Why We Fight

The following is a piece written by lawyer, Mike Campbell, a member of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (MATA) – our cousin association in Missouri.  

For those who may need a reminder, at times like these…

 

WHY WE FIGHT – By Mike Campbell, MATA

“Can you draw the pedal for me?”

That’s the only question I can remember from my deposition. I was around nine years old and I wasn’t frightened by the man asking me questions, or by the scary person wearing a mask at the end of the table (who I would later discover was a court reporter). I was frightened because I had no artistic ability whatsoever. I could, at that time, remember watching the pedal break and witnessing my dad have a catastrophic injury that would later take his life.

I could remember my dad work on the pedal in our garage in Kansas City. But, I couldn’t draw it and I was scared. But, then I heard, “objection.” Relief came over me. You see, I had a superhero with me, watching over me, protecting me from scary questions and scary people.

I recently had to fill out a questionnaire asking me to explain why I wanted to practice law. Here’s my response:

“Many years ago my family experienced a tragedy that put us right in the middle of the legal world. As a result, my superheroes growing up did not wear capes; they wore suits and carried briefcases. They argued in courtrooms and fought tooth and nail for my family. I’ll always be indebted to those attorneys and I think they know that. That’s the power we have as attorneys and we should always remember the lifelong impact we have on our clients.”

That’s the truth. That’s my truth, anyway. 

When I was five years old my dad purchased a brand new bicycle from a bike shop in Kansas. Both my godfather and I agreed to ride back in my dad’s truck while my dad rode behind us at a safe distance. I watched through the rear window as he wrecked. Memories are funny, though. I can no longer recall the wreck or much that happened shortly after. There’s a slideshow of memories though: Wrestling with my dad in a hospital bed one of the numerous times he was having surgeries, meeting with attorneys, my dad’s funeral. Good memories, sad memories.

My dad suffered a catastrophic injury when the pedal on his brand-new bicycle snapped off halfway through a cycle. He fell into the bike and suffered substantial internal injuries. He was later treated at a medical facility in Kansas, and his care was completely mismanaged. There are things that happened to him that I cannot write out of respect for his privacy and for what he went through. However, the result of the doctor’s actions led to undetected blood clotting, which traveled to an artery. He suffered a massive heart attack in our home and died in my mom’s arms.

My mom was left to raise four kids, alone. We had limited means at that time and my dad had been the primary provider for my family. When my dad died, we were broke…mentally, spiritually and financially.

Before my dad died, I can remember wearing clothes from the Salvation Army, shopping for food at the local Aldi (before Aldi was a thing), going to mass every Sunday morning and not having many concerns about our lot in life. We were a family and we loved each other, and had a roof over our head and food to eat. My dad and my mom cared for us. When my dad died, I’ll never know the stress my mom went through. I never want to know.

A close friend of the family talked to my mom about investigating my dad’s case. He was an attorney with a law firm in Kansas City who pleaded with his firm to investigate this case. The background to this is literally something you might read in a legal novel, but know this: This lawyer was relentless, was willing to give up everything to fight for the case, and nearly did. There is too much to the story to share here, but that is where I came to know that the passion which drives good and decent trial attorneys is not money. Money comes and goes. What drives good and decent trial attorneys is justice and a desire to help the helpless.

This attorney discovered a number of troubling things when he investigated our case. First, the bike manufacturer skimped on buying the proper parts for the bicycle pedal-and-gear mechanism. Instead of finding the right part, the company ordered the employees at a manufacturing plant to literally jam and hammer the defective parts into the bike. Our lawyer went to the manufacturing plant and witnessed for himself how the defect occurred during the process, and how it was known to the company. The employees openly admitted that they knew the defective part would cause harm to someone and told management, who ignored them.

