Presidents Column: A CELEBRATION
Let’s celebrate! The Dallas Bar Association is an amazing organization that we all should be proud of. In the words of former DBA President, Nancy Thomas, the Dallas Bar Association is the best bar association in the country. My goal for this year is to celebrate the many achievements of the association and its members and to rededicate ourselves to the programs, services and activities that make the Dallas Bar Association great—especially our efforts to serve those less fortunate in our community through the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP).
If there is one thing that allows the DBA to provide outstanding service to its members and the community, it is our staff. We have 21 dedicated professionals (including the DVAP staff) led by our incomparable Executive Director, Cathy Maher. While other bar associations are struggling financially in this down economy and have lost members, we remain strong financially and our membership has increased. The DBA is regularly recognized by the State Bar of Texas, the American Bar Association, and other non-law related organizations for its outstanding programs. This is due in no small part to our dedicated staff.
Ownership of the Belo Mansion and the Pavilion at the Belo by the Dallas Bar Foundation is also key to the success of the DBA. Our predecessors had tremendous foresight when they purchased and renovated the Belo Mansion in 1979 as the headquarters for the DBA. Having a home where members could gather to share personal and professional experiences and expertise allowed us to grow like no other bar association in the country. By 2001, with membership increasing annually, leadership came together to raise $14 million to build the Pavilion and a much needed parking facility to serve the ever increasing needs of the membership. Today the Belo Mansion and Pavilion welcomes thousands of guests annually and serves our nearly 11,000 members on a daily basis. No other bar association has the luxury of having a “home” like ours. Unbelievably, the Pavilion will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. A major renovation will take place in the month of August, during which time the facility will be closed. Among others, including Culinare International and the Dallas Bar Foundation, all of the Sections of the DBA have generously chipped in to help pay for this renovation. The generosity of the Section members to ensure the high quality and standards of our DBA home illustrates how important the Belo is to our membership.
The DBA has 29 Sections and 38 Committees which meet regularly at the Belo Mansion without charge. The Dallas Bar Foundation, the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and our sister bar associations also use the building free of charge. Last year over 400 CLE programs were held at Belo generally at no cost to the members. The CLE programs are presented primarily by the Sections but many are offered by Committees. While our members take the membership benefit of “free” CLE for granted, virtually all other bar associations in the country charge their members for each hour of CLE. Add to that the fact that membership dues of many other metropolitan bar associations are significantly higher than our dues and you begin to realize how special the DBA is and how important a role the Belo Mansion plays in that success. Without our own building, the DBA would not be able to keep dues down while offering free CLE and many other member benefits.
CLE programs are just the beginning of the activities and benefits offered to and by our membership. The Sections and Committees also sponsor an incredible number of other activities each year. The 38 Committees and DBA-affiliated organizations sponsored well over 100 programs and projects in 2012. A few of those programs that directly impacted the community include: Christmas in July (clothing drive), Santa Brings a Suit (also a clothing drive), Halloween Blood Drive, Habitat for Humanity Home Project, e-Mentoring Program, LegalLine, Lawyers in the Classroom, School Supply Drive, Law Day programs, Public Forums, pro bono activities (DVAP, neighborhood legal clinics and Veterans and Vickery Meadows clinics), Summer Law Intern Program, Education Symposium and many others. Of course the Committees carry out many activities that benefit the profession as well. Some of those activities include: New Member Reception, Lawyer Referral Service (also benefits the public), CLE programs, courthouse projects, Judicial Investitures, Transition to Law Program, Minority Clerkship Programs, Law Student Professionalism Program, Trial Academy, Peer Assistance, and publication of Headnotes.
The above listed community and professional programs just scratch the surface of the programs, services and activities that the DBA and its affiliated organizations (DBF, DAYL, JL Turner, DHBA and DAABA) have to offer. There is literally something for everyone of every age, from newly licensed lawyers to the senior lawyers committee. You, the members of the DBA and its affiliated organizations, do great things every day of the year. We should all be proud of the work we do. That is why I would like for us to take time this year to celebrate our accomplishments and ask that all members redouble their efforts to support and get involved in the DBA and its programs, especially in the area of pro bono work. With all of us working together, anything is possible.