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. 

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American Museum of Tort Law: An Important Showcase – (PART 1)

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

Lawyers and laypeople north and south of the border, make sure to put Winsted, Connecticut on your list of places to visit when embarking on a vacation in New England, and specifically the American Museum of Tort Law. It is far more about people than the profession. As a matter of fact, people are the entire point. The museum would not have been constructed, let alone conceived of, if it weren’t for people and those who care about protecting them and preserving their right to justice.

It was the first stop on a seven-day swing through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. This was not incidental. We flew to Hartford, then by design drove our rental car north to Winsted, setting off a great journey that began with a look at the importance of law and the enormous ways it has shaped society.

On this day, our day, my brother Dave and I were fortunate to meet both the museum’s Director of Engagement, Joan Bowman, and the Executive Director, Richard Newman (a past-president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association). It was a thrill to chat with them and to find out we have some mutual acquaintances scattered throughout the United States, primarily due to our experiences as members and associates of the US-based National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Richard had recently been in Boston for AAJ’s annual general meeting and summer convention, an event I’ve participated at several times, mainly as a member of NATLE. But, even closer to home, i.e. to the American Museum of Tort Law, we have a connection in common to the museum’s creator, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, famed for being the author of Unsafe at Any Speed – an expose of the deadly dangers of the Corvair automobile, and internationally renowned for his life’s work of holding reckless corporations accountable for the products they create. He is also a former candidate for the US Presidency (and wouldn’t that be a great thing right now, a time when more than ever the US needs a good, smart and thoughtful person in the White House).

Nader is famous for what he has done throughout the past 50 years, but it was events 20 years ago that made things personal for me. We – the Trial Lawyers Association of BC – brought Mr. Nader to British Columbia three times due to a big battle in our province to oppose no-fault auto insurance. The first two occasions had him making public appearances and doing media interviews to counter the spin created by proponents of no-fault back in that day. Nader was then – as he has demonstrated many times before and since – simultaneously brilliant and selfless. He warned of the dehumanizing effects of no-fault insurance, a scheme he said treated people like property rather than as human beings.

I had the honour of driving Mr. Nader to and from events in and around Vancouver, including picking him up at the airport with a highly enthused team of TLABC reps along for the ride. I was terrified, of course. I mean, being a young-in at the wheel chauffeuring the sophisticated author of 1965’s Unsafe at Any Speed… well, it certainly wasn’t sans stress, albeit the experience was also exhilarating. The third time Nader came to Vancouver was to join us in celebrating the defeat of no-fault plans that had been threatening to upend the legal rights of individuals. That occasion was 20 years ago this August. I was honoured to drive him back to the airport, just him and I in the car, and I handed him a personal card of thanks when we parted. It is remarkable to be in the presence of a man with so much professional success to his name and to see him also be so humble. The Nader experience that year had another highlight. He had asked us, in advance of arriving, to set up a speaking engagement for him to make a presentation to the law students at the University of British Columbia. The school’s faculty of law was happy to oblige, of course. The room was packed, as you’d expect. A few of us from TLABC had the good fortune of being on hand for this special event. Nader’s passion for legal efforts conducted for public good was never more clear than on this day. He spoke with larger-than-life enthusiasm, wisdom, grace and humour. His prior efforts in sounding warnings against no-fault had been superb, no question, but this occasion was a convergence of everything he stood for and still stands for to this day. He had the time and the perfect place to talk about the importance of tort law. It was majestic. The law students were spellbound.

Today, with the American Museum of Tort Law that he created now two years old, Mr. Nader continues to lead America as a voice for safety, fairness and accountability. An American gem – the man and his museum.

For certain, the museum does justice to justice. If you get your chance, a couple hours there will do it justice. Lawyers, you will be even prouder of your noble profession. Laypeople, you will gain an understanding of why tort law and the principle of accountability are both so relevant to your lives.    (Stay tuned for PART 2)

More to come… stay tuned for our next post!

@tla_bc

Politics & Passion

[Excerpt from the Fall Issue of the TLABC Verdict] – out now! 

There’s a feeling in the air when summer fades and fall begins… that back-to-school ‘something’ that is crisp and busy and smells like falling leaves and hot apple pie.  Warm afternoons turn into cool, dark evenings and calendars fill up again with meetings, fundraising and campaign strategy.

In short, Fall hits – and it’s go-time.

