What will we look like in 2024?

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I remember that as a child I could not wait to grow up. Do you remember that feeling as a kid? “Why does life seem so slow?” “I feel as though I have been 11 forever, will I ever turn 12?” Ah’, those were the days. Now fast forward and our response sounds more  like: “No, it can’t possibly be my birthday already, I just had it…”. What we learn as we age is that life is moving faster than ever before.

I was reminded of this “aging reality” this past weekend while in attendance at a bar meeting, Conference of Metro Bar Associations (COMBA). I have written about COMBA before, but as a refresher, this particular conference is a favorite of both bar executives and presidents because it is small, and the attendees are all from local bars with anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 members.

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Our keynote speaker was Mary Byers, author of several books about associations, Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations and Road to Relevance. I have read both of these books, along with many others, about the evolution underway for associations, and from each I receive insightful and thoughtful information to ponder throughout my days and nights. One of the themes that is running through all these books is that change is coming — we cannot deny it or stop it. So the question becomes, what do we do?

Mary challenged us to consider not what we are doing in 2014, but instead to be thinking about 2024, ten years out. Though I agree with Mary that we need to be looking 10 years out, I also believe we need to be looking 1, 3 and 5 years out.

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One of the other realities of bar association life is that we are creatures of habit. Our cultures are about retaining programs that we have managed forever simply because they have been around forever, with no thought or reflection about what impact we may be having in present day. How many members are utilizing these programs or services? Are the programs and services relevant? Are we creating impact? If associations are not moving to make change, but instead are locked in a time mode of doing everything like we have always done, Mary describes this as “association fear factor.” Association fear factor is when our failure to act on sun-setting a program or service is due to fear of offending a bar president or committee or section even though the program is no longer relevant.

Mary’s caution was that our associations will be evolving in the years to come and her challenge to us was, how will we respond to this evolution?

We will be facing a shift in these generational members in the coming years. For the MCBA, our largest population of members is in the Baby-Boomer group. Over the next 5-10 years, a large portion of this group will be looking to retire.

Some of the questions Mary has me asking about the MCBA:

What will we look like in 5 years? In 10 years?

Will our membership decline? If so, by how much?

What will our members want and expect from the MCBA?

What types of programs and services will members wants?

Will value-added programs for members outweigh programs for community?

Will the traditional dues model continue to exist or will the model evolve more into “menu type” model of fee for service?

Do we continue to support large committee and section infrastructures or do we develop “strike force teams” to assume a specific charge, do their work and get out, thus, relieving members of unnecessary meetings and giving them back the gift of time?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do believe this is a dialogue we should be encouraging at the Board level and at the Committee and Section levels. What do you think? Should we be talking about it? Are you interested in perhaps joining a small group to talk about the possible evolution of this association? If so, please send me a quick email at mloewenguth@mcba.org and let’s see what might transpire.

There were several “walk aways” for me. I heard many of my fellow conference go-ers speak about their challenges with young lawyers that are not engaged with the Association. This is not a challenge for us at the MCBA. We have a 20% participation rate from our young lawyers. Their section is vibrant and engaged in both educational programming as well as community service. They are seeking leadership opportunities, and once there, delivering on them. So I caution those of you that do not believe the young lawyers are engaged with the Association. The “Momma Bear” in me will come out in a very protective way to correct this misunderstanding.

YLS Group

Happy Fall! Thanks for checking in,


Is it Friday yet?

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This week will end up a “5 nighter”. I am exhausted, and its only Thursday morning. I returned home last night about 9:40 pm from the Young Lawyers Section Boat Cruise. It was a great night on the River surrounded by youthful energy. Once home, I was asleep within 20 minutes and never moved till 4:30 this morning. For a fleeting moment I thought I could get up and go to the gym…nah’. Rolled over, pulled the blankets up and snuggled in for 90 more minutes before I had to get ready for my 8:00 am meeting with MCBA and Foundation leadership.

YLS Group

Then…DARN IT…my eyes popped open when I realized that  Dajaneé Parrish, our Communications Coordinator, will be looking for my Thursday blog. UGH!! No extra 90 minutes of sleep today. I dragged myself out of bed, down to make a very strong pot of coffee, seated in my chair and writing. I hope you are not reading this and scolding me for procrastinating on this blog. I actually had the theme of it outlined on Monday, but have not had time to get to it.