The bike company had been warned multiple times about the shaft snapping on the pedals, leading to bicycle returns at stores throughout the United States. The manufacturer never recalled the bikes. Either the company didn’t believe someone could be catastrophically injured from this defect or it did, and simply did the cold math: A potential lawsuit versus a nationwide recall of bicycles. They decided to go with the risk of a lawsuit. Our attorney also discovered that the doctor who was treating my dad permanently damaged him, the result of which would eventually lead to my dad’s death. The attorney was convinced that both the manufacturer and the doctor were responsible for my dad’s death. He talked with my mom at length about the steps the family should take to hold those parties responsible. My mom agreed and we eventually filed suit against both.

My mom is as mentally and physically tough as they come. Here’s one story to prove that: After my family filed suit against the manufacturer of the defective bicycle, our case was forced into mediation. In our case, the judge who was mediating the case told my mom she should take a certain amount of money and run. Our attorneys told her to stand firm, that the sum she was offered was paltry in light of how much we had lost. My mom listened to our attorney’s advice. The judge brought her into an open courtroom in front of all the attorneys and told her that she was a terrible mother for not accepting the settlement and then he actually appointed a guardian and conservator for her children (including me) because of how terrible he said her judgment was. Our attorneys protected her and she believed in them.  The judge eventually relented and retracted his own order. My mom trusted her attorneys. She was right to… and she will tell you that. My mom is tough.

There are other stories I can tell you: Spending my early childhood in courtrooms, law offices, and learning about lawsuits while other kids played catch with their dad or did what normal kids do. I enjoyed it though. My attorneys were my superheroes. I liked being around them. I started to think that one day I could become one too.

When our case against the manufacturer was finally resolved several years later, we had received a small amount of justice. The manufacturer of the bicycle eventually settled with my family… and with several others. It turns out many people had been injured by these defective bikes and the company’s calculated risks didn’t pay off. There are horror stories I could share about this case and the dirty tricks played by the actors involved that are nearly unbelievable. Someday, maybe I’ll share them.

John Grisham has done a pretty decent job describing cruel company decisions in many of his books. But know this: A company that makes its financial decisions by weighing a human life versus profits will go to any lengths to protect those profits. I’ve seen this first-hand in my own practice and in my own life.  The cases against this specific corporation against eventually drove it into bankruptcy, got its terrible bikes off the road, and reformed certain manufacturing processes.

All of this was possible because of the trial lawyers who helped us. They believed in us, fought for us and did everything they could to make our family whole. I am friends with them to this day. The main attorney who took our case taught me how to shoot a gun for the first time, his wife taught me the alphabet when I was very young and he has stayed in touch throughout my entire life. He and his family are family to me.

I see a lot of negative talk about trial attorneys. For me, for my family, and for countless others, trial attorneys are who stood up and demanded that the parties who cause harm are held responsible for their actions.

No amount of money could bring my dad back, but at least that bicycle manufacturer was unable to produce any more defective bikes. While the rest of the world moved on after my dad’s death, attorneys working in the background fought to give his death meaning. They fought for a single mother of four who had no money to her name.

I am now a trial attorney. I am proud to call myself a trial attorney. But trial attorneys are under attack.  We are told by well-paid politicians that trial attorneys are causing businesses to go under and insurance rates to go up. My experience is that businesses go under because they are bad businesses, and insurance rates go up because insurance companies like to make money.

The people who throw these accusations around don’t know the attorneys who helped my mom and my family. They don’t know me. They don’t know my colleagues. They don’t understand that most of the laws they pass don’t affect trial attorneys; they affect the people trial attorneys represent. These politicians work to the benefit of a corporation or a company that has done some harm or wants to do something harmful, only cheaper and with no consequence.

Politicians should know this: There’s no law they can pass to stop trial attorneys from trying cases and working hard for their clients. I can understand how a politician who is more accountable to large donors than to the citizens of his or her district might be told (or even believe) that a trial attorney would have a financial motive to file more lawsuits. Maybe that mistaken perspective is all they have known.

