I’m credibly humbled and grateful to be the new President of the Lake County Bar Association. Thank you for your confidence in me. I will make you proud that you selected me to lead this fine organization for the upcoming year.
My grandfather, Hy Lewis, was the first lawyer in our family. My dad followed and I’m the third generation. My grandfather was 99 when he died. He practiced law until he was 97. He was the longest-licensed, practicing attorney in the State of Illinois at that time. He literally represented three generations of families and he made a difference in so many lives. He donated his time and helped so many others. My grandfather, Hy Lewis, is the reason I chose to become an active member of the Lake County Bar.
When I became the 2nd Vice President of our Association, I began thinking about what I wanted to do in two years as President. What was my “initiative” going to be? And when I became 1st VP, my thoughts changed a little bit, and I continued to think about what this year would be all about. And then the volcano erupted on January 30 when we caught our (now former) Executive Director stealing money from our accounts.
Welcome to the Presidency, Brian.
In light of that discovery, and the additional surprises we found as we (literally) sat on the floor of the Bar office digging through disorganized files and misleading papers, I decided right then and there that my focus this year needs to be one thing, and one thing only – rebuilding the infrastructure of our Association.
I know that doesn’t sound exciting, but at this moment, a solid infrastructure is the most important thing our organization needs.
Infrastructure is the backbone of any healthy organization, especially a volunteer organization like ours. It supports its members. It needs to be reliable and efficient so we can meet our goals, both economic and philanthropic. Our collective goals as an Association depend on it. Moreover, the changes in the way we practice law, especially with technology, underscore the need for solid, reliable infrastructure.
So how are we going to do this? How are we going to make our Bar Association the strongest, safest Bar Association in the State?
First, we are going to reallocate our funds. It’s never desirable to spend money on things that you don’t see. Paying money to have your furnace repaired, for example, is something that’s not exciting, but vital.
In my personal injury practice, I meet with clients on a regular basis who have tried to save money on their insurance. But in truth, that money is the most important money you can spend to protect your most valuable assets — your family.
So we, as a Board, are going to reallocate our resources to protect our most valuable asset — our Bar family.
We have already hired a sophisticated and experienced accounting firm. They have been tasked with several important projects. Right now they are finishing up their audit of years of the Association’s and Foundation’s books. When that is complete, they will commence with monthly reconciliation of our bank accounts. There will also be, among other things, a quarterly review of our P & L, our budget numbers, etc.
We have never had this level of oversight and protection, but it’s time. And it’s worth the cost.
We have also instituted other, cost-free measures that will keep us safe. For example, the accounting firm, the Treasurer and I will all have access to our accounts. Balances and expenditures can be checked at any time, on line or in person, because multiple people are now authorized users on all of our bank, credit card, and payroll accounts. This helps with oversight and complete transparency.
We will receive notifications on our phones when our credit card is used or when there is suspicious account activity. We now require two signatures on checks over a certain dollar amount.
I am also working intently with our past presidents to create a Transition Manual for the Executive Committee. For two years now, I’ve known I’d be the President in 2018. I knew that I’d be speaking at awards ceremonies, presenting new judges with their robes and helping raise money through our programs.
But I did not know, for example, that my signature would be required on the LCBA tax return. Or that the Past President, the Treasurer and I needed to go to the bank to make changes on the signature cards for our accounts. Those are just a few examples that this Transition Manual will address, but it will be a living, breathing document that will be revised and improved upon in the years to come. It will include a detailed calendar so that each month, in fact each week, the Executive Committee knows what requires attention. We will know precisely when the taxes need to be filed, and when the budgeting process needs to begin so that the new Board can approve a solid, safe and realistic budget at its first board meeting in the new fiscal year.
In a volunteer organization like ours, such a Transition Manual is vital to consistency and reliability.
And finally, we are going to hire a reliable, educated and professional Executive Director. Our hiring committee has already interviewed close to ten candidates and several are fantastic. We will have a second round of interviews in early June and expect to have our new ED right after the July 4th holiday.
We have an incredible opportunity right now. We are going to turn this negative into a positive that will catapult our Bar Association forward. Our spectacular new building in Waukegan is a metaphor for a new beginning that is poised for success.
I will lead us in rebuilding our infrastructure so that in the year to come, other bar associations from around the State will look at the LCBA as the epitome of a strong, financially secure example.
I am looking forward to serving the LCBA in 2018-2019. I accept the challenges that are in front of us and I thank you for allowing me this opportunity to lead our Bar Association for the year ahead.