Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
12th Annual Meeting
Inauguration Speech of
President Ian N. Friedman
Friday, June 7, 2019
Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Tower
Again, I’d like to welcome and thank all of you for being here. I want to give, really, thanks to all of you who are in this room. It means a lot that you’re all here. To me, this is a special day, and to share it with friends and colleagues, there are no words.
I’d like to thank my brother, Anthony Parker. As he said, we go way back.
And my son, Gabriel, is calling out my name, in case you hear that from the front row. So, thank you for being here, Gabriel.
Justice Donnelly, again, thank you for your fine words, and all of the judges and public officials who are here today to celebrate more than my installation as president, because as you’ll hear from my words, today is — yes, I am becoming president, but this is the day that I begin my service in the role of president to the Bar. And thank you to all of the judges and officials who are here to recognize and honor the Bar Association.
Thank you to all of the incoming officers that we just talked about and all of the outgoing officers who have spent the last few years giving all of their time. And this is a profession that does not leave us with a lot of spare time, so those that give their time really love this profession and cherish this profession.
The 50- and 65-year lawyers, I’ve been doing this now for a little over 20, and some days I wonder how I’m going to even get up and do it again tomorrow. The fact that you’ve been doing it for 50 and 65 years is remarkable.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the lawyer who I looked up to coming through law school, growing up, and who I can call a dear friend, Jerry Gold, who’s here today, with 65 years. You being here means the world to me.
Marlon, you did a tremendous job this year, and everyone in here recognizes you for the hard work, the foundation that you have set forth on so many initiatives this year that I assure you are going to be continued throughout my presidency and into presidencies to come. So, thank you.
Stephanie Trudeau, the outgoing president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation. We are excited for you, Pat, to join, but you’ve got some very, very big shoes to fill. For those of you who attended Rock the Foundation, you saw if she ever left law, she could be a party planner like that. I encourage all of you to attend, and if you have the opportunity, to also thank and congratulate Stephanie. You really did your share of work this year. Thank you very much.
Pat, I look forward to working with you in the year to come, and also Joe and Rose.
You know, we see a transition from Marlon to Ian, and we all know that an organization works best if its leaders look at it in more than one-year increments. If we look at it as just a transition to put forward what needs to be done to better the organization, that is something that we have all committed to. And so, as I stand here, I can promise you this is going to be a great year. But I can also promise you we have great years to come with Joe and Rose following.
And then, most importantly or just as importantly, we have to recognize that this is a partnership. We standing up here, the presidents and the board and so forth, we are half of what makes the CMBA great.
The other half, our partners, my partner as I move forward in this year, is Becky Ruppert McMahon, our CEO, who has done a tremendous job. Anyone in this room who knows her knows she gets it done. And so, I thank you, and I look forward to working with you this year.
But it is also your staff. And, you know, we sit here and we see the names in the programs of everyone who, you know, is being honored and so forth, but the staff is who gets it done every day. And so, I would ask the staff, everyone who’s here from the CMBA and who also supports the CMBF, to stand up, please, because you deserve applause from every lawyer in this room.
I’ve known all of you, (still speaking to staff), for many years, and I am very, very excited to work with all of you in the coming year.
So, now, Becky did talk about the different styles and so forth and how preparation may differ and so forth. And so, yes, I agree. I agree.
And before I really get into the remarks, I do have to tell you, just so that Becky’s comment is supported, what last night looked like. I had been told for well over probably six weeks that I have to have my speech prepared, and I couldn’t understand that. But they said, “Well, Ian, your speech goes into the Bar Journal.”
And I said, “Yeah, but I don’t know what I’m going to say.”
And they said, “Well, what do you do when you go to trial?”
And I said, “I explain to my client why I don’t have anything with me.”
And they said, “Well, you got to have something. Put some notes together.”
And the reason I can’t is because I usually have to wait until I feel the room. That’s just the trial lawyer in me, I suppose. And so, I wait to feel the room. But just when I thought that I had them agreed that I could just get up here and talk, Becky came to the office yesterday, and she told me a little bit about Marlon’s preparation. And Marlon had been ready, and he was prepared, and Marlon had rehearsed. And I started to get that little feeling in my stomach that maybe I should do the same.