But, real trial lawyers like the attorneys who worked on my family’s case and the colleagues I know in our profession are not in it for the money. We are deeply passionate about our clients and our work. No amount of restrictions or laws will stop us from helping people who have been wronged. We are born with this passion… and politicians cannot legislate that passion away, no matter how hard they try.

I recently tried a civil case where the jury was out for 20 minutes before it returned a verdict against my client. It takes me longer than 20 minutes to flip through my Facebook feed! I was heartbroken for my client. I thought that the jury hated me. They hate what I stand for. I thought, for just a moment, that it would be so much easier to switch sides.

Then my client told me “thanks” for fighting for her; that we did our best; and that she glad we agreed not to settle. And my phone started to ring from fellow trial lawyers who told me to keep my chin up and told me that we all fight in the trenches to keep the other side honest.

I would much rather be on this side. We are told that there are always two sides to an issue, two sides to a debate. I don’t say this arrogantly, but I say it because of my experience: I would much rather be on this side and lose, than on the other side and win. I believe that there are plenty of good people on the other side, but for me and for my fellow trial lawyers, we fight for what is right and what is good.

We don’t fight to win popularity contests, for approval or for self-assurances. We fight for the inviolate principle that every person deserves his or her day in court. We have a proud responsibility to strap up our boots, face our fears and give that opportunity to our clients. What a great privilege that is. I am thankful for having a trial attorney in my corner to give my family that opportunity and daily I am grateful for the ability to give that same opportunity to my clients. I know you, my trial attorney family, feel that way too.

This is why we fight.

 

 

Mike Campbell is a member of the Missouri Association for Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice. He practices at The Law Office of Mike Campbell in Columbia, Mo.

 Reprinted with permission from The Missouri Trial Attorney, © 2017

 

Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) Re-cap

Each November, the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) hold their annual Governmental Affairs Conference – commonly known as the GAC.  This year, we sent our new Public Affairs Director, Todd Hauptman, to get the scoop on all things political, as we continue to develop our own strategy, here at TLABC.

This is what he had to say…

 

In his own words – Todd Hauptman 

 

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Have you ever imagined attending a conference full of the nerdiest individuals in your profession? The National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives (NATLE) Government Affairs conference was certainly that for me.  I recently attended their conference in Seattle that hosted public affairs professionals for Trial Lawyers Associations from across the United States.  I was the only Canadian in attendance so I felt as though I was representing an entire country.  While the conference had a number of detailed and engaging presentations, the most beneficial part of me was the networking.

The network was helpful to not only learn best practices from other TLAs in their advocacy efforts to their elected officials, but also to better understand working within an association environment like ours.  I spoke and spent time with colleagues from Ohio to Rhode Island to San Francisco and grew to appreciate each of their passion and determination.  Many of these folks have been passionately fighting for access to justice issues for decades and they continue to do so.  By having conversations with these folks, there is so much insight and experience to glean from. The most significant lesson from these political nerds was the importance of being determined in building solid, long term relationships with each and every one of the elected officials in our area.  While there will be wins and losses in the fight for our public policy agenda, it is essential to look at the long game. I had the opportunity to see some of them in action on the phone with decision makers and they get things done for their members.  These relationships took time to develop into a place where there can be mutual benefits.  This may be the most significant lesson but there are others.

These relationships were built through a deliberate strategy that involved targeted political donations, delivering volunteer resources for campaigns and helping legislators push their agenda forward.  While this is certainly in an American context, there are lessons for Canadians to learn.  Certainly our donation limits are a lot less than the United Stations, money still talks in politics.  It is important to donate to candidates in a strategic fashion.  Strategic donations matters because the candidates need to know where their resources for their campaign came from. The NATLE conference reinforced for me the importance of finding common ground on our agenda and the legislator’s priorities. The issues that NATLE and TLABC are working towards should have support from all parties no matter where they are on the political spectrum.  It was helpful to know that the strategies and approaches that TLABC is pursuing are on the right track.

