President's Message: The 58: Being a Board Member Is a Lot More Than Just Showing Up at Meetings! - By J. Gary Trichter

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Saturday, March 24th, 2012

SCRAPPYISM from the recent Napa seminar: “TCDLA was built on relationships between friends who were also fine lawyers. Those relationships were forged by those who understood that it was the time together that was the most important component in building a strong association. Indeed, time together after the seminar was just as important as time spent in the seminar—maybe more important in the grand scheme of things! Time spent on trips together transcended those fine lawyers into brothers and sisters.”

As per bylaw Article VII, Sec. 1, (a) the board of directors has the responsibility “to manage the business and affairs” of our Association. Our board consists “of the elected officers of the Association, the past presidents of the Association, the editor of the Voice for the Defense, forty-two (42) directors, and sixteen (16) associate directors. Each past president of the Association is a member of the Board of Directors. . . .” Past presidents, the editor of the Voice, and officers aside, the remaining board is made up of the 42 board members and 16 associate members (the 58). Any officer or director, as per Sec. 6 of Article VII, can be removed for failure to attend two consecutive meetings.

The above brings into question: “What exactly is the 58’s responsibility beyond that of showing up for at least two consecutive meetings absent a good-cause excuse”? “Yes,” it is taken for granted that the responsibility includes “to manage the business and affairs” of our Association, but that raises a second question: “How?”

As your president, I assure you that it is not my intention to ruffle anyone’s feathers with my remarks herein. Rather, my purpose is to invite the 58 to further participation by trying to better define a director’s role. I also offer this column to those who aspire to serve on the board as a means by which they will know what responsibilities they are committing themselves to in being an elected or appointed board member. And so, I offer the following for your consideration. In my mind, I believe being a board member:

1.  is having an ongoing positive attitude, commitment, and desire to be involved in the business and affairs of TCDLA, and to be informed as to what that business is and what those affairs are;

2.  is reviewing online minutes of the last board meeting prior to attending the next meeting;

3.  is reviewing the online board agenda and being ready to discuss those topics before the next meeting;

4.  is writing and submitting a quality article for publication consideration in the Voice;

5.  is volunteering to speak at our TCDLA/CDLP seminars;

6.  is volunteering to be a course director for our TCDLA/CDLP seminars;

7.  is attending and supporting TCDLA /CDLP seminars (of course, only if time and finances permit);

8.  is volunteering to participate on committees and actually contribute in a meaningful way to them;

9.  is supporting your officers and executive committee and getting to know them better;

10.  is supporting your Voice editors (Greg Westfall and Jani Maselli, and SDR editors Kathleen Nacozy, Tim Crooks, and Chris Cheatham) and getting to know them better;

11.  is supporting our senior lobbyist Allen Place and lobbyists Kristin Etter and David Gonzalez and getting to know them better;

12.  is representing our members in your district and trying to help them or in alerting the home office or strike force of their need to get involved;

13.  is interacting with and supporting our TCDLA affiliate or­ganizations;

14.  is taking time to think about ideas that, if implemented, may improve our Association and submitting those ideas to your executive committee and/or home staff. It is also understanding that your officers and staff do think that your ideas are important even though they might not be adopted;

15.  is soliciting non-member lawyers to join our Association;

16.  is participating not only on our board listserve, but also on our membership listserve. Offering online help to our membership is an easy way to serve them;

17.  is reading, reviewing, and responding to information sent you by the home office—i.e., surveys and informed voting requests;

18.  is having a working knowledge of our bylaws;

19.  is supporting TCDLEI in its mission to help TCDLA;

20.  is being a credit to TCDLA and a leader in the criminal jus­tice system;

21.  is making FRIENDS within TCDLA and helping our Association to be a strong voice for freedom and liberty; and,

22. is remembering the Texas Criminal Trial College motto, “Friends don’t let friends try their case alone”—and trying to be available if asked for help.

Of course, the above is not an all-inclusive list of a director’s responsibilities but only a sampling. Some of you may be wondering why your president dedicated his column to this topic, and that would be a fair question. Part of the answer lies in recently requested board evaluation of our executive director. In this regard, recall that every two years the board is requested to complete a questionnaire that asks how our executive director and staff have been doing their jobs. Here, it is noteworthy that even though the evaluations received were a near unanimous vote of glowing confidence in our executive director and our staff, only about a third of the 92-member board responded.

Another part of the answer comes from the fact that our CLE members trip to Napa, California, was not very well supported—even though the trip was outstanding and reasonably priced. Those who did attend rated the CLE and activities exceedingly high, had fun with old and new friends, and learned a lot about the practice of law.

Another part of the answer comes from the fact that even though every board member received three free TCDLA memberships to give out, we did not get new members from each board member. The answer also comes from the fact that the Voice has not received articles from a majority of the board. Of course, the reasons could go on and on, but they are not necessary as the point has been made.

Accordingly, I ask you 58, as well as those of you who want to join their honorable ranks, to compare the suggested responsibilities above to the contributions you have made. If in doing so, you conclude you have done a pretty good job, then I thank you on behalf of our membership. If, however, that is not the case, then I ask you to consider the immortal words of the late President of the United States, John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country?”

For the 58, your country is TCDLA and it needs your commitment, participation, and loyalty to remain productive and strong! As your president, I not only pledge my commitment to you and the membership to do our best to make TCDLA productive and strong, but also that your officers, executive director, and staff also make that same pledge! In closing, remember that the business and affairs of your Association are a constant, and that they are YOUR business and affairs. Let’s help each other better serve one another. Be involved, get involved, stay involved!

J. Gary Trichter
Your President and proud to serve you