All this week, the WSBA is joining others around the country during National Volunteer Week to recognize and celebrate the many invaluable volunteers who devote their time and expertise to carry out the WSBA mission of serving the public, ensuring the integrity of the legal profession, and championing justice.
National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to honor the impact of all those who do good in our communities, and inspire others to make a difference and improve the world. So every day this week, NWSidebar will publish new interviews with a few of our outstanding volunteers
For questions about volunteering with WSBA, please contact Volunteer Engagement Advisor, Paris Eriksen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What has been your proudest moment or favorite memory so far as a WSBA volunteer?
I’ve experienced many positive moments! As just one example, I’ve served for a number of years as the master of ceremonies for the WSBA’s annual Best of CLE program that occurs each December. 2020 was a particularly challenging year for me. Along with pandemic stress, as all of us have been experiencing, my mother had recently passed away. As a result, I had a lot on my plate. Tim Richards (formerly on the WSBA staff) did everything possible to smooth the path for me. He chose fantastic programs for Best of CLE. Tim also paid considerable attention to the timing of those programs, to make my job as easy as possible. Tim spent time with me on the phone to review all of the programs as well as the new hurdles in presenting the program virtually, to ensure that every aspect of the CLE would be as easy as possible for me to navigate. Then, Tim and Rex Nolte (WSBA staff) sent me a lovely vase that is now on my office bookshelf. I feel so fortunate to work with such professional, caring and giving people!
Did you have any misconceptions about volunteering before you began this role and have they changed?
My first experience as a WSBA CLE presenter was back in 2007 when I presented on “Starting a Legal Practice” for the WSBA’s Animal Law Conference. At that time, I undoubtedly felt very nervous and anxious about presenting a CLE program. I viewed it as sort of a professional test. I felt that I needed to be “perfect” or my peers might not view me as being competent or knowledgeable. Today, 14 years later, I look at presenting a CLE as more of a fun opportunity rather than an anxiety-laced event! I now know: (1) everyone involved in the WSBA CLE program is there to help me and support me in succeeding; (2) anyone I am presenting with is also there to help and to make the program as thorough and beneficial as possible; and (3) perhaps most significantly, the attendees are focused on learning how to become better lawyers rather than on judging and nitpicking the CLE presenters. I’m sure I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the years, and the attendees have thankfully been very forgiving and appreciative of my efforts.
What have you learned that you might not have if you had not volunteered? Has it changed your approach to practicing law?
Everyone learns differently. The best way for me to learn is to teach. If I’m teaching, I need to fully comprehend the underlying principles so that I can express those ideas in an easily understandable way. I also must be able to answer questions about the topic. Every time I’ve presented a WSBA CLE, I’ve walked away from that experience being a better lawyer. By teaching a particular topic, I learn more about it and can then apply what I’ve learned to my own law practice. Also, I’ve been privileged to have spoken many times about the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs). This experience has enabled me to develop a more thorough understanding of the ethical rules, which really encompass the essence of what we bring to the world as lawyers. Lawyers face ethical issues not once or twice in a career, but almost on a weekly basis. The ongoing experience of teaching these rules has helped me become more conscious of the sometimes tricky nuances and judgment calls that can come into play.
What have you found most inspiring among your fellow WSBA volunteers?
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have co-presented many ethics-related CLE programs with WSBA Professional Responsibility Counsel Jeanne Marie Clavere. Jeanne Marie’s diligence in developing an encyclopedic knowledge of the RPCs is admirable. More than that, she applies that wealth of knowledge in providing countless high-quality ethics-related CLE presentations to Washington lawyers each year. Simply put, Jeanne Marie is a good human being. She believes that the vast majority of Washington lawyers want to behave professionally, follow the RPCs, and provide ethical, high-quality, and knowledgeable service to their clients.