The connections and relationships developed at NATLE will not only be once a year but in fact, I have a few meetings by phone or online with various colleagues to discuss mutual strategy.  These ongoing relationships will be fruitful not just in my role but for TLABC as we move forward with our public policy agenda.

Finally, it is critical to note that like all of our NATLE friends, we must continue to be seen and heard by our MLAs.  As a TLABC member over the holiday season, go to your MLA’s seasonal open house and have a friendly chat about the issues important to us, such as legal aid and wrongful death legislation.  Be a friendly face that your MLA begins to know and appreciate seeing.  While we may disagree on some issues, we can be allies on others.

Future Leaders – Feature Member, Lindsay Frame

Meet Lindsay Frame! 

Lindsay is one of our law student members who has been stepping up in helping to engage her peers at UBC, particularly with raising awareness about the many issues that the law profession is currently facing.  Recently, she helped to facilitate a presentation to her classmates by one of our mentor-lawyers, the now-retired, Mr. Larry Kancs, and we can see many more opportunities for her to find her place as a future leader of TLABC.  Lindsay is the daughter of long-time TLABC Governor & Past-president, Steve Frame, and we look forward to seeing how she is able to continue to grow within our association.

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Q & A…

What were some of the main reasons that you have chosen to pursue a legal career?

Both of my parents are practicing lawyers, but in a kind of ironic twist, the person who convinced me to apply for law school was actually my molecular genetics professor, Don Moerman. I was in the process of completing my Bachelor’s degree at UBC in Integrated Sciences, and my chosen integration was Neuroscience & Immunogenetics. I was very engaged with my courses at the time, but my distaste for lab work made me acutely aware that a career in research was probably not in my future. Professor Moerman was the first person who ever explained to me how a science background could be valuable in law. It was a perspective that I had never really considered – so when he set me up to have coffee with a former student of his who had recently started practicing IP law, I think that’s when I first started to see a place for myself within the field. My interest was initially focused towards genetic patent work, but I have since expanded my horizons and am interested in anything that intersects at all with science or medicine – especially areas like intellectual property, personal injury, criminal and medical malpractice law.

Were there mentors, leaders, or others who have inspired you?

My parents have been my biggest mentors. My dad is a personal injury lawyer, and my mom is a prosecutor, and although their practice areas are quite different, what they have in common is that they are both very enthusiastic about their work. Growing up, a lot of my friends’ parents would come home from work exhausted, but most of the time, mine would come home excited to tell us about their day – so that has always pushed me to find work that I genuinely love doing. Having been to court a handful of times, I am certainly starting to understand their excitement, which I think is a good sign. My parents also share the philosophy that lawyers have a duty to do work that helps people in the community, and that philosophy has always pushed me to get involved with organizations like the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP) and the Special Olympics, which have been some of my fondest memories.

Growing up, I was also a competitive athlete, so naturally, my coaches were big inspirations. They pushed me quite hard, with a very “tough-love” attitude. During training, as one of a few girls on a mostly-male team, I was generally held to the same standards as all of my male peers – I was expected to run as fast, jump as high, and do as many push-ups. That was sometimes hard because they were big guys, and I was weaker than a lot of them. But nobody ever “went easy on me” because I was a girl, so I had to work harder. I think that experience made me driven, and it made me expect a lot of myself. It really helped to prepare me for this moment, as a young woman entering a somewhat male-dominated field.

How do you handle the pressure that can often accompany the heavy course load of being a law student?

I have always found the ocean to be very calming, so one of my favourite ways to manage stress is to go for a jog on the seawall on a sunny day. I am a fair-weather runner, though, so throughout the winter I’ll often substitute spin and kickboxing classes. I generally find exercise, as well as cooking, to be very therapeutic.

Additionally, the nice thing about law school is that on any given “bad day” another law student is likely within arm’s reach that has also had a bad day for the same or similar reasons – so, I have found a lot of support in my peers this year, as well as from the many lawyers I have spoken to who can relate with their own 1L experiences.