So, I went home last night, and I went in my office, and I worked on my speech. And I have to tell you, this might have been the first time in my career that I’ve done this. So, it was a strange feeling, but I was going to get it done. And when I was done, I thought it was pretty good. I thought so. I was ready to bring it in.
And my wife, Jamie, who’s sitting here, also with my daughter, Madeline, accompanying Gabriel, I said, “Jamie, can I go over the speech with you?”
And she said, “Of course.”
So, I did. We went over it, and we kind of timed it and so forth. And she had a smile on her face, so I knew I was hitting the mark. And when I was done, I said, “So what did you think?”
She looked at me square in the eyes, and she said, “That was pathetic.”
And I said, “Are you kidding me?”
And she said, “Ian, you trying to put a speech together is the most ludicrous notion that there is. Go to bed.”
So, the alarm went off this morning at 6:00 in the morning. I started to get out of bed, and she said, “Are you getting up early to write your speech?”
And I said, “Yes, I am.”
She said, “Set it for 7:00.”
And I went back to bed. I said, “Are you sure?”
She said, “Yeah.”
And so, I went back to bed.
The alarm went off at 7:00. I looked at her, and she said, “Now you can get up.”
So, I went up, and I did what I do.
And I present to Becky for publication, I suppose into the Journal, what I wrote, but it ain’t going to sound anything like what I’m going to say. So...
I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little boy. And being here is such a great honor. There are no words that I can describe it to be. Presidents before me can understand it. I don’t have the words to give to it. I am truly honored and I am humbled.
One of the things that I was asked about in anticipation of my presidency, as all presidents are, is, “What’s your theme?” And so, to understand the theme, The Power of One, you really have to understand my history with the Bar.
My beginnings with the Bar, I was in my late 20s. I was a rather new lawyer, and I got involved with the grievance committee. I was asked to serve as trial counsel. And I really loved that role, because when I first walked into the committee, I immediately felt the sense that I was surrounded by other lawyers who truly loved this profession, they cherished it, and they protect it as I do. I knew there was a sense of comfort amongst those lawyers in that part of the bar.
And I fondly recall appearing before the Ohio Supreme Court for the first time, and I was asking for a remedy against misconduct that I felt would have tarnished our great profession.
When I was towards the end of that participation within that committee, I came to realize the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer. There are a lot of good lawyers out there. We all know them. There are good trial lawyers. There’s good business lawyers. There are good businesspeople. But what sets them apart from a great lawyer?
Great lawyers are those that want to give their time not because they have to, but because they want to. They want to make sure that the profession is kept at its highest level. It deserves the highest regard, this profession that we have chosen. A great lawyer wants to make sure that we leave this profession to the new lawyers, to the future lawyers, better than how we found it. And that, to me, defined what a great lawyer was and is. And that’s what attracted me to the CMBA.
As Justice Donnelly spoke for a moment ago, about the Rule 16 initiative, the open discovery, that came about in approximately 2005. I was being groomed to take over the presidency of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. And, you know, as a criminal defense practitioner, I was horrified by the fact that you could get into a car accident in a civil case, find out everything, the witness statements, where everyone lived, and so forth. But if you were charged with a serious crime where your liberty was in jeopardy, you knew nothing about the case.
And I had approached a number of veteran lawyers that I respected, and they said, “Look, Ian.” They said, “We’ve been talking about this for almost 50 years. It’s not going to change.”
Part of the strategy in that was coming to the Bar Association. The Power of One began with a thought and a desire to make change. But I was just that: one person, at that time, trying to move a mountain. Yet, when I was able to bring my idea to the Bar Association, they not only entertained it, they not only accepted it, but they embraced it, and they embraced me at the time.
The CMBA passed a resolution that I was able to take to the Chief Justice at the time to say that this is not one lawyer any longer that wants this changed. This is over 5,000 lawyers. And from there, once the CMBA was known to support this, it caught. And it caught across the state and other bar associations. And many of you are in here and remember the discussions that I had with you asking for your support, and you came on board.
