patrick E. Kelly
I recently attended a public forum sponsored by the Community Building Initiative (CBI) which focused on the impact of the economic downturn on Charlotte - Mecklenburg and what can be done to lessen the impact. Many participants were representatives of non-profit agencies such as Crisis Assistance Ministries. Others represented government agencies. Still others represented concerned citizens at all levels of the economic spectrum. The one common denominator among all the disparate groups represented was that each was being forced by the economy to do more with less. Despite the grim statistics-double digit unemployment, funding slashed, donations down and savings evaporated-there was little hand wringing. Rather, the conversation focused on dealing with the reality of the dismal economic situation by taking advantage of it.
Taking advantage of an economic recession? Seems counter-intuitive. However, each of us, both as individuals and as members of the legal community, can and should use the recession as an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities and make adjustments and improvements in our personal and professional lives. In short, to find opportunity in adversity. As one wise philosopher once said, "The difficulties of life are intended to make us better, not bitter."
The Mecklenburg County Bar (MCB) and our members have not been immune from the vagaries of the economy. Law firm revenues are down. Lawyers are being laid off. Individual savings and investments have evaporated. Although MCB as an organization has been less impacted by the recession than most, there are many things the Bar has done and must continue to do to turn adversity into opportunity. These include re-examining the Bars core mission, goals and priorities and making adjustments as needed, improving management structures and systems, eliminating or scaling back non-essential functions and, if appropriate, re-directing resources into services and programs to better serve members.
Here are a few examples of what MCB has done or is doing to make itself more effective and more relevant to its members:
1. Improve Management Structure and Techniques. The Bar leadership and staff have reviewed and revised the MCB Bylaws to clarify the roles of the President, Vice President and President-Elect to ensure that key functions, such as oversight of Committees and Sections, are accomplished. The Bar, through the Strategic Planning Committee, is also reviewing its overall organizational structure to see if it maximizes the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.
2. CLE Initiatives. The CLE Committee continues to do what it does best by offering quality, convenient and affordable CLE opportunities. As a result, CLE revenues this year are at record highs, despite the down economy. Part of the reason for this is that the MCB CLE options are more attractive as law firm budgets are tightened. But much of the reason for the success of the CLE program is that the MCB has improved the quality and timeliness of its programs, improved awareness of programs, and made CLE opportunities more convenient and accessible. Last month the recently reconstituted
Professionalism and Lawyer Life Resources and Culture Committee (PLLC) sponsored a timely program entitled "Hard Times Surviving and Thriving in the Economic Recession." This month psychologist Michael Hall, Phd will complete a three part series on dealing with job loss entitled "Who Moved my Job?" These and other CLE programs create a win-win situation for the MCB and its members by giving the members what they need while providing revenues to fund the MCB operations.
3. Improve Service to Members. The MCB is continuing to look for ways to better serve its more than 4200 members. Recently, the Bar initiated an informal peer networking event called "Coffee Connections." Two such events have been well received with more planned. The Bar has also created a "Career Corner" on its website to provide help for attorneys in transition. The Career Corner offers a wealth of helpful information on resume writing, opening a law practice, and other tips for dealing with personal, professional and economic challenges. Te website also gives members the opportunity to connect with potential clients by signing up to participate in our ABA-approved Lawyer Referral Service. Check out our website at www.meckbar.org.
Let us know what else the MCB can do to serve the needs of our members during these difficult times. Help yourself and the Bar to find opportunity in adversity by giving us your thoughts and feedback.You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nancy Roberson, Bar Executive Director, at email@example.com.