Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The future is NOW, well, by next week…

As promised, the VBA will be releasing our latest and most valuable new benefit: VBA Connect.   This new phase of member communications brings listserves to a higher level, allowing our members to engage, connect and share like never before. 

Within a week, all of our members will be receiving an email from us, welcoming them to the new online communities.  Please read this email!  There will be a lot of useful information in the email about how to personalize your account and maximize your benefits from the service.  The two most important items will be (1) to create or verify your profile and (2) to check your settings in terms of how you want to receive notices and conversations.  You can get daily, weekly or real time emails when your colleagues post questions, answers and documents OR you can choose to just go online yourself and receive no notices. You will have a single sign-on, meaning VBA Connect uses your same username and password that you use for vtbar.org.  

We know the listserves have been extremely active lately.  The real property folks are still struggling with the Pearl Harbor Day release of myVTax and its aftermath of glitches and confusion.  Folks have had to hand-copy responses and create a petition separately, just to make sense of the countless comments and questions.  We at the VBA are listening.  Those comments have been cut and pasted into a word document, which is not pretty, but which will save those comments for review and assembly after the change.  Because the old listserve service was neither archiveable nor searchable, the process became very cumbersome.  VBA Connect will allow Section members and other VBA members to view and search all conversation threads for the information they need.  Forgot the answer to a post about a condo permit from 6 months ago? This problem will be a thing of the past!

The Family Law Section has been actively requesting members’ positions for the upcoming House Judiciary Committee hearings on alimony reform.  Members had difficulty sharing the Family Division Oversight Committee Report due to limitations of the listserve service.  Also, like the Real Property Section issues, responses were difficult to find or categorize, and were certainly not searchable.  The Section also had some intense discussions about whether Vermont should have a presumption that joint responsibility is best for the child, codified like New Hampshire.  Arguments for either side appeared strong, given the potential for pressure in abuse situations.  Members had difficulty sharing the 50-State report on the issue.  The Section Members expressed their gratitude to Section Chair, Penny Benelli, who has had to hand-assemble the responses.  These responses and documents have been saved by us to post to the new system.

The online communities work much like other social media platforms.  You can have a profile that is as extensive or as minimal as you wish.  You can add other members to your contacts for ease in communication or you can have no contacts on your list at all.  Either way, VBA Connect does contain a full membership directory.  VBA Connect is extremely user-friendly and the folks at VBA will be your guide for any questions you may have.  We will be posting documents to the library and questions to the Sections to get you started but will place the system initially in “full moderation” mode so that we do not bombard or overwhelm the membership with superfluous information.  The site has been in Beta Testing but when it goes live, we will be calling on all Section Chairs to post at least one discussion for further testing.  Posts will have buttons clearly marked as “Reply to Discussion” or “Reply to Sender” so that the formerly prevalent and often embarrassing listserve posting errors will never recur.

Check out the screen shot below and be on the lookout for this incredible benefit.  Like winter, VBA Connect is coming!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Welcome Legislators!

Time for another “a picture is worth 1,000 words” blog!  The VBA hosted a Legislators’ Reception on January 18th in the Cedar Creek Room at the Statehouse.  The event was very well attended as the pictures demonstrate.  Hopefully the pictures also show the perfect mix of food, drink, smiles and meaningful conversations among the attendees.  Scroll down for a gallery glimpse into this successful event.

We at the VBA strive to be a valuable resource to our representatives and their constituents. As a backdrop to the event, in one corner there was a slideshow loop of pictures from the Legislators’ Days held in each County, and information about our resources such as our VBA Section Chairs, the Bar Ambassadors, our lawyer referral service and legal assistance business cards and our public education initiatives, such as our “Basics of the US Constitution” presentations.  If legislators have any question about proposed legislation, they can take comfort in knowing that the VBA Section Chairs are there to assist with understanding or to reach out to other members in that substantive area of law for issue spotting, testimony and discussion.  The Bar Ambassadors in each county are also a great resource.  Most importantly, we got an opportunity to interact with our legislators at a lively social event!

One picture that may not be self-explanatory is the close up of the large battle painting in the Cedar Creek Room.  The bearded injured man being carried is Thomas Kennedy, a direct relative of our own VBA President, Mike Kennedy.  Not only did this Kennedy survive his injury, but he later became a state official with stints as Sheriff of Franklin County, Town selectman and constable, superintendent and a two-term representative in the State legislature.  His prominent position as a young star in the legislature, and perhaps his potential influence over future artist commissions, may explain his front and center position in the painting!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event a success!