by Tricia M. Derr
As my term as President draws to an end, I often wonder if I’ve made any real difference. Over the past year, I invested many hours writing articles, discussing unintended consequences and repairing working bridges. Between being a mom, a lawyer and officer of the Bar, I often feel too spread out to be effective in any one area. However, when I take a step back and review the year as a whole, as a collective bar organization, we made substantial progress. The biggest project has been planning and development of the new Bar & Foundation Center. Despite a few hiccups now and then, it is coming along beautifully with an anticipated building completion in October of this year! We have developed and refined our pro bono programs. We provided educational and occupational opportunities for diverse attorneys and leadership training for our future officers and board members. We built informative programs and conferences for those who are interested in the practice of law. We created CLE opportunities to address topics that appeal to a panoply of practice settings. The MCB does so much more than most of us ever appreciate.
Turning back to my original question, have I made any real difference? If I’m being honest with myself (and you), the unfortunate answer is “probably not.” Maybe that sounds ineffective and harsh, but it is just true. Like all of our past presidents and board members (and perhaps, like each of you), I am dispensable.
As lawyers, we all know the feeling of “success;” and correspondingly, the feeling of “failure.” We thrive on defining “wins” and “losses.” We ask “what difference did I make?” when we should be asking “what difference did we make?” Individually, we are dispensable and replaceable. It is the support and unity of our organization, sections, committees and programs that make the difference. It is the cumulative individual commitment that creates indispensability.
One of the most indispensable leaders of our profession, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor often spoke about the paradox of indispensability. Even Justice O’Connor, having been the first woman on the Supreme Court, considered herself replaceable. She often recited a poem entitled “There Is No Indispensable Man” that illustrates the fallacy of self-importance in the context of the world around us. I find it quite fitting for my last article:
There Is No Indispensable Man
Saxon N. White Kessinger, Copyright 1959
Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego's in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You're the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining
Is a measure of how you will be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you'll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There's no indispensable man.
All the best,