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December 15, 2021 VIEW FROM THE CHAIR

Leading the Way

John C. McMeekin II

On behalf of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), its members, its staff, and our partner sponsors, welcome to the 2021–2022 American Bar Association year. Like many of you, I could not wait to close the 2020–2021 year out, but we cannot do so without recognizing the sacrifices that many of us made, the impacts and changes in our lives, and the friends and loved ones who we will keep with us in our minds and souls always. It was a profound year of change, and TIPS was there to lead in so many ways. We may take great pride and satisfaction in the strength, creativity, and professionalism that TIPS members exhibited this past year. Where there was darkness, there was also light; where there was despair, there was hope; and our problems were met with solutions and support. This year we rise and return, different but nonetheless an organization of professionals dedicated to the highest ideals of the practice of law.

As we approach the next year, we are building on a number of projects supported by TIPS members. The first is our flagship Financial Literacy Project in partnership with Thomson Reuters. The Financial Literacy Project is a joint initiative between TIPS and Thomson Reuters that will increase financial education throughout the United States, with a special emphasis on helping underserved communities and youth populations. The project will consist of short educational videos designed to promote economic empowerment by equipping individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve sustained financial well-being. In partnership with Thomson Reuters, our volunteer attorneys are leading the way on a crucial public service initiative that will help so many people in so many ways. As TIPS members, we ask you to help be a part of the team making positive and impactful changes in the lives of others. While many people have toiled to get this project off the ground, we specially recognize our members Loren Podwill, Floyd Holloway, Akira Heshiki, Roscoe Mutz, Jordan Howlette, Jin Hwang, and Norma Campos, as well as Mark Haddad and Sharon Sayles-Belton of Thomson Reuters.

TIPS also led the way in responding to the changes in technology necessitated and expedited by COVID-19. Larry Schiffer and Victoria Alvarez, along with the assistance of Michael Vercher and Dave Becker, spent a significant amount of time developing TIPS members’ access to Clearview Social, a TIPS member benefit service, which helps to amplify your presence and message through the collective power of social media networks. This membership benefit and the tutorial that they put together alone are worth your membership.

As the issues of social justice, equality, and inclusion swept across the nation, TIPS answered the call by creating and mobilizing TIPS members and outside expert facilitators into the “Enacting Change” group, which drew together leaders, members, and staff from throughout TIPS to have candid discussions, identify challenges, and work collaboratively toward solutions. Through the efforts of Marcy Greer, Jordan Howlette, Marla Dickerson, Janelle Edwards-Stewart, Theresa Livingston, and many other committed members and staff, TIPS put together a comprehensive leadership Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Training program. The training involved seven sessions with three national experts to understand the root causes of inequity and create diverse coalitions to begin the difficult process of collaborative change for the betterment of the profession and society. We are proud that this training was inclusive of all of TIPS leadership and look forward to the ongoing work to implement the strategies to make the practice of law and the TIPS experience more inclusive for all.

Through the individual efforts of TIPS members, we also launched a one-on-one law student mentorship program with Southern University Law Center. We anticipate expanding that relationship and partnering with other law schools to ensure that TIPS is there to help develop and support law students and young lawyers who represent the future of the practice of law.

TIPS continues to develop and promote leadership through its renowned Leadership Academy. Last year’s class was deferred due to COVID-19, but we are pleased to have our future leaders back. The TIPS Leadership Academy is held every other year and opens at our Fall Meeting, which took place in person on October 13–16 in Dallas, Texas. We are proud that many of our Leadership Academy graduates have gone on to be Section leaders, including committee chairs; Council members, including Beth Kramer, Akira Heshiki, Mike Vercher, Lisa Dickinson, and Andy Cao; and Section officers, including Marcy Greer, Kermit Kendrick, Meade Mitchell, and Gary Gassman, TIPS chair-elect.

Throughout the past year, TIPS members, with the support of the CLE Board and its staff liaison, Janet Hummons, put on substantive member benefit programming on how to manage yourself, your practice, and your firm through COVID-19 and the impacts on the practice of law, wellness, and mindfulness. Substantive programming included virtual conferences, film screenings, and lunch and learns, as well as emergent seminars on COVID-19 finances, Paycheck Protection Program loans, and challenges of virtual employment. TIPS members prepared and offered substantive programming around cybersecurity, automated driving, business interruptions, and virtual litigation. Additionally, TIPS launched the Insider TIPS podcast with the help of Anna Romanskaya and Steven Corhern. TIPS CLE and member benefit programming continues to support your professional needs. And, in the process of developing abilities to conduct virtual meetings, we opened pathways and opportunities for new members to attend virtually and benefit from TIPS CLE and committee meetings.

TIPS is continuing to lead into the future—along with the collaboration of members of the Section of Litigation, the International Law Section, the Judicial Division, and the Law Practice Division, we have convened a volunteer task force to address the real challenges of reintegration and renewal of the practice of law. We are developing content and thought leadership on hybrid working, access to justice, mitigating the adverse impact of COVID-19 on women in the practice, mentoring, mental health and wellness, regulatory and employment challenges, and the changing expectations of lawyers and employers in a post-COVID-19 legal environment. While the health crisis is abating, the trauma of COVID-19 is real, and the need to appreciate and adapt going forward is paramount to the endurance of the practice of law as a profession, a business, and a defining part of the ethos of TIPS members. We invite you to participate and lend your voice to the challenges of reopening and renewing the practice of law.

With an eye toward the coming bar year, we are back, live and in person. Our in-person meetings include:

  • 20th National Trial Academy—September 18–22, 2021, in Reno, NV
  • TIPS Fall Meeting—October 13–16, 2021, in Dallas, TX
  • Aviation Litigation Conference—October 28–29, 2021, in Washington, DC
  • Fidelity & Surety Law Fall Meeting—November 11–12, 2021, in New York, NY
  • Fidelity & Surety Law Midwinter Conference—January 19–21, 2022, in Nashville, TN
  • Life Health & Disability & ERISA Conference—January 20–22, 2022, in Nashville, TN
  • Insurance Coverage Litigation Conference—February 24–26, 2022, in Scottsdale, AZ
  • Workers Compensation Conference—March 3–5, 2022, in New Orleans, LA
  • Cybersecurity Conference—March 3–4, 2022, in Atlanta, GA
  • Motor Vehicle Products Liability Conference—April 6–8, 2022, in Scottsdale, AZ
  • Toxic Torts & Environmental Law Conference—April 7–9, 2022, in Scottsdale, AZ
  • TIPS Section Conference—April 27–30, 2022, in Baltimore, MD
  • Fidelity & Surety Law Spring Conference—May 5–7, 2022, in Hilton Head, SC

We invite you to join us at any and all of these meetings and to become involved as a TIPS member. We look forward to your participation with TIPS. Stay safe and healthy.

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John C. McMeekin II

Chair of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section