Oregon State Bar Bulletin APRIL 2015
Qualities of Leadership:
The Search for OSB's Next Chief Executive
By Rich Spier
I have been an active bar volunteer for many years. I have served as chair of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, chair of the Federal Practice and Procedure Committee, as a member of the Board of Bar Examiners and as a member of the Disciplinary Board. Now in my fourth year as a member of the OSB Board of Governors, I see my role as president as the culmination of my career as a bar volunteer. Somehow it is only fitting that I share this honor with a dear friend who is also setting the cap to her career at the OSB. Sylvia Stevens, our executive director, will be retiring at the end of this year.
Serving on the Board of Governors, and especially serving as president, is time consuming. Sylvia and the entire bar staff make it possible for lawyers and public members of the board to provide this volunteer service and also to continue their busy professional practices. Sylvia and her staff do this with superb skill at scheduling and organizing bar-related appearances, meetings, and activities, using their close working relationships with such groups as law firms, local bar associations, specialty bars and the Oregon courts. Under the day-to-day direction of the executive director, the staff coordinates the regulatory programs that the legislature and the Oregon Supreme Court require (including admissions and discipline) and the bar’s many practice-enhancing programs, from CLE seminars to the Lawyer Referral Service, from Barbooks to bar publications and many others. All these efforts protect the public directly, and enhance the ability of Oregon lawyers to provide access to justice for Oregonians.
I have known Sylvia for many years. Our paths first crossed while working at Sussman Shank in Portland in 1980. At that time the firm was located in the venerable American Bank Building, and office space was at a premium. On my first day with the firm as an associate, I made my way to the office assigned to me and found it was already occupied by a law clerk, who wanted to know why I was invading her space. Yes, that was Sylvia. We worked out the office space issues and also had some cases together. Throughout our time at the firm, ultimately as law partners, we both were active volunteers — I as described above and Sylvia as, among other things, a member of the Board of Governors. Coincidentally, we left the firm within a month of each other in 1992 — I to set up my own mediation and arbitration practice (more recently, mediation only), Sylvia to become assistant general counsel for the OSB, and later general counsel, and now executive director. Later, Sylvia recruited me to serve on a task force regarding out-of-state arbitrators, and she encouraged me to run for the board.
So here we are, once again spending a lot of working time together. As you might suppose, a big part of the planning involves our search for the bar’s next chief executive.
The Board of Governors has formed an Executive Director Selection Special Committee to guide the process. The committee is chaired by OSB President-Elect Ray Heysell of Medford, who is being ably assisted by an esteemed group of current and former board members: Audrey Matsumonji, Charles Wilhoite, Simon Whang, Guy Greco, Kathleen Rastetter, Mitzi Naucler and Kathleen Evans, and also OSB chief financial officer Rod Wegener. They have drafted a job description and the recruitment process is underway. The committee will review applications, conduct interviews and recommend finalists for consideration by the full board.
Our next executive director will be a member of the Oregon State Bar with at least five years of experience practicing in a law-related field in Oregon. We believe it is essential for our director to understand and appreciate the unique culture of the Oregon State Bar — a combination of urban and rural practice with a commitment to collegiality and professionalism not always found in other states.
We also want a strong leader to guide bar staff and volunteers through an expected period of change. Our profession is changing rapidly due to economic pressures, new technology, globalization and increased competition of many kinds. Our membership is comprised of multiple generations of lawyers, with widely varying concerns and approaches to communications and what exactly they need and want from their state bar. Within the bar organization we are also facing some big changes, including the selection and installation of new association management software and a likely continuation of the recent increase in retirements of long-time staff at both the OSB and PLF.
Our next executive director should also be results-driven, with great business acumen and fiscal management skills. The Board of Governors continues to review all bar programs and services to ensure they adhere to our mission and core functions and are operated as efficiently as possible. We have been able to avoid a general membership fee increase for many years now, and we rely on our staff to continue finding ways to deliver our wide array of member and public services while keeping costs contained.
Finally, we want a proven coalition builder. The state bar is a public corporation and instrumentality of the judicial department, which means we work at many levels in partnership with the Oregon Supreme Court. We also have a strong and active voice in the legislature, solid working relationships with Oregon’s law schools and close ties to our state’s local and specialty bars. We are dedicated to increasing access to justice by supporting legal aid programs and the Campaign for Equal Justice. All of these relationships need to be maintained so we can work together to effectively serve our members and the public.
You can find a complete job description and information on how to apply online at www.osbar.org. Scroll down our home page to find the “View OSB Center Job Opportunities” button on our online career center. I encourage all qualified and interested applicants to apply so we can find the next great leader of what I consider to be a great state bar.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
OSB President Rich Spier is a mediator in Portland. Reach him at email@example.com.