September 02, 2020 A Few Words from the Editor in Chief

The Year in Review

By Dale M. Weppner

As those well-traveled, gray-haired troubadours Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead famously sang all those many years ago, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” With that catchy phrase as a measuring stick, the 2019–2020 bar year has certainly not disappointed. From the shores of Wailea to the unprecedented and tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic to the widespread social unrest erupting across our nation, this year has brought us incredible successes and even more tremendous challenges in the way we associate and practice law, all while trying to balance our professional responsibilities with our commitments to our families, our friends, and our communities.

The TIPS year started off with a “hit” (pun intended) as we convened the first-ever TIPS cannabis conference in Chicago, From Regs to Riches: Navigating the Rapidly Emerging Fields of Cannabis & Hemp Law, which focused on the growing legal issues surrounding the production, sale, and use of approved marijuana cultivation. One look at this edition of The Brief’s cover, and it is readily evident that many of the participants from that conference contributed content to this mini-themed cannabis issue. We hope you enjoy the uniqueness of this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

From there, we jetted off to the exquisite Grand Wailea Resort & Spa in Wailea, Hawaii, for the Fall Leadership Meeting, where we were mesmerized by our surroundings and taught by Michele Powers (also featured in this issue of The Brief) to choose and prioritize joy in our lives. Michele’s message of inclusion and belonging is even more poignant now as many of us come to grips with working from home, social distancing, and self-imposed isolation to combat the spread of the virus, as well as the social justice movement sweeping our cities and towns. The conference concluded with a traditional Hawaiian luau, complete with fire dancers, as the sun dropped magnificently over the Pacific Ocean. That all seems so long ago right now.

We all last met in person at the ABA Midyear Meeting in beautiful and eclectic Austin, Texas. While the prospect of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching our shores was squarely staring us in the face at that time, I don’t think anyone could have envisioned when we left Austin that we would soon be closing down our workplaces, schools, and businesses; donning masks in public places; and avoiding groups while social distancing from our friends, families, and coworkers.

A little closer to “home,” it was certainly a busy year for The Brief. At the outset, we embarked on a long-overdue redesign of TIPS’s flagship publication in order to modernize the look and feel of the magazine and better highlight the content while making it easier to navigate. The editorial board and ABA publications staff are very proud of the results and hope our readers find it equally gratifying.

As frequent readers of this column will recall, during the Fall Leadership Meeting, we were informed that our longtime managing editor, Jane Harper-Alport, was retiring at the end of the calendar year. Jane’s steady guidance and contributions to The Brief during her tenure cannot be overstated, and her anticipated departure left more than a few of us with a degree of anxiety and trepidation as to how we were going to keep the proverbial trains running on time in her absence.

However, as often happens with good leadership, TIPS equipped us with an extremely qualified and capable replacement in Melissa Vasich. Melissa immediately stepped in, rolled up her sleeves, and went to work herding me and the other cats that comprise The Brief editorial board. I will talk a little more about Melissa’s contributions in a minute.

Everything was running along rather smoothly at that point when really, seemingly out of nowhere, the unthinkable happened—our nation was gripped by a global pandemic resulting in a significant alteration in how we conduct our normal TIPS business and, indeed, our lives. No longer were we able to meet in person, conduct our traditional CLEs and conferences, or convene for leadership meetings. Lost were all of the presentations and papers that comprise the majority of our typical content for The Brief. Also gone was the much-anticipated Section Annual Conference in Nashville in the spring, the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago in late July, and even the planned Fall Leadership Meeting in October.

Not to be deterred, your TIPS leadership adapted admirably on the fly, as we also did here at The Brief. When feasible, CLEs, conferences, and business meetings were conducted by Zoom. Likewise, meetings of The Brief editorial board were conducted remotely by videoconference. Nevertheless, the dearth of available CLEs and conferences necessitated that we change the way we traditionally solicit content. Now, more than ever, we must rely on our TIPS members for articles and manuscripts. To that end, individual editorial board members have been assigned to reach out to TIPS standing and general committees and task forces for the specific purpose of reminding our members of the opportunities for publication and generating content. You, our readers, can also help by submitting original papers to the editorial board for review or recruiting others within your firms and professional circles to do the same. Article guidelines may be found in the front of this magazine, on The Brief’s website (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/tort_trial_insurance_practice/publications/the_brief), or by reaching out to our new editor in chief, Elizabeth Sackett (elizabeth_sackett@trg.com), or our managing editor, Melissa Vasich (melissa.vasich@americanbar.org).

Speaking again of our new managing editor, thanks to Melissa, we have adopted new ways to access and distribute content, meeting information, and materials to our editorial board members for review and processing. In addition, past editions of The Brief are maintained in a readily accessible and searchable library for ease of reference. Individual editorial board members are now assigned to specific editions as “issue editors,” responsible for managing the entire editorial process for that quarterly edition. We are hopeful that all of these positive changes will not only help us better navigate the unique challenges of the pandemic but also provide a more substantive and valuable member benefit. In short, it has been a very busy and exciting year at The Brief.

Finally, if I may take a brief moment of personal privilege, the recently concluded Annual Meeting ended my two-year term as editor in chief. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve in this role, and I thank both our immediate past chair, Thea Capone, and Roy Cohen before her for entrusting me with the reins of this great magazine. However, like all good organizations, the credit truly goes to the entire editorial board, a singularly dedicated group of very intelligent and capable individuals who often toil behind the scenes in anonymity. I cannot thank them enough for all of their hard work this past year under very challenging circumstances. I would also like to specifically recognize my successor, Elizabeth Sackett, and, of course, Melissa Vasich for their wise counsel, able assistance, and especially patience throughout this busy and sometimes difficult year. The Brief is in excellent hands.

I would also like to thank Thea Capone for her steady guidance and grace in navigating what can only be described as a year no one could have envisioned when the gavel was passed in August 2019. Thea, I think you deserve a “redo”!

Again, thank you for the privilege of serving in a wonderful organization that truly cares about its members and each other. Please stay safe and be kind to one another until we can all meet again.

Truly, a long, strange trip indeed.

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Dale M. Weppner

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Dale M. Weppner is a partner of Greensfelder Hemker & Gale in St. Louis, Missouri, where he leads the firm’s transportation and logistics practice area. He is editor in chief of The Brief.