An Overview of the NATLE GAC

Well, he’s only been here a month, but our new CEO, Shawn Mitchell, has been working tirelessly to acclimatize and immerse himself in the TLABC issues, culture and team.

A bonus to having new eyes in the boardroom is, of course, fresh perspective.
TLABC, as an association, is proud to be founded on principle, and in many ways -tradition.  Tradition is a wonderful thing, but it’s always good to take a step back and see what’s working and what might benefit from a little restructuring.

Shawn comes to us with a wealth of leadership experience that will no doubt be indispensable as we move forward and it has been a real pleasure getting to know him.

In this spirit, Shawn attended one of our favourite events last week, along with incoming President Sonny Parhar and Director of Communications Bentley Doyle The National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives (NATLE) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) – this year held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Here’s what he had to say… 

shawn - headshot

Intro

I’ve just gotten back from the National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives (NATLE) Governmental Affairs Conference. What members of the association lovingly refer to as the GAC (say: gack). The location of the conference changes every year — this year’s was held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Attended by 100 TLA CEOs, their presidents and government affairs-aligned senior staff, the GAC was a great opportunity to network, learn how other TLAs go about their business, and attend a range of sessions focused on the challenge of lobbying government (both state and federal).

There were a total of 22 presentations and round tables, covering a range of topics and issues, during the three-day event. A sampling:

    • Learning the language of the conservative culture (presented by Judge Kenneth Starr — yes, THAT Kenneth Starr)
    • Effective polling
    • Creative ways to build relationships with lawmakers
    • Engaging leaders and members in the legislative process — making it meaningful and creating evangelists
    • Workers’ compensation trends to watch
    • Self-driving vehicles
    • Subrogation for dummies
    • Managing member expectations in the legislative arena

Taken from these and other sessions in which I participated, a few thoughts …

Trumped

Almost without exception, American TLAs spent the last eight years doubling down on their relationships with Democrats and largely turning their backs on Republicans. After the election results in 2016, most woke up terrified and unsure of what the future held for them when it came to advancing a legislative agenda on behalf of their members. Much of the conference was about sharing best practices on how to “speak Republican.”

Born to lobby

I was also struck by the very different posture or business orientation of the American TLAs, compared to (what I am coming to understand about) Canadian TLAs. Even small associations are heavily invested in ongoing lobbying on a range of issues. The eye opener here for me was both the difference and the potential for us to explore being more invested in this activity beyond ad hoc campaigns.

Everything is poll-itical

Given the extent to which TLAs are involved in lobbying, it follows that they are also becoming increasingly invested in polling and “testing the message.” There were a number of sessions on this topic, linking polling research to focus groups and the importance of not saying anything publicly on an issue until you’d tested your ideas and language in the field. Here again, at TLABC we have not had a history of behaving this way, but certainly we have seen the benefit of it most recently in the guidance we gained while positioning ourselves regarding no-fault and fixing the financial imbalance at ICBC.

No such thing as being too social

Our neighbours to the south are also heavily invested in social media, using Facebook and Twitter to cultivate audiences in support of different positions they are lobbying for at the state or federal levels of government. The insight here is that we at TLABC need to keep doing what we are doing — social media is a powerful, cost-effective engagement tool.

(Think James Carville, here) It’s about the membership, stupid!

One area where I believe we at TLABC still have lots of room to grow is on member engagement. American TLAs work very hard to be highly responsive to their members’ concerns and to engage them in the association’s work — beyond just the board and executive. They also have communication strategies that are focused on demonstrating the value that members receive from their TLA. This is something that TLABC does not do enough of.

Wrap up

Finally, there were some specific legal issues that were discussed where there is some real concern amongst our American colleagues… the emergence of “robot cars” and the implications this might have on liability and personal injury, and the continuing saga that is ABS (Alternative Business Structures). While we are currently focused, rightly, on fixing ICBC, additional time and energy on moving our way through these issue areas may also have merit.

