Friday, June 30, 2017

May the Forest Be with You!

A CLE in the making in VBA Member Sarah Tischler’s mind since 1998, the Woodlands CLE this Wednesday was well worth the wait.  We had a packed room with a fully engaged audience who stayed nearly 30 minutes past the scheduled end.  While much of the meat of the CLE was in the discussions that took place, it wouldn’t hurt to check out Jamey Fidel’s Powerpoint on Vermont’s forests, development and conserved space.  The materials are still on the website calendar for June 28th

Said one member with a smile, “This is one of the most relevant CLE’s I have ever been to.”  Attorneys not only learned about the timber industry, Vermont forests, conservation easements, estate planning issues and land succession, but they all shared stories, realizing that these issues touch all of our lives and practices in some way.  Almost every attendee could relate to having a shared family property or a family camp, having to make decisions of whether to log or conserve, sell or keep for themselves or with family; considering the value of protected neighboring land; or having heirs be in disagreement about the use of legacy property.  While we tagged the CLE as environmental law, it touched family, probate and trust, elder and municipal law.   Being so widely relevant, it was well received!

After all, aren’t trees a big factor into why we are all here? It is undeniable that Vermont is not the land of the big bucks (and I don’t mean deer).  I’ve blogged previously about leaving Bethel for the “big city” of Montpelier, being relieved and overjoyed to find Hubbard Park behind the VBA offices. Hopefully, at long last, summer is actually truly really positively here, so with any luck our members can take some time this weekend or on the 4th of July to get out there and enjoy all Vermont has to offer.  May the Forest Be with You!

Enjoy some pictures from the event, below.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mindreading 101

Coming from private practice, I found that mindreading was never necessarily one of the mandatory skillsets for success.  Clients always told you want they wanted. Loudly, repeatedly, perpetually, urgently. Some mindreading of the judge could be helpful, but that skill was fleeting, especially for those who subscribe to the “legal realism” theory of jurisprudence.  In private practice, mindreading would never triumph over knowledge, good preparation, hard work, stellar communication and a little bit of luck.

As I’ve just passed my one-year mark here as the VBA Director of Education and Communication, I realize we, the bar association and our esteemed Board of Managers, endeavor to mind-read. All the time.  The Board meets monthly and is always discussing possible ways to improve the member experience.  The Board also has its “annual retreat,” and while it was a sad day when I learned that the retreat had nothing to do with spa treatments, outdoor adventures and cocktails, the retreat is essential to our growth and function as an organization.  At the annual retreat last week, the Board got a new primer and refresher on all of the VBA’s services, benefits and programs and got to discuss the future for our members, as it always does. 

When discussing the future of the profession and the association, a certain level of prognosticating is, of course, in order.  But when you couple that with trying to read the minds of 2,300 members, it becomes quite daunting.  We try to get into the minds of our members, but even at our most clairvoyant moments, we are destined to periodically come up short due to the diverse interests of our members.  Meeting survey responses are often frustratingly hysterical: best CLE options ever/worst CLE options ever; more substantive law sessions/more law practice management sessions; great food/horrible food; more family law/less family law; more social events/we only have time for CLEs; more top-notch entertainment/we’d rather see entertainment with just family or friends; more wellness/less wellness and the dichotomies go on. Trying to please 2,300 members at least keeps us forever on our toes!

As I embark upon another year here at the VBA, please be reminded that the VBA is here to help you help people.  We are here to help you become more knowledgeable, more efficient, more connected with your community and with other lawyers.  Our job is to help you do yours and to help you compete effectively in the legal market.  But our mind-reading skills are lacking.

 If there are topics you feel are worthy of CLE programs, please tell your section chair, tell me, talk about it on VBA Connect and share with your colleagues. 

If there is a new technology, software, app or product that you believe will make your practice more efficient, post to the technology community on VBA Connect or email me and we can see if we can get a group discount, presentation or product review from other members.

I often wonder how we ever functioned without the collective wisdom that the robust Internet provides.  Soon, our thoughts about VBA Connect’s online communities will be no different.  To further curtail the need to mind-read, we are again due for a broad membership survey to canvas our members’ wants, needs and expectations.  If you take the time to respond, we will endeavor to make it worth your while.

Email your wisdom, suggestions, stories, requests or thoughts to jeb at vtbar dot org.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Where the Action Is!

If you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, you probably aren’t seeing our real-time photos from our CLE events.  That, of course, is where the action is.  But if you are satisfied with yesterday’s news, unperturbed by the fact that what was “so last year” is now “so two hours ago,” don’t worry, we have you covered!  We endeavor to periodically post photos from our events on our blawg, so here is another photographic installment from this week’s CLE programs.

First up, Environmental Law Day followed by the Municipal Attorneys Forum.


Endangered in Vermont...who knew?
Wayne, our videographer, hard at work!
Beautiful setting for the Muni-Law luncheon!

Every Day Should Be Law Day.

ABA “Law Day” occurs every May, which often turns into law-month events.  Like our Constitutional Law Day, which morphed into constitutional month, we’d like to say that for us lawyers, Law Day is, and should be, every day! Enjoy this recap of the recent Law Day event in Rutland.

The Rutland County Bar Association continued its 30+ year tradition of a Law Day Mock Trial, hosting over 200 area 5th graders from eight different schools in performances at the Rutland County Courthouse. The theme this year was "Beauty and the Beast," in a case featuring the Beast suing Belle for damages suffered after she negligently ran into the woods and he fought off the wolves to save her. A second count involved her conversion of the magic mirror. 

Rutland lawyer Karl Anderson provided the outline of the script and represented Belle, played by Vermont Law School student Toni Girardi (who informed the audience in the Q and A period after the trial that she had attended a Law School Mock Trial when she was a West Rutland 5th grader, and was inspired to attend law school as a result).  Benson lawyer Lisa Chalidze represented the Beast, played convincingly by Rutland lawyer Tom Bixby.  Rutland lawyer Jim Levins affected a heavy French accent to play Lumiere, complete with belting out several stanzas of "Be Our Guest," until Presiding Judge John Valente invited him to be his guest and step down from the witness stand!

Windsor County Deputy State's Attorney Glenn Barnes played "Chip," offering the key testimony in each performance. RCBA President and VBA Probate Section Co-Chair Bob Pratt welcomed the students at the morning performance, and VBA Executive Director and RCBA Secretary/Treasurer Teri Corsones welcomed the students at the afternoon performance.  She also served as bailiff assisting the randomly selected student jurors as they deliberated. Unlike most jury drawings, these jurors responded with great enthusiasm upon hearing their names called!

Judge Valente's father, Retired Judge Silvio Valente, started the Law Day Mock Trial tradition 32 years ago; the tradition was carried forward for many years by Joan Wing and Karl Anderson, and is carried forward now by Karl Anderson and Teri Corsones. It's been a great way to introduce thousands of students to our system of justice in an entertaining and educational way. Here’s a LINK to the front-page Rutland Herald story about the production.

Please help make Law Day every day and feel free to share any other Law Day activities that you'd like us to post!  If you’d like a copy of the mock trial materials, please contact Karl Anderson at