Governance & Membership

January 2019 President's Message

The Year Ahead

By Charles W. Chesnut

I learned from my father, who was a lawyer, civic leader and public servant, that making a living as a lawyer and making a difference in the world are complementary and completely doable. It is a high honor to serve as your president in 2019. As president, I come to this position with a sense of pride in our association and true respect for the task of representing the membership of the Oklahoma Bar Association. I am not one for making lofty promises. However, the bar was set high prior to my coming to this position, and I promise I will do my best to leave things as good or better than I found them.

Serving as president of this association is a tremendous challenge personally – it pushes one outside one’s comfort zone in many ways. Yet it also presents a wonderful opportunity to continue to build on the accomplishments of former OBA leaders. When I look at the history of the OBA and those who have served in the past as OBA presidents, it makes me both proud and humble to be elected as president of this organization. I will work to steer our association in a direction that will serve our membership well, help make us better lawyers and people, and fairly and responsibly regulate our legal profession. I have always believed that is the job of a bar association.

The team guiding the OBA in 2019 is outstanding. Our President-Elect Susan Shields of Oklahoma City, and our Vice President Lane Neal, also of Oklahoma City, have both compiled outstanding records of leadership in the OBA. Susan has been very involved over the years in the OBA and has served with distinction in a number of capacities. We will be fortunate to have her lead the association in 2020. Lane has been very involved with the OBA YLD and is a past chair of that group. He will be a leader in our association for years to come. I am grateful they have chosen to dedicate their time and talent to our organization.

I would like to recognize our Past President Kim Hays. Last year, she not only practiced law full time, but she ably filled the role of OBA president, was a wife to Alan and a mom to Noelle and Parker. That didn’t leave a lot of time for Kim. Serving as OBA president is a time-consuming venture. It makes huge demands on one personally and professionally. When you see Kim, please thank her for dedicating a year of her life to this job.

We have 17 members on our Board of Governors. They come from all parts of the state and all walks of life. They are a talented group of individuals. They come together monthly in an effort to provide positive direction to our bar association. I have been impressed when I have asked them to serve in any capacity, they have willingly accepted the charge. That kind of person is wanted everywhere. I am proud we have them leading this association.

Over the years, I have watched with interest as bar presidents with big agendas tackle great projects during their year as president. Many have accomplished much. There are those who have served who have been very steady and continued to move us forward. They take on issues that arise and proceed to power through them.

Through it all, the bar association continues to move ahead. The reason for this, I think, is we have a bar staff that continues to provide energy, focus and implementation of the tasks we undertake. Also, in an age where volunteerism seems to be on the wane, the OBA still has a large number of attorneys who care enough to get involved and tackle projects in a big way. It takes us all to keep it advancing together.

My goal this year is simple – keep doing well the things we do well and work diligently on the areas that need improvement. We will continue to provide great service to our members.

We do have some areas that need to be looked at closely. An example is continuing legal education. It has changed dramatically over the years.

Member surveys reveal that members consider CLE as the most important service the OBA provides. It is vitally important that the OBA continues to make quality, affordable programming available to its members.

Since 1986, the OBA has been the market leader in CLE in Oklahoma. While still the market leader, its market share decreases each year. There are several hundred competitors in the CLE marketplace with a good number of those providing credit hours at no charge or providing programming much less expensive than the OBA.

The budget reveals that revenue from CLE, although still one of the OBA’s primary revenue sources, has been following a long trend decrease going back at least to 2005. The real issue is that the marketplace has greatly reduced our profitability.

Currently, our CLE Department is working hard to provide continuing legal education through multiple delivery mechanisms, and it continues to look for alternative ways to improve CLE delivery. But however good the OBA may be in its CLE programming, one has to consider that price, delivery method, location and specialized programming often trump the OBA’s high content standards.

This year, we are appointing a task force to do a study of CLE/MCLE to investigate how we can do CLE better. Is the OBA offering the right programs at the right price, at the right time and in the right way to add value to its members? If you have ideas about this, please let us know.

There is a lot more happening in the OBA. We’ll talk more about it in future issues. In the meantime, my wish for all of us is that we make the decisions and take the steps in our lives that will cause us to have a great year in 2019.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 90 pg. 4 (January 2019)