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…
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 …
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This year marked the 12th Annual TLABC Women Lawyers Retreat and we couldn’t be more pleased with how this inspiring event has developed over the past decade!
Every year, our planning committee works tirelessly to organize an amazing weekend of learning, collaboration and connection for women in law across the province, and the feedback we receive from the registrants never fails to warm our hearts. The event continues to sell out in mere minutes and is clearly one of the hottest tickets of our seminar season.
(It even won the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) CLE of the Year and the Association of Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) award for Outstanding Achievement.)
We asked Candace Cho, who is a long time attendee, as well as a member of the Planning Committee, for her perspective on the event… and this is what she had to say:
It never ceases to amaze and comfort me on the simple concept of what a sisterhood women lawyers can be. The proof is the annual TLABC Women Lawyers Retreat, which just happened on October 20-22, 2017 at Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler. This was the third time we held the retreat at Nita Lake, and it was just as fun and relaxing as ever. I still remember the first time I attended the conference as a newly called lawyer. I was amazed at how welcome I was, how all the registrants were eager to socialize and share stories, mentor each other and have fun. The concept is the same every year, but the experience has transitioned as I have aged. I find myself in the privileged position of providing more advice and mentorship to the newer called registrants, but the sense of sisterhood and camaraderie is as strong as ever.
The learning components are also awesome – this year did not disappoint, with Supreme Court of Canada Justice Suzanne Cote headlining our all-star cast of speakers who all presented on how women can forge their way to leadership, changing the law and fulfilling their vocations as lawyers.
The Saturday night dance party and photo booth are always a hoot, and new friends are made, while much needed time is spent catching up with old ones – often friends that we first met at the same conference years ago.
The registrants’ backgrounds, ages, and years of call are completely varied, from brand new calls to senior members of the bar. There are often QCs, retired justices, sitting Justices, and Benchers running amuck in their spa robes. Lawyers come from different ethnic, cultural, and other backgrounds, and diverse practice areas. The common, unifying connection is simply that we are all, or have been, women lawyers in the past or present.
The culture is a casual and free-flowing one. It is completely unpretentious, and at times, can be wonderfully raw and personal. It is a safe place where women can share their triumphs and struggles, and offer encouragement and support for one another. Wisdom is generously doled out, advice given from varying perspectives, and all opinions valued and heard. Every year has a different theme, but in general, the conference is meant to empower, inspire and uplift women lawyers in one efficient weekend away.
You forget about your worldly concerns from time to time to get into a robe, chat with someone over a glass of wine, or have enough time to take a bubble bath or get a massage. There is opportunity for self-reflection, socialization in small and large groups, and general frivolity.
As part of the planning committee, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to put together this truly meaningful event every year. It is a rare conference which intersects continuing professional development, collegiality, friendship and mentorship; and acts as a respite from the everyday busyness of a woman lawyer’s life. I look forward to continue participating in the conference for the rest of my legal career.
For more information on our legal seminars & events, please visit www.tlabc.org