Geez, I am so whining right now. I am sorry;I don’t mean to. In fact, if you know me, you know I love this part of the job. I love talking with you about your work, your challenges, your life. In the end, I enjoy this life.

Here is the week so far:

Monday — we had the 21st Annual Lawyers for Learning Golf Tournament. A great day with about 84 golfers all committed to helping the kids at School #29. The day ends with a dinner and awards. LFL Chair Amanda Dwyer did a great job rallying her Golf Committee and ensuring a perfect golf day. It was a perfect 75 degrees!

Amanda Golf

Tuesday — I attended the members only reception GRAWA held for Federal Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford. It was a great evening as we celebrated Judge Wolford. GRAWA President Tiffany Lee hosted a lovely event for her members.  (I am a proud card-carrying GRAWA member, thanks to their invitation.) It was nice to meet and greet so many of the wonderful GRAWA members. MCBA President Steve Modica, and GRAWA member, was also in attendance spreading his own good wishes.

Wednesday — I joined our beloved Young Lawyers Section as they cruised the Genesee River on one of our great river boats. Organized by Mike Geraci and Kurt Odenbach, under the leadership of YLS President, Jennifer Lunsford. It is always fun to be with this group of young attorneys. Some of them are brand new, or within a year or two new, while others are 5+ years. As we talked last night, some are now 10+ years and wanting to talk about the long discussed creation of a “Tween Section”.

YLS Harbor Town Belle Crusie

Thursday — I am joining John and Mary Crowe, their family, and a few close friends as we celebrate his retirement and his extraordinary career. I am honored to have been on the invite list to celebrate John’s retirement from the practice of law. John may be retiring from the practice, but what John will never be allowed to retire from is his ability to mentor young attorneys on how to be a better lawyer.

Friday — It is not usual that there is a Friday night commitment, but in this case, I can never say no to Elaine Cole. As you may know, Elaine is our President-Elect of the Foundation of the Monroe County Bar, and one member I can never say “no” to. If Elaine had the chance to respond to this allegation she would also tell you, she can never say no to me. So it is mutual, we cannot say no to each other. Elaine called to tell me that she is meeting on Friday after work at the Flight Wine Bar with some folks about the pre-planning for Jazz For Justice 2015. She said I was invited, but not required to attend. Of course I am going. I love Jazz For Justice and Friday night with wine with a few good friends will be fun even if in a planning mode.

JFJ 2014 Blog

It is now 6:30 AM, and I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I need more coffee. I am confident the shower will get me moving again. After the 8:00 am the rest of the day is like the week, many, many meetings. A meeting with one of my managers, followed by a meeting with one of the out of town boss’s of one of our underwriters, followed by a Membership Committee meeting, and then a staff meeting.

The common denominator at so many of these meetings and events is so many of you — our dedicated MCBA members. Yesterday Jeff Harradine, Diversity Committee Chair, was here for a conference call on our Diversity Program, and had about an hour before he was heading downstairs to attend the Ethics & Social Media in Commercial Cases CLE in the Rubin Center. He asked if he could hang out in the Board Room to catch up on some lawyer work before heading down. We said “of course” and encouraged him to look through the fridge (since he had not had lunch) for anything that looked good. Jeff is a great example of a hard working bar leader wearing many hats for not only the MCBA, but also for NYSBA. Like so many of you, being a good bar leader is in Jeff’s DNA.


My 82 year old mom, Joan, attempts to talk with me each day if only for a few minutes. Some days she reaches me via cell, and when she does not hear back, she will call Diane Hill at the front desk to confirm that I am still alive because it has been all of 48 hours. After all these years, she continues to ask, “what are you all constantly meeting about?” And, “What are you all celebrating this week?” Difficult to explain.

I attempt to explain to Joanie that we have very, very dedicated lawyers in Rochester. Best in the country. Having been a receptionist at the old Nixon Hargrave firm more than 60 years ago, mom responds to me with, “I know how busy lawyers are, remember, my law firm was Nixon Hargrave where I worked for Mr. T. Carl Nixon…he was always very busy.”

