When you look back on this past year, what are some things you're especially proud of, in the work the bar has done? In anything the staff internally has done? And in what you personally have accomplished?
Susan McCourt Baltz: I am most proud of the fact that we kept going! We provided educational and networking opportunities, we still pumped money and food into a needy market, we still made valuable connections to do good in the community. We adjusted and still found ways to connect with one another.
Wanda A. Calvin Claiborne: One of the highlights for the Bar Association of Montgomery County has been its serious look at racism. In conjunction with the Bar Foundation of Montgomery County and in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Racial Justice Council was formed to address many issues in the county, throughout the state and the country. Our bar association, our bar foundation, and our council understood that gone are the days of writing letters condemning such acts, and a different, more grassroots approach was needed to address systemic racism. A project was created (the 20 Weeks in 2020 Challenge) where members pledged to actively participate in monthly topics such as allyship and mass incarceration. For four weeks, we would share information for people to read, watch and listen to and then round out the month with a Zoom discussion. This program is now being duplicated by others and continues with monthly or bimonthly programs.
We also began rebranding efforts for both the association and foundation. The first thing done was logos, which was another huge undertaking.
The team has remained busy: Recently, we took a course for every staff member to get our Mental Health First Aid certificate.
Brianna Gohlke-Clausen: My honest answer … I am most proud of getting through it! Perhaps that seems like a low bar (no pun intended), but this past year has been hard, and I think anyone should be proud of making it through, regardless of if they are new to their job or have been in it for 30 years.
More tangibly, our team at the bar is a small staff of 3.5, but I am proud to say we kept everyone employed through the pandemic. This is a huge success and is in large part a shout out to the faithfulness of our board of trustees and their commitment to the organization. I also used the first year to personally meet with over 30 key stakeholders. And as a board and staff team, we undertook a capital campaign, delivered a virtual gala, began a strategic planning process, initiated the rollout of a virtual networking platform for our members, and maintained our normal business operations—because why not take on a few new things in your first year?
Alahna O’Brien: The biggest accomplishment for our association and myself this past year was completing our building project right in the middle of the pandemic: We renovated an old garage into a great new space for our attorneys. We broke ground in February 2020, right before the pandemic. To complete a building project in the middle of the pandemic was crazy—there were so many obstacles in regard to supplies from the builders and getting workers in the building with the state’s COVID guidelines. I had to do everything virtually, from construction meetings, to ordering furniture and designing our new technology systems.
One of the blessings that happened with the pandemic was designing our technology right in the middle of it all. We knew we needed to make changes from the original way we set up our conference rooms: We needed to incorporate better technology with cameras and speakers so our attorneys and committees could feel comfortable coming to meetings whether that would be in person or virtually. I can truly say our office is equipped to broadcast live presentations or have people in the building while others are on Zoom.
Jennifer Otchy: Through the past 18 months, I’m especially proud of the ways our association has pivoted and adapted, leaning into challenges and seizing opportunities. During this time, we rebranded and redesigned our entire website and database. We upgraded our technology, creating new efficiencies for our team and our members. The new DBA website provides members with an entirely new member experience, delivering content they need and want, including a personalized portal with easy access to all their sections, CLEs, publications, and more. We’ve added virtual meeting options through Zoom and invested in technology that allows us to conduct hybrid meetings more effectively.
Our board and leadership remain committed to our members, as everyone in our association is a critical part of its future. Rather than going back to business as normal, we developed a forward strategy, looking for opportunities in the challenges.
Craig Shoup: I am extremely proud of my team. With our limited (three full-time and one part-time) team, we have started a podcast interviewing members of our bar about why they became a lawyer and fun facts about them. In house, we have recorded, edited and produced them for YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and everywhere you get podcasts. We also filmed, edited, and produced an unveiling of several portraits of legal leaders in diversity. The Florida Bar provided the portraits as part of a traveling exhibit, but we produced the video to be the first to unveil.