And this component of that effort, which was massive, made it very unpopular to get in front of. That’s the power of what can happen when one lawyer can come to the power of the Bar Association. And with that, we were able to move a mountain at that time. That’s why I love this Bar Association, and that’s where this power lies, is in that one lawyer that’s in here who wants to bring that idea, who sees there’s something in this profession that we have to change, that you want to change. And that’s what this Bar Association is about.
You’ve seen the video of some of the lawyers that were up here. That, to me, represents The Power of One. These were individuals who changed the landscape of not just the law, but of life for so many people that they would never even know the name or the face of.
On your tables, you see the names of people that we call “game changers.” These are people on the more local level, the regional Northeast Ohio levels, that many of you have nominated to put on the tables to recognize as people who really changed the landscape here. They made it better to practice. They made it better to live in this region.
And I started to think a little bit more. And if you walk into one of the boardrooms where we do a lot of the business within the Bar Association, what you will see are all the composites of all of the presidents since the inception of the two bars, the Cleveland Bar Association and the Cuyahoga Bar Association. I must have walked past those composites literally hundreds of times. I knew the people to the right side, but I’ve walked past the left side so many times, just seeing the faces, mostly in black and white, because we go back to the 1800s. And I didn’t know them other than those are the presidents.
My daughter, Madeline, who’s been with me and has been my partner in so many of my legal endeavors, came with me to the Bar Association some weeks ago, and we picked out some faces of people that we just didn’t know. And with the help of some of the clerks who are here at the table from my firm, we did a little research on them. And I’d like to just touch on a couple of the accomplishments that some of these people made that I didn’t know, and it gives me even a greater sense of pride as I stand here right now.
We went back to 1898. This just happened to be a face, for whatever reason, that every time I sat, I looked and I saw his face. John Henderson was a charter member of the Cleveland Bar Association. He was counsel in a landmark case before the Supreme Court of the United States that challenged the constitutionality of the requirement of corporations to only pay their employees bimonthly for all the work that they did.
President John Sullivan, in 1920 prosecuted Cassie Chadwick, who at the time was known, and still is known, as one of the greatest con artists that this city has ever seen. She held herself out as the illegitimate child of Andrew Carnegie while she bilked millions of dollars back in 1920.
Andrew Lee Johnson, in 1978 became the first African-American president of the Cleveland Bar Association. He was the founder and president of the Cleveland Lawyers Association, one of Cleveland’s foremost African-American legal societies.
In 1983, Maryanne Nathan became the first woman to become elected president of any Bar Association in the State of Ohio when she was elected president of the Cuyahoga County Bar Association.
She paved the way for six more women, just in the coming 13 years, to serve as president, as evidenced by Lizabeth Moody’s presidency in 1987. She became the first president of the Cleveland Bar Association while serving as the interim dean of my alma mater, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. For her efforts and what she changed and the road that she paved, the American Bar Association bestowed upon her the honor of Glass Cutter for her extraordinary efforts in assisting women to reach new heights in the legal profession.
This is the backdrop for which I stand here and why I have no words to describe how I feel today. When I research what got all of us here today, I am humbled.
The Bar helped me with my voice, and that is The Power of One. The Power of One, the theme for this year, is the idea and the resolve of one lawyer to bring positive change.
And so, let me say this to you as we move forward. We at the Bar, all of us, we want to assist you with your voice, with your ideas. We want to amplify your voice. We want to support you. We want to make it unpopular to oppose any initiative that you want to bring to the table that will put us in a better place, that will put this community that we serve in a better place. We invite you to do that.
So please reach out to me, to Becky, to anyone on the staff, the board. The answer is yes. If you want to do it, know ahead of time that the answer is yes. The only thing is bring your passion to it. Bring your ideas forward, bring your passion, and I assure you that you will have the passion and dedication of more than 5,000 lawyers to join you and put that forward. That’s what made me want to hit this podium, and that’s what I hope will invite you to come to the CMBA this year and in years to come.
The perfect example of it, Awatef Assad, who got our Volunteer of the Year Award. Where are you, Awatef? Okay.
So Awatef and I were speaking yesterday, and of course she’s always as helpful and as willing to assist as you could imagine. She said “Ian, just whatever you need,” you know, “just let me know.”