So, now sitting in T. Carl’s old office, I wonder what he would say about the business of lawyering now.  Are we busier now than before? Are we spending the time in the right places? Are lawyers the same? How has the practice of law changed? How have bar associations changed? Probably safe to say — it has all changed. But one thing that I am pretty confident that has not changed and that is attorneys commitments to their clients.

Happy Friday-Eve. I do look forward to Saturday morning :)

Thanks for checking in,


Renewed energy…

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As summer was coming to a close some weeks ago, I realized that I had not taken a full week’s vacation yet this summer. I had 2 days in New York City in early summer, and two days with Claire in Boston tacked on to the ABA meeting. But not a single week along the way. So several weeks ago I decided to take the last week of August going into Labor Day for some downtime. With no travel plans, I decided I was going to enjoy a “stay-cation” at home. It was lovely and I recommend everyone try it. I had a long list of projects I was going to attempt — some gardening (which really translates to weeding in my yard), painting my front door, repainting the window in my bathroom, taking a drive into the country for some antiquing, etc. But we all know how that goes!

Mary's Porch

This is actually how the week played out. The mornings began early, because I have never been a late sleeper, on the porch with coffee. Several mornings I actually was able to watch the sunrise which made it even better. Around 7, I would sign on and check email from the day before, and try to be off again by the time the office was open. I know, we are not supposed to work on vacation, but we had quite a bit underway, and honestly, it helped me avoid the email glut upon my return.

The rest of the day was spent at the gym, running a few errands, reading, napping, and once the friends found out I was home, hosting a few happy hours and dinners on the porch as well. It was great but as you can see from above, not really the plan I had laid out. That was fine because I really enjoyed it. By Monday of Labor Day night, I was really ready to head back to the MCBA and looking forward to seeing everyone.

My first meeting of the day was also a great way to return. The Solo & Small Firm Committee, chaired by the very dedicated and creative Brad Kammholz, of Kammholz Messina, LLP. The Nixon Board Room was packed.

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Brad opened the meeting with introductions, and asked the 25+ people in the room to go around the room and share their name, where they work, and in the event someone has a referral to send, what would be their ideal case?

There was a lot of laughter throughout the meeting, but the best laugh came when Deborah Field, MCBA Trustee Liaison to the Committee, stated that she would take any case that you were going to refer to Brad.  The group found this exercise extremely valuable, and it was agreed that we would create a roster with this information in order that committee members would be able to refer to this resource when necessary. This is an example of a value-added member benefit — direct referrals. But in order to participate, you need to sign up with the Solo & Small Committee.

Brad then steered the dialogue to discussion around his proposed goals for the committee.

Goal #1 — How do we grow and develop our client base?

Second #2 — What practice management issues do you need assistance with?

On Goal #1, the discussion was about the philosophy behind referrals to colleagues. Do attorneys have “short lists” that they refer to based on reputation of work product, friendship, trust, etc.? But how do we build a “longer lists” as a referral source, giving those interested in growing their practice, or young attorneys (hungry for the experience) the opportunity to gain some experience. There was some friendly debate on this point, but my thinking was, with some willing counsel through our Mentor for a Moment Program, it seems to me that this is a great opportunity.

The suggestion was made that we need to improve communication between the various committees and sections, and to be certain that the sections know about the talent that also exists on the Solo & Small Firm Committee.

We then began talking about potential CLE’s. One suggestion made was the potential collaboration between attorneys that do criminal defense and those that handle immigration matters. One attendee stated that this is type of example is very real and more attorneys need to understand all aspects of a immigration matter that involves a potential criminal component.

Also on the table for discussion. What businesses do the members want to do business networking with? There were a number of banks mentioned, and the suggestion was made that we reach out to the banks and brokers to explore networking opportunities. Everyone was reminded that the MCBA BarSTOP’s are also a great place to network with colleagues, friends, and underwriters that attend.

On Goal #2 Brad asked about the types of issues that members were facing in managing their practices. The number #1 issue around the table was technology. This is not the first time I have heard this issue, and I guarantee, this will be for the rest of eternity as technology is changing at warp speed.

So, how do we help in this area? One new step we are taking this fall is by providing some “free” social media training sessions in the Nixon Board Room. Now before you declare you are not interested in social media, I would strongly urge you to read the following short post with a wealth of good information attached to it.


