We all leave one. We may not understand to what extent or how impactful in every instance, but most certainly — in what we do and in what we do not do, in how we communicate and in what we give — we all make an impact on the world around us.
Every woman lawyer today owes her opportunities to women like Jean L. King and my mother, Florence Schoenherr Warnez, both of whom reached for something more than what was expected of them when they decided to pursue a career in the law. Just as every bar leader can recall encouragement he or she received at just the right time, or someone who came before and opened a door, or who piqued an interest in serving, I have been so extremely lucky to have the example set by my sister Kimberly Cahill and those who served with her, including Bruce Courtade, Julie Fershtman, Lori Buiteweg, Ron Keefe, Nancy Diehl, and Judge Cynthia Stephens, all of whom graciously encouraged and informed me in my path of service to the State Bar of Michigan. Likewise, I am so grateful for being in service at the same time as ABA president and past SBM President Reginald M. Turner, whom I thank for being a part of our activities this year.
Every bar leader also understands that nothing can be accomplished alone, in a vacuum. All the effort of the State Bar is undertaken for the benefit of the profession, to enhance access to justice, and on behalf of our 46,000+ members. It takes the effort of many, including our Board of Commissioners, the officers, our committed committees and sections, and the Representative Assembly as well as the collaboration of our fellow stakeholders at the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Supreme Court, SCAO offices, Attorney Grievance Commission, Attorney Discipline Board, and the like. These efforts are supported by the dedicated work of staff to move the needle, to take on policy positions, and to administer projects that will improve the profession and access to justice.
Looking back on my year as president, I am so proud of things we’ve accomplished. It’s been an extraordinary experience to have met the challenges presented by the retirement of our long-standing and very accomplished Executive Director Janet Welch and the process of hiring a new executive director. It was an honor to hire Peter Cunningham as the sixth executive director to serve the State Bar of Michigan and, more recently, to bring on board Drew Baker, who is the first African American to serve as SBM general counsel.
It’s been humbling to see our legal community come on board to support our new program, SOLACE (Support of Lawyers and Legal Personnel All Concern Encouraged), which was implemented to provide support to our members in times of unexpected crisis. The SOLACE Network has grown this year to include 16,000 members who have opted in to help. If you haven’t yet, please go to michbar.org/solace to join and be there to help if and when you can.
It also was an honor to see the Supreme Court show confidence in our fiscal management and service on behalf of the profession by approving a license fee increase, which will help the Bar continue to innovate and implement programming for the benefit of our membership, profession, and protection of the public. I’m also very excited that — in collaboration with Supreme Court Justice Megan K. Cavanaugh and Bree Buchanan, the president of the Institute for Well-Being in the Law — the State Bar has helped pull together professionals throughout the profession into the Michigan Well-Being in Law Task Force. The task force, which was announced in May, is working to provide recommendations on ways to improve the well-being of lawyers, law students, judges, and others working in the legal profession — crucial work needed to turn around disturbing trends.
As my year as president draws to a close and in this, my final President’s Page, I extend my sincere and extensive thanks to all those people who have contributed to make this year a meaningful and productive one, as reflected upon above. I give special thanks to consultant Elizabeth Derrico and all those who served on the Executive Director Search Committee. Also, thanks to all the commissioners who have served this year and the officers who have pulled together when needed. A very special thanks to incoming President James W. Heath for his professional insights, hard work, personal friendship, and support, especially toward the end of the year when some family matters have drawn me away from some leadership responsibilities.
Furthermore, I also owe a great deal of gratitude to the entire staff of the SBM for their hard work, especially to executive directors Janet Welch and Peter Cunningham as well as Margaret Bossenbery, Molly Ranns, Robert Mathis, Marjory Raymer, Gregory Conyers, Kari Thrush, Anne Vrooman, and Carrie Sharlow — all of whom have all put special effort and care into helping me during past years’ and this year’s work.
Being a part of the SBM community as the 87th president has been a privilege and a highlight of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone!
I acknowledge that bar service is a commitment that often means sacrificing time with our clients, our local communities, and our families. To that extent, I want to say thank you to our clients for their patience; my mother, Florence Schoenherr Warnez; my sister, Pamela Cahill; my friends at the Macomb Bar including Rick Troy, Dawn Fraylick, Judge Tracey Yokich, Lori Finazzo; and the Divas who were there to celebrate and support me throughout the past year. Of course, there aren’t enough words available, in this language or others, to say thanks to my partner, Meri Dembrow, without whose love, positivity, and shared strength I would not have been able to do all that I did this year.
So, lastly, I leave you with a few suggestions. I encourage you, gentle reader, to get more involved with the State Bar of Michigan and, when doing so, consider and revisit often the sage advice of Judge Victoria Roberts as outlined in Thomas Cranmer’s President’s Page published in October 2005. This is the best compilation of advice I have ever read about what it means to be a leader in service to the Bar. My favorite components of this advice are to subordinate personal ambition; be introspective; seek wisdom, knowledge, justice, courage, and integrity; maintain a sense of humor; don’t resist the help of others; know how to listen; be tolerant; and recognize the contributions of others. These precious words of advice are wonderful and a testament to how special Judge Roberts is to our Bar community and the profession. This article echoes some of the best advice my mother ever gave me, as a “KEY” to success: seek Knowledge, be Enthusiastic, and be Yourself. While I honor everyone I have mentioned, dare I also honor my own experience to remind you: Please always take good care of yourself and your well-being.
Wishing you all every happiness and success; thank you for a year that I will always treasure.