Remarks from the Bench-Bar Conference

July 25, 2014
President’s Message President Jim Creenan’s

New ACBA President Jim Creenan delivered the following remarks at the 2014 Bench-Bar Conference as he accepted the gavel from his predecessor Nancy L. Heilman. His comments are printed below for members who did not attend the conference.

As I accept this gavel, I thank you, Nancy. Your graceful leadership over the last year has been a gift to us all. But I most appreciate your caring and thoughtful approach to the many serious issues we have faced this past year and your effort to ensure our less advantaged attorneys have a stronger voice.

I thank the Bench-Bar Committee, chaired by Dennis Kusturiss and Vice Chair Craig Simpson, our sponsors, and the Seven Springs staff for making this event possible. I am grateful for the large attendance by our members, especially the judges who take time from their schedules to be here in support of our bar association. President Judge Manning, thank you for your exemplary leadership on the board and in the courthouse.

Many of you know me from the courtroom, the Young Lawyers Division, the Finance Committee, the Bar Foundation, the ACBA Softball League or the Board of Governors to name a few. Some of you know me just as a Bench-Bar attendee.

I look forward to the Bench-Bar each year – to the camaraderie and fellowship that make the ACBA so wonderful. To those that have golfed with me, thanks – and I am truly, very sorry.

I am honored to have the opportunity to speak today and to have the privilege of serving as the 128th president of the ACBA.

I understand that I am one of a very small group of people to serve as both YLD chair and ACBA president, including Vince Grogan, Michael Boyle, Frank McKenna, Judge Joy Flowers Conti and Jim Carroll.

A much longer list of distinguished attorneys precedes me in the role of president. I know there are big shoes to fill and I am humbled by the opportunity.

To all of the past presidents who are here today–would you all stand for a moment. You have served us well and made us the best bar association in the country. Please join me in thanking them for their service

To our Immediate Past President Mark Vuono, thank you for your support and encouragement from the time I first sat on the Finance Committee through today.

A special word of thanks to a good friend and mentor. Every young lawyer looks to emulate the highest qualities of the most respected leaders and for me, I look to Bob Racunas. Bob, I could not imagine a better role model than you. Thanks.

I wish to take a moment to express gratitude to my family, colleagues and to the professional staff of the ACBA.

My parents, Tom and Anne Creenan from Buffalo, New York, raised six wonderful children. As the youngest of those six, my parents instilled important values in me, including honesty and a strong work ethic. I am appreciative for their ongoing encouragement, support and love.

My in-laws Chuck and Phyllis Sheehy encouraged me very early in my career to become active in the ACBA. Chuck always reinforces the importance of collegiality and professionalism.

Molly, thank you for your support.

My law partner, Walt Baczkowski and our colleague Elizabeth Bailey, have been guiding lights to me in the traditional practice of law. I have been honored to practice with them and I hope for many more years ahead.

To the Duquesne Law Class of ‘96, thank you for your friendship and support. The strong bonds built over three years will last a lifetime and, when we are together, those memories give us comic relief and common perspective many years later. Here today are Kiersten Frankowski, Dawn Gull, Nicola Henry-Taylor and Bill Pentecost.

To the rest of my friends and colleagues, including Kevin Eddy and Greg Taddonio, I am very honored to have your friendship to support my professional activities.

To my good friend David Leonard, I thank you for your tremendous stewardship and wish you a rich and robust retirement. I know that Diane McMillen will continue to uphold the high standards you have set.

There is one person here today who most encouraged me to remain active in the bar. At a chance meeting on Grant Street, this special person convinced me that a career in the law would not be worthwhile unless I made the ACBA an integral part of my practice. Dorie Schnippert, I literally would not be here today without your words of encouragement.

To the entire staff at the bar and the foundation, I say sincerely on behalf of all our volunteers that you make our time away from the office a joy. Thank you for all that you do.

Last, I must thank David Blaner for bringing out the best in me. I am grateful for you taking me under your wing and guiding me along my journey in the ACBA.

To you, the members, I make the commitment to give my best in the role of president. The ACBA has been a critical part of my professional life. From the educational programs, the public service programs, and the networking gatherings, we do wonderful things for the profession, the courts, and the community. Above all, the ACBA defines collegiality and professionalism. We should all be proud to be a part of this organization. I know I am.

As for my plans for the coming year, I want to affirm to you my emphasis will be on you – our members. We need to make sure the lawyers that practice among us continue to have the opportunity to practice law in the same collegial and professional environment we know. There are challenges today that did not exist when I first joined the ACBA, but we are prepared to meet them.

During the next year, I intend to reaffirm the bar’s commitment to each of you and to the profession. Our Homer S. Brown Division continues its rich tradition under the leadership of Tyra Oliver. The Women in the Law Division, now led by Kelly Williams, finds innovative ways to address the needs of our members. Our YLD, led by Joe Williams, is in great hands and continues to develop top-notch, award-winning programs.

Our officers, Nancy Heilman and Mark Martini, lead a talented, diverse group on our Board of Governors. We are here for you.

In return, I ask you, our members and leaders, to bring to us your support, your ideas, and your effort. We need your participation to help us navigate the profession’s new challenges and opportunities.

In the coming year, you will see programs to help our members in their day-to-day practices.

This fall, we unveil a skills training program for new and transitioning lawyers called “Practice for Success.” Our sections have come together to lead this innovative approach to making our new lawyers “practice-ready,” so they can serve a large number of people in our community. I wish to thank the team of lawyers on our planning committee that have stepped up to make this happen, including:
YLD (Bar Leadership Initiative):
Kristine Carpenter
Kate Diersen
Criminal Litigation:
Daniel Fitzsimmons
Suzanne Swan
Probate and Trust:
Daniel Johnson
Carol Sikov Gross
Family Law:
Mary K. McDonald
David Slesnick
Civil Litigation:
Scott Leah
Cecilia Dickson
Real Property:
Susan Swick
Staci Patterson

Later in the year, we will unveil a program for our senior members that might be contemplating a transition to retirement. As a service to our members, their clients, and perhaps more importantly, to their spouses, we will provide the tools to plan ahead. We hope to guide our members to capitalize on years of hard work and to promote concepts that will allow the clients to continue to receive exceptional client service.

Also in the year ahead, we will continue as an association to support the Pennsylvania Civil Legal Justice Coalition. The coalition recently submitted its report to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We may soon see the recommendations of that group begin to make an impact in the unmet legal needs of Pennsylvania through an Access to Justice 
Commission and a proper level of funding for our legal services and pro bono programs.

The ACBA stands ready to identify and lead us to these opportunities.

In closing, Pittsburgh lost an icon when Coach Noll passed away. A great man. Growing up in Buffalo, we also had a great coach in Marv Levy and I would just like to close with some of his words. Before every game, Marv used a rhetorical question to focus and challenge his players. It became his trademark. “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?”

For me, I say right here, right now.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as president for the upcoming year.