What do you enjoy most about law school?

One of my favourite experiences has been my involvement in the LSLAP. It has given me a lot of exposure to different areas of law, and I have been lucky enough to pick up a few trials which I will be working on over the summer! I have always wanted to be a litigator, so I feel lucky to have hands-on experience like this so early on in my career. Every lawyer I have dealt with so far has been incredibly supportive, and very forgiving of the inevitable embarrassing moments which happen when I am not entirely sure what I am doing. I had always imagined the courtroom to be an incredibly adversarial environment, but I quickly learned that the opposite seems to be true, at least for law students.

What do you find most challenging
about law school?

Time management was one of the things that I have found to be the hardest about law school. The course load is much heavier and more reading-intensive than what I had become used to in undergrad. There is also a constant flow of networking events, and a number of exciting opportunities (such as LSLAP, or other pro bono initiatives) to do in one’s “spare” time. Juggling my academic, extracurricular and personal commitments was sometimes challenging, and at times I certainly felt that I had over-extended myself. At the same time, though, I know it is a rite of passage and that it builds useful skills for the practice of law.

What advice would you give to those thinking about pursuing law school?

Some of the best advice I got at the beginning of law school was not to narrow my focus to one area of law right away. It seems like the first question that anyone asks a law student is “what kind of law do you want to practice?” My answer to that question is ever-changing because I have gained exposure to more practice areas than I would have imagined existed when I first started 1L. I will admit that in the summer before law school started, I complained incessantly about one particular class being a required course… and that class was actually my favourite this year! So, I would tell people who are thinking of pursuing a career in law to do so with an open mind.

If you weren’t studying to become a lawyer, what career path would you pursue?

Occupational therapy. Prior to coming to law school, I spent a number of years working as an “aide” for people with disabilities, and I found the work to be very enjoyable and very rewarding. I contemplated applying for occupational therapy school at one point, as I hoped to be able to directly support victims of traumatic brain injuries, and help them regain control of their lives. Ideally, in my future career as a lawyer, I hope to be able to do this same thing through advocacy, as well as by being involved with volunteer organizations like the Special Olympics.

Why is being a member of TLABC important
to you?

My dad was very involved with TLABC throughout most of my childhood, so while I was growing up, I learned a lot about the types of advocacy that TLABC engages in. I have always found those endeavours to be things that I felt passionately about, as well. I think that TLABC’s access to justice initiatives are particularly important, because they give a voice to those who might not otherwise be able or willing to self-advocate. What I think is most important about TLABC is that their initiatives are powerful: they bring together some of the best and brightest minds to solve problems, together. I think it is so much more effective than branching out alone, and I am happy to have an opportunity to be a part of it.

Additionally, I think that TLABC provides amazing opportunities to meet litigators and learn about their practice areas. To a law student,
the experience is invaluable, because we get a good amount of exposure to corporate firms, but not as much to the types of small firm litigation that a lot of TLABC members practice.

If you could ask a senior lawyer one question, what would it be?

If I had the opportunity to pick senior lawyers’ brains, I would likely ask them what advice they would give to someone who is brand-new to litigation?, or what mistakes they made on their first trials?

Editorial Note:   Would you like to help Lindsay answer her question?
Email julia@tlabc.org

@tla_bc

Recent Success! #PAC

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The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) is TLABC’s fundraising arm for non-operational expenses, generally in the form of special projects and initiatives. Whereas operational expenses cover day-to-day office needs, PAC funds are in place to ensure TLABC can follow through, when and where needed, with regard to seeking justice and fighting back against threats to the rights of individuals.

We have recently had a success that you should all know about! 

