Governance & Membership
President's Message - January 2024
Setting Goals for the New Year
By Miles Pringle
I am humbled and excited to serve as the Oklahoma Bar Association president for 2024. As a native Oklahoman and third-generation attorney, it is an honor to serve our honorable profession. I hope to make you proud.
Perhaps you feel it too, but I believe we are at a moment of great change. That means the practice of law is in the midst of change as well. For example, our demographics are shifting. The OBA has more members over the age of 80 than under the age of 30. Nevertheless, Oklahoma’s population and the number of businesses continue to grow. That means lawyers are needed to serve the needs of more clients than ever.
Technology continues its march forward, transforming the practice of law. As a child, I spent much of my time at my parents’ law offices. One of the main areas of action was the law library, where I loved climbing up and down the ladders. Today, few law firms keep libraries and instead use online services for legal research. It’s hard to imagine, but the technological pace of change may actually increase in the coming years with the implementation of technologies like artificial intelligence.
Despite these changes, the OBA and its mission remain more important than ever. As set out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in the preamble of the Rules Creating and Controlling the Oklahoma Bar Association, its purpose is:
In the public interest, for the advancement of the administration of justice according to law, and to aid the courts in carrying on the administration of justice; to foster and maintain on the part of those engaged in the practice of law high ideals of integrity, learning, competence and public service, and high standards of conduct; to provide a forum for the discussion of subjects pertaining to the practice of law, the science of jurisprudence, and law reform; to carry on a continuing program of legal research in technical fields of substantive law, practice and procedure, and to make reports and recommendations thereto; to prevent the unauthorized practice of law; to encourage the formation and activities of local bar associations; to encourage practices that will advance and improve the honor and dignity of the legal profession; and to the end that the responsibility of the legal profession and the individual members thereof, may be more effectively and efficiently discharged in the public interest, and acting within the police powers vested in it by the Constitution of this State.
That is a huge responsibility, but it is the responsibility the OBA has carried out attentively for more than 100 years. Our task today is to continue to execute this mission in an ever-changing world. To that end, the OBA staff is working on improving its technology, such as a more user-friendly website and integrating a single sign-on to the MCLE website. We are making physical improvements to the main entrance of the Oklahoma Bar Center so that it is more accessible to those with disabilities. Our CLE Department produces and licenses quality content to keep our members current on legal developments and best practices.
This year, I have set out three main goals to accomplish. First is a robust and meaningful Annual Meeting. Accordingly, we have moved the meeting from November to July to be held in conjunction with the Oklahoma Judicial Conference, and we are promoting a business casual event to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. This modification means that state court dockets will be clear, so there should be fewer conflicts. Also, joint events between the bar and the judiciary should assist the collegiality and professionalism of everyone involved in the administration of justice. I thank the Supreme Court and the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference for helping make this change possible.
While remote learning opportunities for CLEs are important, it is essential that professionals meet in person to discuss legal issues and share experiences. We learn more and develop better relationships when we meet in person. According to the Brookings Institution, studies find “that online instruction resulted in lower student performance relative to in-person instruction.” Affected students reported difficulty concentrating on work and “felt less connected to both their peers and instructors relative to their in-person peers.” Another article, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that “without the face-to-face component, learning and teaching became a completely different experience for students and teachers.”
I hope you are able to attend the Annual Meeting this year, which is scheduled for July 9-12 in Norman. If you are unable to attend, I strongly encourage you to attend another professional activity in person. You may get a lot more out of it than a virtual event.
The second goal for 2024 is a new strategic plan for the OBA. The last full strategic plan was adopted in 2005 and updated in 2010. It is time for the OBA to revisit its medium- and long-term plans. The OBA has been working toward a new strategic plan for a while. For example, in 2022, under Jim Hicks’ leadership, we conducted a thorough survey of the membership. Now is the time to put pen to paper.
The third goal is a member dues raise. It has been 20 years since the OBA last increased its dues in 2004. At that time, it was anticipated that the increase would suffice for five to seven years (or 2011). Thanks to the great stewardship of OBA staff leaders like John Morris Williams and Craig Combs, the OBA was able to stretch the need for an increase more than a decade longer than was originally anticipated.
According to online inflation calculators, $275 in 2004 would equate to approximately $445 in 2023. To be clear, I am not proposing that size of an increase. The Board of Governors will look at projections and make a decision based on quantitative information. But, like your lives and businesses, the OBA is not immune from inflation. We must retain talented employees, pay vendors and maintain a beautiful (but aging) building.
Additionally, we must plan for the future. As set out above, the OBA has more members over the age of 80 than under 30. As such, the OBA is going to have to do more with less going forward and grow other sources of revenue, like CLE. However, we are looking at a physical cliff in the coming years. I believe it is necessary to get in front of the issue now rather than wait for it to crash on the organization like a tsunami.
It is a privilege to practice law in this state. That privilege has responsibilities, such as paying OBA dues to help administer, advance and regulate the practice of law. When I talk to other bar presidents around the country and discuss the need to raise dues, the reaction is often met with, “I don’t want to do that in my year as president,” with the connotation being that they will receive a number of attorney complaints. I respond that as leaders, we must do what we believe is necessary. More importantly, I have faith in Oklahoma attorneys. I have faith that they value their profession and want to uphold the high standards of practice in Oklahoma.
These are just some of the highlights of the ongoing issues for the OBA. Please visit the OBA or contact one of the members of the Board of Governors to learn how you can be more involved in your profession. I look forward to a great year in 2024. With your help, we will try to accomplish these goals and meet the responsibilities of the OBA as set out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
 Cellini, Stephani Riegg: “How does virtual learning impact students in higher education?” The Brookings Institution, available at https://bit.ly/47KfQp0.
 P. Photopoulos, C. Tsonos, I. Stavrakas and D. Triantis: “Remote and In-Person Learning: Utility Versus Social Experience. SN Comput Sci. 2023;4(2):1–13. PubMed Central https://bit.ly/4a73I30.
Miles Pringle is executive vice president and general counsel at The Bankers Bank in Oklahoma City.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 95 Vol 1 (January 2024).
Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.