So please plan to join our very talented Dajaneé Parrish in the Nixon Board Room on Friday, September 26 at 12:15 p.m. to learn first hand why LinkedIn is important for attorneys; how to set up your own LinkedIn profile; and best of all, how to utilize it to your advantage. Dajaneé will also be presenting programs on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the coming months. Come and learn! What do you have to lose. Contact Dajaneé at dparrish@mcba.org if you’re interested in attending. It is more fun to learn with a room full of fun people.

Back to the meeting discussion. Other questions asked that Brad assured everyone we would address in this bar year:

How do we help members manage their cases?

What practice management issue bugs us the most?

What are the human resource challenges?

What happens when you go on vacation? Some responded that they just don’t go on vacation. That’s not good!

One of Brad’s suggestions, do we establish an “Angie’s List” type service for the bar members? All agreed a great idea but that some of this is already occurring with the Listserv.

Budgeting and accounting? Billing and collecting?

Retirement planning?

Succession planning? We reminded folks that we have in place a Lawyer Succession Registry. I spoke for a few minutes about the importance of having someone designated in the event you are suddenly unable to practice anymore either from illness or death. The MCBA handles inquiries from the courts, local and out of town attorneys every week. Email Kathy Fico at kfico@mcba.org to learn more about the Registry. You do have a responsibility to your clients and your families not to leave this question unanswered.

It was a great meeting and the energy was just what I needed for my first day back in. I was listening intently to the discussion and to what our solo and small firm attorneys need. I then ask myself: What can the MCBA do to provide more of these types of resources and services to not only our solo and small firms, but to mid and large firm members as well? Government attorneys?

Our membership is diverse and comprised of attorneys of all ages, genders and practice settings. So the question is — how can the MCBA better serve you in this new bar year? I really want to know.

And as I close, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Eileen Buholtz, past Chair, for almost 3 years, to the Solo & Small Firm Committee. Eileen started this party, and worked so very hard at it bringing it to the great success that it is today.

Thanks for checking in and a very BIG thank you for always keeping me energized,



Guest Post by Dajaneé Parrish: Let’s Have Some Fun!

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Summer may be coming to an end, but there is still time to have some fun with the MCBA.

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  •   I’m sure many of you got to golf a bit this summer. So show us your skills at the Lawyers for Learning Thomas & Solomon LLP 21st Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, September 8 at Eagle Vale Golf Course. Tee time is 12:30 p.m. and lunch and dinner are provided. Click here to register or send an email to Liz Novak at lnovak@mcba.org.

YLS Sunset Cruise on the Harbor Town Belle

  •   Join the MCBA Young Lawyers’ Section for a cruise along the Genesee River and Lake Ontario on September 10. Free appetizers and a cash bar, only $10!  Click here to cruise on the Harbor Town Belle or send an email to Ginny LaCour at valacour@mcba.org.
  •   Are you interested in a fun, rewarding experience? Become a Lawyers for Learning mentor. Join a passionate, enthusiastic community of mentors for the 2014 -15 school year.  Click here to learn more.

Bar Stop Promo September 2014 No Local

  •   Join us for MCBA BarSTOP. Our monthly member social on Thursday, September 18. The location has yet to be determined.
  •   Put a smile on a child’s face and help the Lawyers for Learning Program and local law firm LeClairRyan distribute backpacks filled with new school supplies to all the students at School 29  on Thursday, September 4 at 9:30 a.m.  If you interested send an email to Dajaneé Parrish at dparrish@mcba.org.

- Dajaneé


Picking up, cleaning up…and saying goodbye

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It is amazing “the stuff” we all accumulate in our lives in a year’s time. The closets and drawers swell, garages and basements become a little more cluttered, and that’s the way we roll. We are busy, and sometimes just easier to open the kitchen drawer and throw the screwdriver in this random drawer than to walk it back to the basement’s tool box.

We have the same issue at the Monroe County Bar Association. We host hundreds and hundreds of meetings each year, close to 70 CLE’s each year, two dozen events in our MCBA offices each year, and welcome our 2,000 members throughout the year.