Overall, it was an excellent way for me to continue my orientation and onboarding at TLABC. And, as always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on this post or anything else you might like to fire my way.

To reach CEO Shawn Mitchell, please email him at shawn@tlabc.org 

Please continue to connect with us by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIN & @tla_bc on Twitter. 

Advertisements

American Museum of Tort Law: An Important Showcase – (PART 2)

Landmark Tort Cases Highlighted in Little Connecticut
Special Entry for the Verdict, edition #154 – FALL 2017 – By Bentley Doyle

[Read Part One here]

Cases of enormous importance – giant landmark rulings – are highlighted in wee little Winsted – a tiny town in northern Connecticut, home to fewer than 10,000 residents, one of them being Mr. Nader (Ralph Nader) himself. He grew up there. His education and quest for fairness began naturally. His mother Rose was a well-known activist from Winsted. She made her views known through newspaper opinion pages and beyond. Her pioneering ways clearly made an impression on her son Ralph, and the fact this museum – evidently the only law museum operating in the US – was established in their town is a fitting feat indeed.

Advocates for the preservation of tort law will appreciate each exhibit and every bit of this American treasure. The museum, its staff and creators deserve praise for bringing it to life. Its conception was courageous. Its realization, an inspiration. It seems to have been built with equal parts of inspirational wisdom and aspirational desire. It is a museum of colour and strength that converges on the importance of accountability in law and in life, imbued with words and illustrations describing landmark rulings that were themselves the result of critically important legal efforts to make society a safer place – then, now and in the future.

The museum begins with key milestones of American history, outlining the fact that America adopted the English legal system, but that early US judges were uncomfortable over a system of liability without fault, which led the US to develop the idea of negligence in wrongdoings, i.e. torts. Obligations to pay or restore followed. Compensation for workers initially required them to prove that an injurious accident was the employer’s fault, but by 1911, as noted in the exhibits, some states began to pass compensation legislation that awarded limited monetary damages to injured workers regardless of fault. Obligations on businesses “and other defendants” – including state and local governments – expanded in the 1940s through 1960s, and strict liability followed in some cases, as did courts holding wrongdoers accountable for physical, economic and emotional harm. The roots of comparative and contributory fault/negligence took hold in the 1970s, but it was during the 1980s that businesses began to lobby against the tort system, and were successful in doing so. The museum’s resources point out that the business lobby overpowered its opponents in the political arena, which led to legislative restrictions that imposed arbitrary dollar limits on jury awards and unjustly restricted punitive damages. Social policies in the 1990s led governments to sue businesses (e.g. big tobacco companies were held accountable for the health costs created by their products).

The museum beautifully illustrates several ground-breaking legal precedents, such as the 1963 California strict liability case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, which established that a manufacturer of a flawed product is responsible for injuries caused by the product even if the manufacturer was not negligent in manufacturing it. Other cases highlighted (incidentally, I was told the illustrations were created by Matt Wuerker of Politico fame) include: the car accident case of Hoffman v. Jones (Florida 1973), the medical malpractice case of Canterbury v. Spence (Washington, DC 1972) and the car manufacturing case of MacPherson v. Buick (New York 1916). As the museum attests, the cases are the building blocks of righting wrongs in the United States, and the law evolves to meet the ever-changing needs of society.

Museum-goers get to watch a highly informative 11-minute film that clearly demonstrates the importance of tort law. From there, in the adjacent room ahead, several cases are described in key detail, each either famous, infamous or somewhere in between. Vitally important issues revolving around privacy rights, defamation and product liability (e.g. dangerous children’s toys) are skillfully referenced and displayed. The museum includes key praise for lawyer Edward M. Swartz (1934 – 2010) who wrote about hazards with toys and, as Nader says: “litigated and advocated for toy safety in the halls of Congress, before government agencies and through massive public education campaigns.”

The infamous McDonalds coffee case is deftly explained and explored, the injustice being what happened to the victim on many levels, all due to the wrongdoings of McDonalds and the arrogance and apathy the mega-corporation applied from the start. The light is shone on big tobacco, too. And a cherry red Chevrolet Corvair is the focal point of the last big display room, though the equally infamous Ford Pinto is also forced to a stop in the museum’s depictions.

