It was 2016 when I was interviewed by the CMBA Nominating Committee for consideration of being recommended to the Board of Directors to eventually serve as President of this esteemed bar association. One question from a committee member still stands out. I was asked what my agenda would be if elected. In looking back, I am relieved that I responded by stating that I did not have a specific agenda that I was committed to at that time. My feeling was that it would be near impossible to predict what the critical needs of the Bar would be three years later. Of course, I had my thoughts should there not be any glaring priorities at the time that my term commenced, but having led several other organizations in the past, it has been my experience that the tasks to be performed reveal themselves. Since my term has begun, there has been no shortage of need for immediate attention to issues that impact our northeast Ohio legal community. While I would prefer to pace for a figurative annual marathon, this term has started as a sprint and there is no sign of a slow down in the near future.
The first unexpected issue occurred on July 18th when Gov. DeWine signed the budget bill, known as House Bill 166, which carved out Ohio's self-employed lawyers from the business income deduction afforded service-based professions throughout the state. The Ohio State Bar Association is taking the lead in this fight against what has been referred to as Ohio's Misery Tax and the CMBA is going to assist as needed. During the recent American Bar Association conference in San Francisco, I assured OSBA President Eleana Drakatos that the CMBA stood in full unity with the OSBA against the unfair tax and would undertake any requested steps to prevent the tax from going into effect in 2020. The CMBA Board of Directors is closely monitoring all developments, including the contemplated litigation that would be brought, based on an Equal Protection challenge, to halt the execution of the tax.
In what may be considered one of, if not the most important, developments affecting the regional justice system, officials have been called on to determine the future of the current Justice Center. What began as a question of "repair or relocate," has evolved into a question of comprehensive systematic improvement. Currently, there are 12 voting members of the Justice Center Steering Committee. While the existing members represent a broad spectrum of interested parties, a glaring absence is that of the private bar. I, along with CMBA CEO Becky McMahon, Incoming-President Joe Gross and Vice-President Rose Fini, have met with the consultants engaged to analyze and make recommendations to the Steering Committee. We have also been advocating for the CMBA's inclusion as an additional indispensable voice at the voting table. Our members have expressed a host of concerns that need to be introduced and considered so that the end product serves the needs of all lawyers and their clients. As the go-to legal organization in northeast Ohio, we will zealously advocate for all lawyers and clients who would be touched by the Justice Center initiative. This will be the focus of my next column in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal.
Beyond the above important issues, I am pleased to report that the CMBA continues to lead our profession in extending greater access to justice for so many people in need while striving to improve the quality of life for our membership. Here are just a few examples:
We are finalizing another three-year strategic plan with the goal of becoming the primary destination for all issues of law and justice by 2026.
Our listening tour has continued as we meet with law firms, board members, sections and committee leaders and involved individuals to gain their insight into how we can better serve them and the legal community.
The CMBA's own Mary Groth became the President of the National Conference of Bar Foundations.
CMBA Assistant Bar Counsel Kari Burns has been tasked with leading our Continuing Legal Education program.
Former WKYC News Director and film producer Brennan Donnellan has joined the CMBA as the Director of Marketing & Communications.
Through the CMBA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and in partnership with Cuyahoga County, we are nearing the start of a pro bono mediation service to address claims of discrimination brought before the Human Rights Commission.
The new Cybersecurity, Data Privacy & Emerging Technologies section has kicked off with great enthusiasm from leaders Craig Marvinney and Bill Berglund.
The Criminal Law section is also off to a great start with newly appointed co-chairpersons Ashley Jones and Marissa Darden.
Awatef Assad, CMBA Board member, has secured collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic to present a wellness institute program aimed at addressing the mental and medical health needs of all lawyers faced with the ever-increasing stresses of the profession;
The third Leadership Academy class was announced in July and will begin in September. Many of the future bar leaders will come from these classes.
The Judge4Yourself judicial qualification initiative has been overhauled. New co-chairpersons Judge C. Ellen Connally and former CMBA President Darrell Clay are working closely with the coalition's five participating bar associations, and are considering the addition of other organizations including one representing the interests of county and municipal prosecutors.
Many of our volunteer programs, including The 3Rs, are launching again. To date, we have reached more than 35,700 Cleveland and East Cleveland students. More than 2300 volunteers have contributed over 119,000 volunteer hours which equates to approximately $12 million dollars in donated time.
This is but a sample of the important developments and work that are being realized daily at the CMBA. We are busy continuing to make a positive difference in the lives of so many. As I anticipated at my original nominating interview, I am loving every minute of it. There is a place for everyone at the Bar. I hope to see every one of you soon.
Ian Friedman is a partner at Friedman & Nemecek, L.L.C., which is a Cleveland-based criminal defense law firm. He is the current President of the CMBA. He has been a CMBA member since 2002. He can be reached at (216) 928-7700 or email@example.com.