A recap of the PBA’s Conference of County Bar Leaders

March 27, 2020
President’s Message By Lori McMaster

President-Elect Elizabeth Hughes, David Blaner, Diane McMillen and I recently attended the PBA’s Conference of County Bar Leaders (CCBL) in Hershey, PA. It was a great opportunity to attend instructive programming regarding bar association leadership. The conference began with a session entitled “Prohibition of Members’ Misconduct.” David Blaner served as a panelist and there was thoughtful discussion of strategies employed by bar associations when members engage in misconduct at bar-sponsored events.

Once again, the ACBA proved to be a leader on this topic. The PBA conducted a survey of bar associations across Pennsylvania and received 23 responses. Of those, 13 bar associations reported having no provisions or processes in place to address member misconduct. Counties with provisions to address member misconduct include Allegheny, Bedford, Blair, Carbon, Centre, Franklin, Fulton, Lackawanna, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Westmoreland, Wyoming and York (currently addressing them).

The ACBA’s Professionalism Statement was highlighted in the presentation:

All members of the Allegheny County Bar Association are expected to act in accordance with the Association’s Mission Statement and Code of Professionalism. The behavior of members toward one another and in public should reflect the Association’s commitment to equality and diversity. Members are expected to diligently promote and maintain the collegiality and the positive image of the bar at all times. Disparaging language, offensive actions or other conduct which is contrary to the Mission Statement and the Code of Professionalism are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Members will recall that our Professionalism Statement appears on the ACBA website, in all ACBA event program materials, in all ACBA CLE and skills training materials, and in the ACBA Committee, Division and Section Chair Handbook. It continuously reminds us of our obligations to one another and the public. The Professionalism Statement was drafted by the Ad Hoc Professional Conduct Committee, co-chaired by Ron Hicks and Elizabeth Hughes, and approved unanimously by the Board of Governors. The outcome of their work endures as a best practice in strategies addressing member misconduct within bar associations.

I also attended a program by Link Christin, JD, MA and the Executive Director, Legal Program, Caron. Christin is a licensed and board certified Alcohol & Drug Addiction Counselor and presented on the topic of “Enhancing Resilience.” The program described what resiliency looks like, its inherent qualities, and the behaviors of those who successfully incorporate it into their personal and professional lives.

While resiliency is not a trait we are born with, Christin noted that it can be taught. He described emotional resilience as the art of bouncing back, and emerging stronger, wiser and more powerful. Interestingly, he shared data suggesting that lawyers are not particularly resilient, which is somewhat surprising given our skill levels, and capacity for problem-solving. Possible factors which can diminish attorney resiliency include burnout, chronic stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and the lack of civility in the profession.

Christin shared steps we can all take to become more resilient:

1. Look at adversity as an opportunity to increase confidence and self-efficacy. Khalil Gibran wrote: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
2. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We are our own worst critics, always thinking the worst of ourselves. When you start to go down a spiral of self-doubt and self-hatred, stop and ask whether you would say those destructive things to a friend. We must learn to accept what we can control and let go of what we can’t.
3. Leverage positive personal and professional relationships as a source of support.
4. Understand the difference between perfectionism and excellence. The term “work smarter not harder” is an important one. We can learn to maximize our efficiency and productivity. If we have the right tools, we can spend five hours on a case instead of ten and achieve the same result. Perfect is the enemy of the good.
5. Stay in the present and learn to set boundaries around your personal time. Obsessing about cases during time spent with family and friends can deplete the joy in those experiences.
6. Practice self-care through a healthy diet, exercise, and pursuing activities that are soothing and rejuvenating.
7. Embrace emotional resilience as a critical part of good lawyering.

For more insights, see Attorney at Work, Link Christin, ‘Survival Skill No. 1 for Lawyers: Emotional Resilience,’ Attorney at Work, 2/20/19. Available at: https://www.attorneyatwork.com/survival-skill-no-1-for-lawyers-emotional-resilience/

In conclusion, I invite you to reflect on the following quote by Maya Angelou: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

Please do share your thoughts about this message with me at mcmaster@pitt.edu or 412-648-2359.

All my best, Lori.