Both my brother and I were impressed by everything the museum brought to light. The idea to make a stop there was mine, and I am grateful he played along, and I’m grateful to the people who put their hearts and souls into making the museum an important physical location for people to gain an education and appreciate the importance of civil law.

Justice has a place. 

ThisSaysItAllAMTL

Women Lawyers ReTWEET

12096600_905944192788722_5277722824495503308_n

It’s that time of year again!

As we lead up to the 12th annual Women Lawyers Retreat, which will be held this October at Nita Lake Lodge, in Whistler, we invite you to participate in the ever-popular Women Lawyers ReTWEET!

The Retweet is a fun way to connect our members and community, and encourage collaboration, inspiration and discussion.  This year, the Retweet will compliment our new initiative – Wellness In the Workplaceand we would encourage you to consider how wellness plays a role in both your personal and professional life.  As we support and inspire each other, we fuel the fires of success.

Post or send your favourite links, websites, quotes, tips or photos… anything that inspires you as a professional and as a woman.

There are 3 easy ways to participate…

  1.  Follow us on Twitter @tla_bc, Facebook (TLABC) & (TLABC Women), and on Instagram (tlabc)
  2.  Use the hashtag #TLABC_women or tag us in your posts that inspire you as a woman & a professional!
  3.  Send us your favourite posts, images, articles, photos or quotes and we will include them in our posts.  Please email megan@tlabc.org

 

Wellness Wednesday – October

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit” – Aristotle.

wellness_stock_photo

Last weekend, we held our 11th annual Women Lawyers Retreat at Nita Lake Lodge, in Whistler.  It was a wonderful weekend of inspiration, collaboration and learning.

Despite what some people might think, the challenges women face, (especially in business and in law,) have certainly not disappeared… and it’s crucial that while we acknowledge how far we’ve come, we also recognize what we can do to continue to progress and create change.

As we continue to move forward and support one another, let’s remember that healthy habits are the foundation of growth.

Here’s a Wellness Wednesday pick from our publisher, Julia Chalifoux, from the Centre For Women in Business…

Five Healthy Habits for Women in Business

Take care of yourselves!

@tla_bc

#tlabc_women

 

How to Get a Lawyer to Return an Email

Lawyers, we love you, we really do.  You’re our members, our champions, our colleagues and, dare I say it… our friends.  You are dedicated, talented and bright and your good qualities certainly outweigh any perceived flaws… but… so help me…

Trying to get you to return an email is like herding cats.

kitty3

We know you want to.  We know you even mean to.  We understand that these things pile up.  Like us, you are inundated with correspondence; sometimes, you get called away to court or your days fly by and before you know it, it’s the day before a volunteer-speaker-chair-committee deadline and finally we track you down…

And so it goes.

(In the spirit of all that is good in the world, please take this post as it is intended – with love…) because we’re always up for a challenge!  There’s gotta be a way…

So we did a little fun survey and here are the results:

  1. Include an invitation for a wine reception.
  2. Write “free, great wine” in the subject line.
  3. Don’t use the words Urgent, Please Respond or RSVP – use engaging text in the subject line instead.
  4. Trick them – (they’ll open cat videos, for example.)
  5. Lawyers like papers – pretend you will send them some materials.
  6. Put “drop dead deadline” in the subject and body of the email. In bold. In red.
  7. Keep it under 22 pages.
  8. Lose the inspirational auto-quote at the end of the email.
  9. … and the flashy fonts.
  10. Don’t end your emails with “I love you” – it gets awkward.
  11. Don’t ‘cc’ a dozen other people. Everyone will let someone else respond.
  12. Don’t send the email.
  13. Call them instead.
  14. Call their assistant.
  15. Write a blog post about it and hope that someone reads it.

(These were the top 15 answers from lawyers themselves, and the staff of TLABC.)

ultimate kitties 3