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January 26, 2023 View from the Chair

Making Positive and Impactful Changes Together

Gary L. Gassman

On behalf of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), my fellow officers, its members and staff, and our partner sponsors, welcome to the 2022–2023 American Bar Association year! The last two years presented us with challenges and the need to make adjustments and accommodations and shift our way of thinking and our approach to bar association participation, meeting planning, and programming in ways we had never previously experienced. Under the incredible stewardship of our last Chair, John C. McMeekin II, we weathered the storm, pivoted where necessary, and became a more flexible organization while still serving the needs of our membership. We viewed the circumstances as an opportunity, acted accordingly, and did TIPS proud. We should all revel in our many continued accomplishments and the strength, tenacity, creativity, heart, and professionalism exhibited by TIPS members and staff during the pandemic. Now, as we move forward and begin to meet in person more regularly, albeit with trepidation for some, we do so as a stronger, more focused organization ready to face any new challenges that come our way. And together, we can make this an incredible year for TIPS!

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, when I first joined TIPS, I found an open, welcoming, and supportive place with wonderful people and a sense of purpose. TIPS has been my bar home, a place to network, to build business and personal relationships, to expand my interests, to publish and present, and to lead, all while advocating for fairness, diversity, giving back to the community, living my personal truth, and helping others do the same. This year, we advance with a renewed focus on membership; education; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives; and giving back to our communities, both legal and civic. I have no personal agenda other than to continue to help TIPS be an inclusive and safe place for people to speak and live their own truths and to make a positive difference in people’s lives in the organization, the legal profession, and all of our communities.

This year, we will continue to build on several projects supported by TIPS members and sponsors. We will see advancements in our flagship Financial Literacy Project, a joint initiative between TIPS and Thomson Reuters developed to increase financial education throughout the U.S., with a special emphasis on helping underserved communities and youth populations. The project consists 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. To date, we have completed seven of the modules, and another 10 are in the works. We would like you, as TIPS members, to help be a part of the team making positive and impactful changes in the lives of others in communities in need. Our continued thanks goes out to everyone who has worked toward the development and completion of the project, with special recognition and thanks to TIPS members Loren Podwill, Floyd Holloway, Akira Heshiki, Roscoe Mutz, Jordan Howlette, Jin Hwang, and Norma Campos, as well as Mark Haddad, Sharon Sayles-Belton, and Joe Kubes of Thomson Reuters.

In TIPS, DE&I and social justice initiatives have always been at the heart of our programming and membership efforts. During the pandemic, TIPS leadership mobilized members, staff, and outside expert facilitators into the “Enacting Change” group. The group participated in candid discussions, identified challenges we all face, and worked collaboratively toward solutions for our organization, our profession, and our broader communities. The charge was led by the incredible efforts of Marcy Greer, Floyd Holloway, Jordan Howlette, Marla Dickerson, Janelle Edwards-Stewart, Theresa Livingston, and many other members and staff. The result was a TIPS-led comprehensive leadership DE&I Training program that 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. The training was an amazing example of what TIPS does best. 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. Development efforts for new DE&I and social justice programming are underway. Please join us in that planning!

Last bar year, TIPS continued to develop and promote leadership through its renowned Leadership Academy. The TIPS Leadership Academy is held every other year, and the 2021–2022 class graduated at this year’s Fall Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. This bar year, we will select the next TIPS Leadership Academy class for 2023–2024, which will meet for the first time at the 2023 Fall Meeting. We are proud that many of our Leadership Academy graduates have gone on to be Section leaders. I am honored to be the first Leadership Academy graduate (2008–2009) to become TIPS Chair. Many other graduates have served as committee chairs; Council members, including Anderson Cao, Lisa Dickinson, Beth Kramer, Joshua Lee, Michael Vercher, and James Wells; and Section officers, including Marcy Greer, Akira Heshiki, Kermit Kendrick, Meade Mitchell, and Deborah Smith.

This year we welcome our TIPS NOW! Fellows class. Every other year, TIPS appoints between six and eight outstanding young lawyers to participate in a one-year term through the TIPS NOW! Program. The TIPS NOW! Program springboards participants into leadership roles within the Section by providing involvement opportunities and leadership exposure. Through the program, the Section hopes to identify new leaders to participate in our general committees, standing committees, and task forces. We are proud that former TIPS NOW! Fellows have served as committee chairs; Council members, including Megan Coluccio, Latanishia Watters Hunter, and Michael Vercher; and a current Section officer, Meade Mitchell.

Despite the challenges and ups and downs the pandemic presented, last year TIPS members, with the support of the CLE Board and its staff liaison, Janet Hummons, put forth substantive member benefit programming and stand-alone programming on a variety of topics. This year, TIPS will continue to provide this member benefit on all levels. We are focused on membership, DE&I, public service, and the ways in which we can better and more freely communicate with each other and the legal community. We are also continuing to develop content and thought leadership on remote working, hybrid working, access to justice, mitigating the impact of the pandemic on women in the practice, mentoring, mental health and wellness, regulatory and employment challenges, and the changing expectations of lawyers and employers in a postpandemic legal environment. Your ideas about how we can better adapt, communicate, and meet the needs of all members, regardless of age or years in practice, are paramount to our future success and the endurance of the practice of law as a profession, a business, and a defining part of our TIPS culture. We invite you to participate and lend your voice to the challenges of reopening and renewing the practice of law. Please tell us what you would like to see, what we are doing right, and what could be better. That collaboration is essential for our continued evolution as an organization and to ensure we provide value to all of our members and prospective members.

Finally, we look forward to a year of in-person meetings and stand-alone programs, and hope to see in-person attendance levels approaching our prepandemic levels. We can only reach our goals if we are on board together. We began with the TIPS Fall Meeting, October 12–16, at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. Please plan to join us in person at the Section Conference in New York City, May 3–6, 2023, at the newly renovated Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where we will partner with the Young Lawyers Division (YLD), and at any of our live, stand-alone programs throughout the year:

  • Fidelity & Surety Law Midwinter Conference—January 18–20, 2023, Washington, DC
  • Business Litigation Conference—February 1, 2023, New Orleans, LA
  • Insurance Coverage Litigation Conference—February 23–25, 2023, Phoenix, AZ
  • Transportation Megaconference—March 1–3, 2023, New Orleans, LA
  • Admiralty & Maritime Law Conference—March 3–4, 2023, New Orleans, LA
  • Motor Vehicle Product Liability Conference—April 19–21, 2023, Scottsdale, AZ
  • Toxic Torts & Environmental Law Conference—April 21–22, 2023, Scottsdale, AZ
  • TIPS/YLD Section Conference—May 3–6, 2023, New York, NY
  • Fidelity & Surety Law Spring Conference—May 11–12, 2023, Lake Tahoe, NV

I am honored to serve TIPS and its members and look forward to seeing you this year!

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Gary L. Gassman

Chair, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section