And so stuff accumulates here in the MCBA offices. In closets, storage rooms, conference rooms, desk drawers and file cabinets, nooks and crannies, corners and lost spaces. Stuff piles up. For example, Jazz for Justice happened in March of this year, and in the President’s Office, we still had a couple of containers that had to be relocated next door (The Union Trust Building) into our small storage room. We just don’t get to it.

In the midst of cleaning. You should see our workroom now, this photo doesn’t do it justice.
Look at all that garbage. Excuse the blurry photo.
Look at all that garbage. Excuse the blurry photo.

So once a summer we declare one day an office clean up day. Everyone comes dressed in work clothes (jeans) and is ready to roll up their sleeves. Kathy Fico assigns tasks, and in a few hours, we fill large garbage and recycling bins, fill boxes and create piles for the dumpster. At noon, we took a break and came together for a great lunch, and then we were back at it. We also visited the storage space next door and literally removed a ton of old information that no longer qualified for “file it for 7 years”. For that information, we have the shredding service pull up to the curb and we cart it out so we can witness its demise.

Everyone worked really hard — men and women alike. As the end of the day approached, we were all commenting on how much nicer everything looked. We still have some portraits and other wall pieces that need to be restored to their proper walls that were painted some time ago. And with that task done, the new carpet down, the place will be stunning once again.

Ginny cleaned and organized the kitchen.

As lunch concluded, there was a comment that we really should have planned for dessert. Everyone returned to work, and I returned to my office. A few short minutes later, Galina Nazarenko and Louise Spinelli walked in. What I have come to know about Galina that is when the topic is serious, it is evident on her face. On this day, she looked both serious and sad. Galina was coming in to tell me that she is resigning because she and her husband, Ivan, are moving to Los Angeles, California. Ivan is a very specialized kind of engineer, and has just accepted a wonderful new position there. Galina has been with the bar 13 years, just a few months ahead of my arrival. Galina has been our CLE Registrar for many, many years. She has ensured that thousands of you are registered for your CLE programs, and that lunch is on time, as well as your CLE certificates.

We will miss you Galina.
We will miss you Galina.

So once we had our sad, teary moment in my office, it was agreed that we now needed to share the news with the rest of the team, and that in fact, we did need ice cream. Louise offered to go hunt some down, and 20 minutes later, with ice cream in hand, we shared the news about Galina’s next big adventure. This has been her home since she and her family arrived here from Russia in July of 1998. She and Ivan brought their two young children and made a home for their family here. Pretty brave. So now, her next adventure is to move across the country, and to make a new life with Ivan. Sadly, in addition to leaving all of us, the one person in their life that they are very sad about leaving is their 1 year old grandson, Peter. Nothing brightens Galina’s face like the question, “Galina, how is Peter?” To which you will hear, “Oh, he is sooo good!”

Galina with her grandson Peter.
Galina with her grandson Peter.

So the day was bittersweet. We cleaned out things that were taking up space, and serving no purpose anymore. But then we also learned that Galina will be leaving, and this makes us very sad. She made us all promise we would come to visit. And with Peter back here in Rochester, we can be certain we will be seeing more of Galina. The good news is, there are great bar associations throughout the LA area, so when Galina is ready, I will connect her to the bar executives with a letter of support.

Watch for an announcement about a farewell reception for Galina in the month ahead. Please plan to stop in and wish her well.

Thanks for checking in,




To Find the Words…

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Robin Williams

Several days have passed since the world learned the tragic news about the death of the incredibly gifted Robin Williams.

Like so many of us, I grew up watching Mork & Mindy. One of my younger, and annoying brothers, used to love walking around pretending to be Mork. I became a fan of his dozens and dozens of movies as they rolled out over the last few decades. I believe it is safe to say that Robin was one of the most talented and diverse actors in our history. He could make us laugh, cry, feel and wonder. The world wide grieving that is universally heartfelt.

The loss of Robin, like so many whose lives are over way too early, is opening up a dialogue about depression and mental health issues. It is not the first national dialogue, nor will it be the last. The same can be said about the use of drugs, and the many tragedies we hear about as a result of drug addiction. In the case of mental health issues and depression, some critics say it is not real. While many know this is very real, and not a “made up disease.” It is real. It is real in all demographics. It is real at all income levels. It is real in both the white collar population and in the blue collar population. It is real across all professions. And it is very real in the legal profession. Depression does not discriminate.