And our exchange took an interesting turn, because I said, “Awatef, it’s not what I want you to do.” I’m not inclined, as your president, to tell anyone in this room what to do. Instead, I said, “Awatef, what do you want to do?” Because I don’t have all the ideas. I have my ideas. But if you put all of these minds together, we’re going to do far greater things than one president could even imagine doing.
And Awatef said, “Ian,” you know, “this is a really, really difficult profession. It is hard on us. It beats us up. It affects our families and even worse sometimes.” And we all know people that this has really taken its toll on. And she said, “I’ve really always dreamed about putting together some sort of wellness initiative. Something where we lawyers who are fighting it out in boardrooms and taking depositions and courtrooms and with our clients, so that we can learn how to deal with the stress, so that we can have a way to not take it home.”
And I said, “Awatef, the answer is yes.” And I look forward to seeing what she’s going to do with that. And I look forward to seeing what so many of you are going to do with the initiatives that I’m asking you to bring forward.
The Cleveland Bar, Metropolitan Bar Association this year, our programs are highlighted, and Becky spoke about them in the middle of the program. Just a couple of little points that I want to add to it.
We’ve spent a good number of years putting together a strategic plan, how we’re going to continue to be the go-to organization in Ohio for anything legal. And the 2020 strategic plan, we’re going to continue implementing that.
I had the privilege of attending a conference for regional bar associations with Becky, and I was astonished to find out just how much other bar associations look to Cleveland. When they have the small breakout groups, they always wanted Becky to be in their groups, because they wanted to know how we were doing what we were doing, how we were being creative, and how we were still being attractive when we are in a day where most organizations are losing membership.
You heard Becky say we gained membership, and that is a tribute to the people who have stood here before me and to our leadership, and I think that it is — you know, I’m a firm believer that actions speak. And I am confident that next year when Joe takes the reins, Becky will tell us that we’ve also gained even more, because we will continue to be that example to bar associations around the country.
We will continue to increase the CMBA profile in our voice, and we will also continue to reach out to the non-lawyer entities and organizations that want to work with us and that we need to work with in this community.
Marlon touched on diversity, and he did a tremendous job this year putting together the memorandum of understanding with several affinity bars. And as I said to him a moment ago, that is one of the things that I guarantee is going to be front and center to my presidency. The MOU will, this year, be about action and bringing in those that are in affinity bars and other bars that we have not yet brought even into the MOU.
We want everyone in this bar, because it is not a bar of some; it is a bar of all. This is a bar for all lawyers in this region, not a bar for some. It should never be looked at ever again as a bar where only certain lawyers go. This is a bar where every single person who graduated from law school and walked across the stage, was proud to be a lawyer, who wanted to make change, has a home. That’s what the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association is about.
Marlon, you did a tremendous job bringing that to us, and I promise you that that is my priority this year. If it slips back a centimeter, then I failed as president.
Something that’s near and dear to my heart: the law students, the future lawyers. Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Case Western Reserve University, Akron Law School, those, many of you know I’ve been teaching for a long time at Cleveland-Marshall. I love the young lawyers. I love the students, the energy of it. Every time I teach and I leave class, I feel reinvigorated. It’s just I love being there. I love being around those that still have that aspiration, you know, that we all have had.
And I’ve had the privilege of serving now, since its inception, for the last five New Lawyer Bootcamps here at the CMBA. That’s a three-day program that we do. All new lawyers have to get their hours and so forth, but this is different. It’s not just hours. We bring them in and we almost make it — well, we don’t almost. We do. We make it a class. It’s their annual class of new lawyers. They leave with a network of new lawyers. And we teach them everything, from the teachings of approximately 40 lawyers and judges and professionals, how to be a lawyer, how to minimize the bumping and bruising that so many of us had to go through.
And it’s going to continue to grow. We really want to continue our relationship with the law schools so that — not that you’re done with them, but when you’re passing them over to us in the bar, that we work with you to kind of bridge that gap. We don’t want them coming in and learning their lessons by getting a bruise in the eye. We want to welcome them in with open arms and let them come through it gracefully, because that’s the way, really, it should be.
I said to Pat Krebs a moment ago, the CMBF is in good hands. There’s no question that we will be working closely with you. We have the same goal in mind. And although there’s two different board meetings and two different groups, we’re all trying to get to the same points, so I look forward to working with you throughout this year.
