by Cory Hohnbaum
One of my favorite quotes since I was a boy was in the forward to the book Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander. As a basketball junkie growing up, I gravitated toward books about the sport. Heaven is a Playground is about the culture of basketball on the playgrounds of New York in the 1970s. I still have my tattered paperback copy. The quote from the forward reads “Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, and money takes wings. The only thing that endures is character.”
I have not given much thought to the notion that organizations have character but of course they do. One of the keys to being an organization of character is living out your goals and priorities. For at least a quarter century, our Bar has had six stated goals. All are spelled out on the Bar’s website. One of those six stated goals is “To assure access to legal services consistent with ethical consideration to all regardless of social, ethnic or economic status."
Our Bar has a long and rich tradition of living up to this goal. Recent and current leaders have certainly “walked the walk” and deserve our thanks. In the spirit of asking whether we can take our Bar to new heights in this area, I have asked five members of our Bar to serve on a recently formed Pro Bono Evaluation Task Force to study this question and make concrete recommendations to guide our Bar for the years ahead.
The Honorable Carla Archie, George Hanna, Adam Horner, Becky Lindahl and Ray Owens have all graciously agreed to serve in this capacity. The careers of each of these lawyers have been marked by a deep and abiding commitment to ensuring access to justice for everyone. Their collective résumé of service in this area would take up this entire column and much more. I am confident we will benefit from their collective experience and judgment, and I welcome a detailed and focused analysis of what we are doing well and those areas where we can improve.
One of the first steps of the Task Force is to organize and host a summit of Bar leaders and the leaders of our local legal aid organizations. The focus of this meeting will be to learn more about how these groups serve our community, how we can better assist them in carrying out their work and identifying and prioritizing areas where we can provide legal services directly to those in need.
This Task Force is part of a larger effort to create a three-year strategic plan for our Bar. We went through this important work several years ago and it is time for a fresh look. The hard work of developing a strategic plan helps to build consensus and clarity about the Bar’s work, mission, values and goals. Our Bar and community are constantly changing and it is important to have a compass pointing the way forward.
I am thankful and encouraged by all the great work being done by the volunteers and staff of the Bar. I am particularly excited about the work of the Task Force. If you have any thought on the work of that group or the strategic planning process we welcome your input.