The problem is, we don’t talk about it. We don’t want to hear about it; we don’t want to see it; we don’t want to admit that we have it or perhaps someone that we love is living with it. I think the bottom line is — we don’t understand it. Perhaps it scares us. Hiding the truth becomes the challenge, while failure is the deep-seeded fear.

MCBA President Steve Modica has already started this conversation. He started with a conversation with Terry Emmens, Chair of the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Committee. Terry and Steve both agree, we need a working solution, but LCFL does not feel equipped to take on the mental health piece, but instead to focus on helping lawyers that are dealing with drug and alcohol issues. We completely understand that position. They are doing great work and we need them to continue to do that work.

For now, we are going to expand this conversation and invite some dialogue with some of the good people at the 4th Department Grievance Committee, as well as with our own Grievance Committee leaders. We are concerned that we have members that may need our assistance, and want to have a discussion about how best to support them.  How do we allow members to feel safe, and not judged by their profession?  How do we recognize the signs and symptoms? How do we reach out to them, provide reassurance and a safe environment that allows them to talk about what is going on in their life? How can we help them, their families, their practice?

Many of my bar colleagues share their stories of attending the funeral of a member that could no longer manage their life, and chose to end it. They report the heartbreak that surges through their legal community as they ask:  “Did you know?” “Why didn’t we know?” “What could we have done better to intervene and to save this life?” This bar community has experienced this kind of loss, but to the best of my knowledge, not in many, many years. I hope we never have to live through that experience again.

There are many programs and things in the bar world that we are reactive to. On this subject of supporting our members on mental health issues, I would love to see us be proactive. Steve is determined to have a solution or some kind of community partnership in place for us to access for assistance expeditiously when necessary. But in the meantime, we need to start talking about this. We need to get comfortable with the subject and recognize it is a disease.

One of my favorite Robin lines is from Dead Poet Society:  “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change this world.”

Help us find our words, share our ideas, and help our friends and colleagues.

Thanks for checking in,










The many faces of learning…

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This afternoon, I am sitting in a room hoping for some new ideas on marketing our CLE programs. I remember when I first came to the MCBA 13 years ago, everything was videotaped with an old camera perched on top of an even older tripod. The tripod was awkwardly positioned in the room, and my biggest fear in those early days is that if it came down on top of someone, we would then have a liability issue.

However, good progress has been made over the years, and for many years now, we have had the camera securely attached to the wall at the back of the room and operated by Louise Spinelli, our CLE Program Manager, from the side of the room.

In those early days, we were also one of the few CLE providers in the city. But now, many of the large and mid-size firms are CLE certified, as are the civil and criminal legal service offices in town. Add to that is the fact that online CLE has been born, and attorneys are able to find CLE wherever they turn, on whatever topic they prefer. They have plenty of options for free, not so free (but cheaper), and for a price.

All that being said, the MCBA continues to be a significant CLE provider in New York State. And from the many surveys we have conducted over the years you have told us that you appreciate the following:

1. The local speakers — you appreciate learning from your local colleauges

2. The location — you appreciate the convenience of The Rubin Center for Education at the Telesca Center for Justice with all of the new technology and furniture making the room more user friendly.

3. The networking opportunity — you appreciate the chance to come to the MCBA to meet your friends and colleagues over a “free lunch” while securing your CLE credit.

In the meantime, CLE is now available 24/7 online, and we are well-positioned to meet that need through our relationships with Thomson Reuters and Peach New Media. Check out the many, many options available to you. And of course, if you still prefer popping a DVD into your TV on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or a CD in your car while you make a long drive, we can accommodate that need as well.

So what is next for CLE and for the MCBA? I think we are in the process of figuring that out. We are interested in working with our local law firms, other key collaborative partners, and other interested groups that want the opportunity to work with the MCBA.

I would like to see us explore other learning modalities. I am a big fan of the “Ted Talk” model, and have enjoyed many Ted lectures since it launched. Not necessarily for CLE, but simply for personal and professional development. We have our ever popular Speakers Forums that everyone always enjoys as well.

What else is out there? How do you like to learn? And how can we help?