Not that summer was all that quiet around here- we had multiple retreats and conferences going on for the TLABC Staff, the Board & Executive, and some of our campaign committees, (albeit with a few vacation days tacked on.)  We had staff in Los Angeles and Seattle, Washington, Squamish, the Yukon and Osoyoos, and we’ve been examining our goals and planning for the year ahead, but the work has been strategic and internal and now it’s time for action.

I was fortunate to attend a conference in LA this past July and was asked to present to the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives (NATLE) on behalf of TLABC.  The meetings were in conjunction with the American Association of Justice (AAJ) and were also book-ended by the GOP and Democratic National Conventions.  It was definitely a busy week in California, and there was an undeniable buzz that distinctly reminded me of my very first AAJ/NATLE trip – pre-US election, 4 years ago.  It was the same conference, but in Chicago – just before Obama’s second term. Now, let’s not get it twisted – this particular buzz was not exactly the same.  4 years ago, it felt exciting and hopeful and I was fascinated by the entire business… whereas this time, it simply seemed to stem from fear.

Fear is a powerful thing.  It’s palpable.  You could feel it in the media, as stories broke about even more racism, more crimes of hate and gender, and in the ongoing antics of that man-who-shall-not-be-named.  You could feel it in the public perception as they carefully went about their days, avoiding the conversation as often as possible, completely unsure of what is to come.  Everyone seemed to be reacting to a series of sometimes silent, but very tangible threats to their society, often with humour, but always in fear.

Well, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my time at TLABC, is that fear does not fuel change – only passion does.

At TLABC, through our PAC fund, we are constantly working against threats to our justice system, and our members remain diligent in monitoring what may be coming down the pipe.  We want to make change – to protect our citizens – to strive towards better access to justice.  These are no small things.  But success lies in our passion and subsequently, our action.

I’ve heard time after time, that TLABC was founded by a “small group of renegades” – lawyers who truly believed in justice and in the access of it.  These lawyers did not act out of fear, but of concern for their clients and a passion for their practice.  As time goes on and more battles arise to be fought, it is imperative that we remember to do the same.

There are other groups and organizations who are better suited to predictable action and reaction – TLABC is not one of them.  The work continues, not out of fear of the unknown, or of systematic dissolution, but because it is the right thing to do.

As an association, we will rise to the challenges ahead and show time and again our commitment to justice.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama

If you want to show your own “Passion And Commitment”then consider making a donation the TLABC PAC fund so that we can take action when the threats to our justice system arise.  Let’s not just sit back, in fear…

Let’s give them something to talk about.

Make a commitment to justice.

[PLEASE NOTE: This was originally published pre- US election]

To donate to the TLABC PAC Fun, please contact megan@tlabc.org

LawyersHelpingPeople

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

 

Winding Down and Gearing Up…

Well, it’s been a busy, non-stop month!

Our esteemed Board of Governors and Executive Committee recently attended the Annual TLABC Strategic Planning Retreat which was held at the Four Seasons in Whistler.  We had a record turnout of governors for the weekend which resulted in some great discussion about the past year and where the association is headed.  It has been a month of intense decision-making, but also of camaraderie, as our leaders and staff have come together for the benefit of the association. 

It was a month filled with controversy as well, as record numbers of lawyers turned up for the special meeting of the law society to debate the ongoing Trinity Western University issue.  Clearly, this has been a hot topic, fraught with passion and emotion, but was has struck me the most is the respectful nature of the discussion surrounding this difficult subject matter.  We are lucky to be able to be free to have this discussion at all, and there has been a great sense of community that has developed, despite its potentially divisive nature.  It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. 

As always, we are looking toward the future and we have some exciting projects on the horizon.

The ‘TLABC Cares’ initiative will be a focus for this coming year, kicking off with our support and participation in the official launch of the End Distracted Driving campaign.  We were pleased to host the program founders, Joel Feldman and his wife, Diane, who graciously presented the campaign to our Board and Executive, as well as facilitated presentations at two secondary schools in the Greater Vancouver area.  We look forward to keeping you all apprised of this campaign as it develops!  In the meantime, please visit www.enddd.org for more info.

Our seminar season has officially come to an end, giving our seminar-planning committee a chance to gear up for the fall.  We had a great roster of programs this year, and we are proud of all of our chairs, speakers and participants for continuing to organize high-quality, multi-dimensional legal seminars for the justice community. 

With the official start to the summer just days away, we are excited to have some fun member and community events planned, so enjoy the sunshine and stay tuned for more updates!