Denver Bar Association
September 2001
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Look, Listen, Learn

by William E. Walters


How the DBA can better serve attorneys, judges and the public.
By Bill Walters, DBA President

Every attorney must master the ability to listen—to clients, witnesses, other parties, attorneys, judges, experts and the community-at-large. Learning when to speak and when to listen will be a life-long challenge for members of the legal profession. I want to ask each member of the Denver Bar Association, as well as its leadership and staff, to listen carefully and closely to those we serve and to respond accordingly. Next June, I would like to look back and see how well we listened and how well we responded.

Of course, the Denver Bar Association means different things to different people . . . from arbitrating fee disputes to providing legal services to the poor to promoting public education. We serve a broad range of constituents, and we need to hear their many voices.

First, we must listen to the voices of our members—lawyers and judges alike. What do they need? What do they want? How can we best serve them in their professional and personal lives? The DBA’s Membership Services Committee will continue to expand its outreach to the Denver legal community to describe what we do and to seek direct input on what members need. How can we promote better communications between the bench and bar? As part of this coming year, the DBA (under the leadership of Hubert Farbes) will be meeting with Chief Judge Stephen Phillips of the Denver District Court to discuss issues and ideas for the District Court, with a special emphasis on commercial litigation. Presiding Judge Ray Satter of the Denver County Court will be co-chairing the Judicial Committee of the DBA with Professor Howard Rosenberg to continue and expand the work of that committee. How can we involve the newer members of our profession in the organization? I have asked Dawn Adeletti, incoming Chair of the Young Lawyers Division, to consider a "reverse mentoring"program in which computer literate (typically younger) attorneys can mentor the greyer beards in return for advice and counsel about the practice of law.

Second, we must listen to the voices of the community we serve. What is needed by those who can and cannot afford legal services? How can the DBA best deliver pro bono legal services? The DBA’s Legal Services Committee, which successfully integrated the various segments of its services this past year, will be undertaking a thorough review of the DBA’s involvement in all its pro bono programs including the Metropolitan Volunteer Lawyer program and the MATCH program. In addition, the Pro Bono Challenge (initiated by Susan Smith Fisher this past year) will be continued. But there may be other voices in our community that we have not yet heard, and I will ask every officer, trustee, and committee chair to reach out to the non-lawyer community for input and ideas.

Third, we must listen to the voice of our own organization. Are we doing things in the best/most efficient manner? Can we improve our internal operations? How should the DBA set its priorities? Are there programs that should be expanded or discontinued? I look forward to working with the DBA leadership and staff in looking at governance, budgeting, committee structure, and interaction with our Young Lawyers as we plan for the future of the organization.

My pledge to the membership of the Denver Bar Association is to listen to all of these voices and to encourage the officers, trustees and committee chairs to do the same. However, the most important element of this equation is for the membership to speak out and let us know what they would like from their association. In other words, it takes two to make this work—one side to listen and one side to speak. I welcome and invite your comments.

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