The TLABC Legislative Committee has been fighting for over 5 years for changes to the Class Proceedings Act.  Currently if you start a class action in BC, you only act for BC members of the class and others in Canada can opt in to the BC class.  This means that that once a class action is commenced in BC, counsel will be deemed to be acting for all members of the class in Canada.  There can then be a beauty contest between firms in other jurisdictions for a case, but these changes will put us in the running to start class actions that are of national significance and compete for carriage of them with lawyers in Toronto and elsewhere. 

Big thanks to Past-President, Richard Parsons for leading this charge!

Thank you to all of our dedicated PAC Donors who are committed to justice in BC!

ROAD BC #SayNoToCaps

TLABC proudly supports ROAD BC and we encourage you to do the same – ICBC and the provincial government have recently stated their intention to strip you of your rights by implementing injury caps for drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians who are injured in a collision with an automobile.

We firmly believe that this is not the right approach.

Caps punish victims.
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Road BC has nearly reached 15,000 signatures.
Say no to the Government’s unfair caps on injury claims, sign the petition now at

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R.O.A.D. BC is a coalition of British Columbians who are committed to protecting the rights of anyone who becomes injured on our roads. We are made up of individuals and associations all across British Columbia who believe the best way to reduce accidents and protect victims is through established, inalienable rights – not arbitrary decisions that turn real people into a statistic.

 

Proudly supported by more than 50 community partners including:

3 Peaks Health
Absolute Health Clinic
Actin Physiotherapy and Wellness
Active8 Physio & Massage
AIM Medical Imaging
Alaunius Integrated Medicine
Association for Injured Motorcyclists
Back in Motion
BC Back Clinic
Bear Creek Physio
Better Body Fitness
Bikram Yoga Delta
BrainTrust Canada
Campbell River Head Injury Support Society
Canadian Medi-Pain Centres
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Clover Hills Rehabilitation
Coast Life Chiropractic
Elite Health and Wellness
Fit Body Rehab
Fraser Valley Reporting
Fraser Valley Soccer League
Get Well Physio
Harvey Gill Real Estate (Remax)
Injury Rehab Clinic
Insight Driving Solutions
Insight Optometry and Occupational Therapy
Karp Health Services
Kelly Mooker Counselling
Kinexions
Kwantlen Rehab

Langley Sports and Rehab
March of Dimes Canada
Med-Rehab Solutions​
Medical Legal Society of British Columbia
Mountainview Health and Wellness Ltd
Nanaimo Brain Injury Society
Nova Health
Oceanview Home Care Services Ltd
Optimal Chiropractic & Massage
Pain BC
People in Pain Network
Prana Physiotherapy
Pro Ride Motorcycle Training
Pure Life Physiotherapy
Revive Rehabilitation
Sahara Rehab Consulting Ltd.
Salius Rehab
Sikh Motorcycle Club
Sikh Riders of Canada
Singh Physiotherapy
Strength Through Motion
Synergy Rehab
Total Care Health
Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
The BC Paralegal Association
The Mel Jr. & Marty Zajac Foundation
The Whiplash and Injury Clinic
Vancouver ecoVillage
Vancouver Independent Professionals Society
Wellspring Fibromyalgia Foundation
Working Gear

Caps Punish Victims

Say No To Capping Our Rights!

Being injured can change your life and the lives of those around you. The path to recovery is often long, difficult and expensive. Currently, in BC, everyone, and every incident is treated and assessed uniquely.

However, ICBC and the provincial government want to change that and restrict the rights of drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians in BC by introducing injury caps. This will reduce our ability to be treated as individuals, and to seek out help when navigating the daunting process of an injury claim.

Stand with us to ensure our rights don’t get capped.

Contact your MLA

R.O.A.D. BC is a coalition of British Columbians who are committed to protecting the rights of anyone who becomes injured on our roads. We are made up of individuals and associations all across British Columbia who believe the best way to reduce accidents and protect victims is through established, inalienable rights – not arbitrary decisions that turn real people into a statistic.

Visit the site for more information and join on Facebook & Twitter!

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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… 

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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.