And lastly, I just simply say this: fellowship. You know, Awatef was right. This is a hard profession. There’s no question. And when people ask me, “Ian, why are you doing this? You don’t have the time.”
I respond very easily just by saying, “I like being here. I like going to the bar.” Believe it or not, when I leave a war in the courtroom, I like going to the bar. The CMBA bar.
And that’s where my friends are. That’s where those people are, who I respect. That’s where I want to be. And I want that to be the same feeling for all of you and those who are not here today in attendance. That’s what we want: the fellowship, the camaraderie, and the respect, a place to gather and commiserate and enjoy and like being a lawyer.
There is no doubt that we will continue to grow and be the, as I said, go-to organization for anything legal in Northeast Ohio.
As I close, I ask myself, what does it means to be called upon to lead the CMBA? It is important for me to state this again. It’s not my presidency. Yes, I am the president in title this year, but this is your year. It is the year of every member of the Bar Association. It is the year of all lawyers, even those who may not be members. It’s your year. It’s my year to serve you. And that’s what this is about.
But what does it mean to me to stand here with this title? Simply put, it means everything. It really means everything to me. I wanted to be that lawyer for so long. I didn’t know anything else. Those of you who I went to law school, Anthony will tell you, day one, when they said, “Why are you here?” I said, “I want to be a criminal defense lawyer.” I don’t know why. It just was.
And so, in good part, this is who I am. It stands for what I believe in, and it stands for what I really protect and what I truly cherish. Out of respect to all of the lawyers that you’ve seen on the screens, those that Marlon spoke about, those that I’ve talked about, those on the tables, I sit here humbled, accepting this position as president. Out of respect to the lesser-known lawyers, those who also have moved mountains but may not have gotten the name recognition, those that believe in the highest calling of the law, all of you, and all of the future lawyers.
And I want to pause, because there’s a couple tables here of law students, and I know there’s probably a lot of law students in the room. And so, I would ask all of you to stand up, for a reason. Once you stand, I will tell you. Please. Every person who wants to be a lawyer, who’s in school to be a lawyer, stand up.
Okay. Now, I want you to understand one thing. Everybody in this room is here for you. We really are. We’re here for you. We want to make sure that this profession is better for you than it was for us. And I can tell you that every lawyer in this room will look forward to the day that we get to come and we get to listen to some of you stand up here and accept your terms as officers and presidents. So, I commend you on your journey.
You know, lots of people I’m sure make jokes and, “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” I’ve never much been one for the lawyer jokes. It is the greatest profession, and we look forward to also calling you guys colleagues and being here when we, again, can listen to you. So, welcome, and thank you for being here. And, everyone, please applaud them.
I look forward to working with and for all of you. We’re going to have a lot of fun this year. Anthony told you that sometimes — I don’t know what it is; stress, to me, equates to fun. I don’t know. That’s my coping mechanism, perhaps. But we’re going to have a lot of fun while doing a lot of good things this year.
I look forward to bringing the optimism that I had as a young boy and that never left me, with me to this position. I look forward to doing it with all of you, because frankly I look at you as all of you being the great lawyers that I’ve spoken about here today. Every person in this room who took the time to be here to honor the Bar Association is a great lawyer, and so I commend and I thank all of you for being here.
My daughter would punish me if I didn’t do this. (Swiping nose with thumb.) This doesn’t mean a lot to a lot of you. You obviously know when you do that, it’s a symbol to someone. I’ve had to do it at every event that I’ve ever been at with her, and she reminded me to do that, Madeline.
But you are the great lawyers. I respect you all. I look forward to working with you. I thank you for being here, and I look forward to seeing you at the bar. Be well. Thank you.
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 served as President of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, Ohio Association of Criminal Lawyers and CM-Law Alumni Association. He is an Adjunct Professor at CM-Law where he teaches Cybercrime. He is a recipient of the CMBA’s William K. Thomas Award for Professionalism and was named by Best Lawyers in America as 2019 Lawyer of The Year, Criminal Defense: General Practice. He has been a CMBA member since 2002. He can be reached at (216) 928-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.