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Legally Speaking


Issue: October, 2005
Author: Warren A. Lauer

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From the President. . .


During the 2005 Annual Meeting and Judicial Conference, a great deal of emphasis was placed on leadership. It was fascinating to hear about all the wonderful things that Wyoming lawyers are doing for their communities and our profession. Mark Harris is to be commended for defining his Bar presidency with the theme of “lawyers as leaders.” Because I was so inspired by the recipients of the Leadership Awards, I decided that I would pursue the topic in this column.

However, it has not been as easy as I assumed it would be. One of the problems is that leadership is not an easily defined concept. While most people recognize leadership or its lack thereof, it is very hard to come up with a good definition. Justice Potter Stewart’s observation in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964), that while he couldn’t define pornography, “I know it when I see it” is relevant. Also, what is seen as effective leadership is intensely individual and personal. I’m sure that if 100 lawyers were asked to name the five greatest leaders in history, there would be as many answers as lawyers involved in the survey.

However, after looking at some books on leadership, I have been able to identify several basic elements that are common to leaders of successful organizations.

The most essential element is vision. An organization should know what it wants to accomplish.

For several years, the Wyoming State Bar Officers and Commissioners have collectively defined their vision for the Bar through a strategic plan. The strategic plan is a dynamic document, which is periodically assessed and revised. In June 2005 it was updated. The five goals that the Officers and Commissioners of the Bar wish to accomplish during the next few years are:

1. Utilize technology to improve the services offered to Wyoming State Bar members;
2. Determine the feasibility of implementing CaseMaker;
3. Have an operational Lawyers’ Assistance Program by September 1, 2006;
4. Develop and implement professionalism programs;
5. Implement a new public awareness program about legal issues and the legal system.

The second aspect of leading a successful organization is to find ways to make the vision a reality. The Officers and Commissioners are very invested in assuring the success of the strategic plan and have volunteered for various committees and task forces. Their energy and commitment will assure that the goals set out in the strategic plan are realized.

Other aspects of leadership include the ability to work with people and respect their views. This quality prevails at all Commissioners’ meetings. While we are a very diverse group, who come from all parts of the state and have very different practices, all of us are committed to making sure that the Wyoming State Bar serves all of its members in the best imaginable way.

I recently visited with a friend who had been reading about the Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. He mentioned that Shackleton’s bold leadership style is now being imitated by many companies. My friend’s account about the Shackleton expedition was fascinating. Shackleton and his crew set out from England in 1914 in a ship aptly named “The Endurance,” with the intention of traversing Antarctica. The ship was crushed by ice and the crew was stranded at the South Pole for almost two years. Not a single crew member died, in spite of extraordinary hardships. (It boggles my mind to contemplate how everyone was able to survive the brutal winter, without the benefits of modern technology and clothing. I sometime complain of Laramie winters, so I cannot conceive the challenges of dealing with sub-zero weather and four months of complete darkness). Shackleton’s advice could be used as a blueprint for running an effective organization: "Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect"; "Take care of yourself, maintain your stamina and let go of your guilt"; "Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors."

I am confident that the Bar Officers and Commissioners possess the kind of leadership that you expect of us. While we are not Ernest Shackelton, we will keep the Bar on a steady, progressive course.

Being the 88th president of the Wyoming State Bar is a humbling experience. The list of the Past Bar Presidents is a “Who’s Who” of Wyoming lawyers. All of them and their commissioners provided extraordinary leadership and a legacy for all of us who are lucky enough to live and practice in Wyoming. However, I am confident that my fellow officers and commissioners and I will be able to follow in their big footsteps.

I am honored to serve as your president. I welcome your support and look forward to working with and for all of you. I will welcome all of your comments, suggestions and support.

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