The Lansing Report.
I was at a swimming pool recently with Dillon, my six-year-old son. He’s getting used to the water and he’s able to have quite a bit of fun...especially when he can touch the bottom. There is simply something comforting for him to know that he can plant his feet on the ground—even when he is floating. At one point I was trying to get him to jump into my arms from the side of the pool. It wasn’t easy. He knows what it’s like to have water up his nose or to swallow a big gulp of chlorine-flavored water.
The key to getting him to take that big leap into my arms? Trust.
When I was in New York for the ABA meeting in July, I went to a deli for breakfast a couple of times. I went back to the same place because the corned beef hash was so good...the first time. The corned beef was perfectly seasoned, chopped, and served separately from the potatoes, which were large, almost stew-sized morsels. My eggs were cooked just as I had ordered. Mind you, this was not a fancy place—just a good deli where they knew what they were doing when they put together a plate of corned beef hash.
The second time was a slightly different story. Nothing horrible, but clearly a different cook was at work. The potatoes were dry and the eggs over done. I like hot sauce (it’s New York and 'some like it hot'), but they were out when I went there for my second visit. The corned beef was the same but the meal was not. And that got me thinking. What made me return to the deli was not just a plate of hash. Something more fundamental was at work: trust.
Trust is at the foundation of so much of our lives. When we buy a car, particularly if we are returning to the same brand we were driving before, we are trusting that it will perform as advertised, be as reliable (or more so) than the first one and be a good value for the price.
But trust is at the root of more than just business. Trust is part of the foundation for our profession and the Bar association. When I first started practicing law, one of the most impressive events for me was the first time opposing counsel agreed to an adjournment over the phone. There was professionalism and civility, but even more, there was a foundation of trust.
When we think of the idealistic images we have of lawyers, trust is there, at the core. Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mocking Bird" showed us that being a lawyer could sometimes mean standing against the crowd. He defended a young black man accused of raping a white woman in a southern town. The townspeople wanted to lynch Peck’s client, and he stood up to them, risking his life and that of his family. What does this have to do with trust? Everything. Because when we become lawyers we are entrusted by the public—the townspeople—to be the stewards of justice. That’s a pretty tall order—a lot more significant than cooking a good plate of hash or building a decent car. But I believe that’s what makes ours a profession and not just a business.
At a different level, trust is at the foundation of our bar association. Members trust that the elected leaders, executive director, and staff will all act in the best interest of the profession. That kind of trust is built through keeping our word, setting and adhering to high standards, and simply doing what’s right.
Trust is not something that comes automatically. And what can make things even more difficult is that none of us is perfect. (I know I am responsible for my son getting water up his nose on at least one occasion). But through persistence and continued effort to better the profession, I believe that we are building a solid foundation for trust.
We have increased communications with the membership. The Bar has used technology to this end, using the e-Journal and the website to communicate with thousands of lawyers all across the state quickly and efficiently.
I have been working to develop better relationships with local bar associations and partners, like ICLE and the Paul Goebel Group. I believe that by working together, all these organizations can most effectively serve the greater interests of the Bar and the public.
We live in ever-changing times. Change affects each and every one of us at some point in our lives. The State Bar will continue to build a foundation of trust on leadership and responsibility in the midst of change. Your State Bar, its leaders, and staff are here to ensure that that foundation remains strong and grows even stronger in the years to come.
In the Lansing Report on page 980 of the August 2000 Michigan Bar Journal, a sentence was inadvertently left out under the "LJAP Services" heading. The complete paragraph should read: LJAP expansion efforts have been coupled with a more proactive approach to lawyers assistance in the state of Michigan, as opposed to the traditional reactive approach taken in the past. Although both approaches have their merits, by using a proactive approach in addressing and dealing with these problems, many times the LJAP can begin helping people at the beginning stages of a problem as opposed to the end stage when their lives may have already been negatively impacted—their job, family, career, etc.