Thursday, June 18, 2015

HCBA President's Message: A Final Salute

By Benjamin H. Hill IV

It all started so innocently. Despite forewarnings from several predecessors, I refused to believe that anything could pass so quickly. Just yesterday, I was raising my right hand and taking the oath that our then-Chief Judge Menendez was administering. A cup of coffee later, I was watching my successor, Carter Andersen (aka “The Upgrade”), raising his right hand as our current Chief Judge Ficarrotta administered the same oath. As I paused to reflect on how quickly the past Bar year had rocketed by, I couldn’t help but smile. Never before had I served with so many talented folks ― both HCBA members and members of our incredible HCBA staff ― all of whom are so committed to carrying out our Bar’s mission. And, in the process, never before had I had so much fun serving. Then, it hit me. Isn’t that what the HCBA is all about?

Glancing back on the year, I am proud of, and grateful for, all of the good work that we managed to accomplish together. Under the code name “Operation Respect and Service,” we lifted up a variety of issues and events that not only promoted respect for the law but also served the needs of our community. In the process, it is my sincere hope that we added value to your HCBA membership.

First, we raised and advanced military and veterans issues. We did so via our new and now well-established Military and Veterans Affairs Committee (“MVAC”), a group that not only got after it all year but also positioned us well locally to better serve the legal needs of those who have given so much for our country. In doing so, we highlighted and supported our local Veterans’ Treatment Court. We devoted our first General Membership Luncheon, which aptly fell on 9/11, to appreciating our military. And we participated in a number of other events ― from area Stand-Down Days to benefit homeless vets to our Adopt a Veteran program where we delivered much needed clothes, supplies, and other gifts to “adopted” veterans in need. I salute everyone who helped fulfill this aspect of our Bar’s mission this year.

We also celebrated our judiciary and the unbelievable support it continues to provide our Bar. Perhaps this was most evident at our Bench Bar Conference where Chief Justice Jorge Labarga highlighted an impressive lineup of speakers that enabled us to set an attendance record for this annual event. We also recognized a fine group of retiring judges, capping things off with the fun and memorable Toast & Roast of Chief Judge Menendez. Speaking of records, we may have also set one for the number of investitures in which we participated this past year. Indeed, it remains a real honor for the HCBA to participate in these special occasions. As I said many times this year, the support that our local judiciary gives the HCBA makes us a better connected, more professional, and, where and when appropriate, even a more fun Bar.

We lifted up many other issues ranging from diversity and pro bono service to the importance of young lawyers and professionalism. We also tried to continue offering benefits to our members. From the traditional efforts such as our annual Judicial Pig Roast/Food Festival & 5K Pro Bono River Run to new ones such as our inaugural Health & Wellness Expo and our new HCBA website, we hope that each member felt and appreciated the variety and value of such efforts. And, speaking of benefits, let us not forget the value of this great publication, the 25th anniversary of which we also celebrated throughout the year. While I thank all of you who wrote for or otherwise contributed to the Lawyer this year, I especially salute Ed Comey and his fine work as editor.

I could not close without acknowledging the contributions of two dedicated groups who each enabled any success we had this year. First, I recognize our HCBA Board of Directors, which consistently guided us throughout this past year. As both stewards and ambassadors of our Bar, our officers and directors were active, diligent, energetic, and visible all year long. I thank our board members for their commitment and support. Second, I hold up our HCBA staff. Led by the incomparable John Kynes, our mightily talented yet ever so humble executive director, this staff was truly special. I simply cannot recall working with such an organized, devoted, responsive, collegial, and fun group. Indeed, we members are fortunate to have each of them planning, preparing, working, and serving on our behalf.

Finally, I thank our entire membership for providing me with this unique opportunity to serve as HCBA president. It has always been an honor for me just to be involved with the HCBA, so to lead this great Bar for a year has truly been a privilege. Although our work is never really complete, I salute all who served this past Bar year and gratefully say: Mission accomplished!