It’s hard to believe that the Holidays are almost upon us. With the end of this year fast approaching, thoughts turn to the reflection of events and milestones of the past year while looking forward to the opportunities that the new year holds. When I took over the reins of the Bar Association last January, I knew that this year was going to be a challenge. Our economy was at the bottom of an historic and depressing recession. Law firms were contracting, clients were disappearing and priorities in consumer spending did not include elective spending on legal services.
Taking stock of our position at that time, the Board of Directors was cautiously optimistic that the 15% decline in revenues predicted by the American Bar Association did not seem to be holding true for the CCCBA. It wasn’t until March that we began to notice that our membership numbers were falling off, but more importantly, that there was a decline in the amount of revenue from our Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). Fees from the LRIS account for about 25% of our annual revenue.
We acted quickly to the threat of expenses outpacing revenues. One staff position in the CCCBA office was eliminated and our Treasurer, Jay Chafetz, worked with staff to review and revise our budget to respond to the declining revenues. Shortly thereafter, the Board adopted a revised budget and carefully
monitored our revenues and expenditures.
In May it became clear that John F. Kennedy University’s Elder Law Clinic would be closing as of June 30th. The Clinic provided legal assistance to seniors who have been victimized by financial abuse. The program was very successful, perhaps the victim of its own success. It was predicted that demand for services would double over the next few years.
In assessing the situation, I felt that this well used community resource could not be allowed to simply fade into oblivion. I rallied the stakeholders and other interested parties to look at alternatives. CCCBA Board member Alan Ramos provided the guidance and assistance to help put together a business plan for a new program that would be called the Elder Law Center, which was to be operated by the non-profit legal services corporation, The Law Center. The law firm of Ramos, Nevin and Steele in Walnut Creek graciously offered to host the program in their offices.
The CCCBA Board authorized the expenditure of $30,000 as seed money from the Bar Fund, which is the vehicle for charitable contributions from our legal community to be used exclusively for support of nonprofit legal services. The Association also sponsored a Gala Reception honoring retired Judge Norman Spellberg who is well known and loved for his support of The Law Center and the support of programs focusing on pro bono legal assistance to those in need. The event was held on November 4th and was a rousing success, raising $55,000 towards the new ELC program.
This year also saw the roll out of the
new CCCBA website, the transition from strictly print oriented media for Contra Costa Lawyer magazine to digital format and the hiring of a new communications coordinator, Kerstin Firmin. Kerstin replaced Nancy Young with whom CCCBA contracted for many years. Besides saving money, the transition brought CCCBA into the digital age with a goal of serving you better by providing consistently better communications from the Association.
Additionally, CCCBA revised and updated its bylaws to comply with new laws, and reviewed and updated policies and procedures that guide all of the operations of the Association. As a result of our budget revision and cost cutting measures, we will end this year with about $20,000 favorable to the revised budget.
It has been an honor to serve as President of CCCBA in 2010, and a real pleasure to work with the members of the Board, the Bench, our Sections and our wonderful staff. None of this would be possible without the tireless efforts of Lisa Reep, our nationally renowned Executive Director.
I wish all of the best to you and yours in the coming year. CCCBA is a great organization and well serves the interests of our legal community and the public on your behalf.
— Ron Mullin, a lawyer in this county for over 30 years, dedicates his practice to estate planning, wills and trusts, conservatorships/guardianships, business and commercial law, real property, and business formation. He also acts as mediator and arbitrator for disputed cases.
Filed Under: President's Message