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Legally Speaking


Issue: August, 2005
Author: Mark W Harris

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From the President. . .

As Time Goes By…

The Wyoming State Bar family suffered a great loss with the death of Gerald R. Mason. Gerry served as Bar President during the second year of my term as Bar Commissioner (1995 – 1996).

Like everyone else, I have a Gerald Mason story.

At the beginning of one particular Board meeting, Gerry announced he needed two volunteers for a team building exercise (my words, not his). He promptly recruited Judge Roberta Coates and Joel Vincent to “volunteer.” I am, to this day, amazed at his ability to single-handedly institute the select service volunteer program in the Bar. In any event, Gerry announced that his volunteers were to engage in a boat race. He explained to all of us that the rules were very simple: The entrants were to blow two small, plastic toy boats across the length of a baking pan filled with about three to four inches of water. The first one to the other side wins. Simple.

With the drama of a ringleader at a circus, Gerry called his volunteers forward to a table on whence the “ocean” and its vessels were located. He then called the regatta watchers to gather round for a close view of the sloops and their captains. Gerry carefully explained to Roberta and Joel that the race would start when he counted to three. He coyly advised the captains to get as close to their vessels as possible so as to generate as much wind power as could be mustered. After all, they would need a full effort to win the first Mason Cup.

Tension was thick as the masters dutifully took their positions at the end of the table. Gerry raised his hand to commence the countdown: “one…, two…”, his voice rising in anticipation of the start. Like kids drawn to sugar, we all leaned a bit closer. At “three!,” the President of the Wyoming State Bar slammed his open signal hand directly in the middle of the pan of water, causing what can only be described as Wyoming’s first and only tsunami.

The result was utter devastation. The Vincent was rolled and her captain left with a look in his eyes that can only be described as a bald Barney Google on the run. The Coates suffered a worse fate. She also rolled and took water. Her captain took so much sea water, her locks were awash and matted. A few spectators were even known to have felt the spray of the sea from their supposedly safe positions.

The captains sputtered a little, tried to collect themselves, then broke into laughter. The spectators roared with approval. Of the many vivid memories I have of the event (hereafter Tropical Storm Gerald), one sticks out in my mind: The sight of Gerry Mason’s eyes disappearing as his smile broadened into full blown laughter.

I believe Gerry had several points he wanted to make that day. First, no matter how adversarial the nature of our profession may tend to be, we do not need to foster adversarial relationships. Second, he reminded us we were people first, and lawyers second. Finally, he reaffirmed for us that it was okay to have fun.

These are the lessons we learned. Thank you, Gerry. The Bar hopes we can continue to be proud to be Wyoming lawyers.


When this issue of the Wyoming Lawyer is published, my term as President will be coming to a close. It is better left for other places to talk about what I think the Bar has achieved or not achieved this past year. Since this is my last opportunity to inflict myself on you, I wanted to share a few observations in hope of guiding Warren Lauer as he assumes the role of President.

Always take advantage of the opportunity for strengthening the relationship with the Wyoming Judiciary, the Wyoming Legislature and Governor. During my service on the Board as a Commissioner and Officer, I have been privileged to be included in plans for leadership development with the Wyoming Supreme Court and attempts to improve the interaction and relationship between lawyers and judges in any capacity. The relationship can always improve more and you hope as a Bar President that you leave office with that relationship stronger than when you assumed your position. Likewise, the Wyoming Legislature has shown a willingness to listen to the concerns of the Bar on issues that affect our mandatory Bar functions. A strong relationship with the chief executive of Wyoming will also best serve the functioning of the Bar.

Be thankful of and proud of the opportunity for working with the fine group of individuals who comprise the Officers, Board of Bar Commissioners and the staff of the Wyoming State Bar. One of the greatest compliments that I received about our relationship was from a current Commissioner, who seriously considered seeking a Bar officer position. The Commissioner indicated that when he was elected to the Board he did not think that in the future he would have aspirations to continue with a leadership role in the Bar, but over the years of his service had changed his position and was seriously considering running for an office in the Bar.

Continue to foster the idea that we can be competent in representing our clients without being unprofessional to each other. I believe that a positive step toward more professionalism is in the wind for the Wyoming State Bar, and I would encourage that course be followed.

Continue to be involved in your community. When you become involved in your communities, our neighbors and members of our community see who we are not what we are. The efforts of all who volunteer should continue to be recognized for they are leaders of the Bar as well.

Finally, do not take ourselves too seriously. Granted, there are times when the practice of law demands diligence and seriousness. However, nothing requires an absolute stoic attitude and demeanor in all aspects of life. Learn to have fun, even if at the expense of yourself once in a while. Your clients will be more satisfied, your families happier, and your life made much more simple.

It has been an honor to serve the Wyoming State Bar. It has been much of my life for twelve years and I would gladly do it again.

Copyright © 2005 – Wyoming State Bar