Much has been accomplished over the past year, but much more remains to be done
The State Bar of Montana’s 2023 Annual Meeting is rapidly approaching, and with it comes the bittersweet realization that my time as State Bar president is ending. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the good work the State Bar has accomplished over the last year, and to reiterate the important work that remains.
First, it has been my great honor and privilege to have served you as State Bar of Montana president these past 12 months. I am proud that as I step away from my role as president, I leave a bar that continues to be at the forefront of innovation and, if I may be so bold to say, the gold standard by which state bars across the country are (or should be) measured. The State Bar continues to be on very sound fiscal footing. I am proud of the steps we have taken to stand up for the rule of law in the face of the misguided few who would tear it down. I am proud to be a lawyer, and I am proud to stand with all of you.
When I began my term as president, I had hoped to focus on continuing to improve upon our long legacy of community, increasing diversity, making improvements to the State Bar member experience, and improving access to State Bar benefits. I am proud to say those goals were largely accomplished. But I am one who believes there is always room for improvement and growth, and continuing to improve upon these accomplishments is no different. I am very much looking forward to the State Bar leadership taking us to the next level.
When I began my term as president, the judicial branch, the separation of powers between the institutions that founded our great state, and seemingly even the rule of law itself were under unprecedented attack. While these attacks appear to be coming from all sides of the political spectrum, I don’t believe they reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Montanans and Americans who value our independent judiciary and legal profession.
Despite all our hard work and successes this past year, that threat remains. It is hard to step away with so much work left to do.
The Annual Meeting is a time to celebrate – both the successes we have achieved in the past year and the promise of the future.
We have an exciting CLE program planned for this year’s meeting, with 10.5 total CLE credits, including 2.0 Professional Fitness & Integrity (PFI) credits. The program includes cutting edge presentations on what attorneys need to know about the rapidly evolving and disruptive impact artificial intelligence will have on our profession; significant changes that came out of the 2023 Legislative Session; a fascinating Montana Supreme Court oral argument involving Whitefish tech billionaire Michael Goguen’s defamation suit against the New York Post; and much, much more. As they say, “We’ll sell ya’ the whole seat, but you’re only gonna’ need the edge!” (Please see the agenda on page 13.)
We will also celebrate our distinguished Annual Award winners: E. Edwin Eck, Dean Emeritus of the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law, winner of the William J. Jameson Award; the Honorable Michael G. Moses, retired 13th Judicial District judge, winner of the Karla M. Gray Equal Justice Award; Dirk A. Williams, winner of the George L. Bousliman Professionalism Award; Morgan Dake, winner of the Neil Haight Pro Bono Award; and Robert W. Wood, winner of the Frank I. Haswell Writing Award. Please come congratulate and recognize these superlative Montana attorneys for their outstanding achievements.
At the Annual Business Meeting, on September 15, I will pass the president’s gavel to the very capable Stuart Segrest. Together with the State Bar’s executive team, board of directors, and with the State Bar’s Executive Director John Mudd leading the phenomenal State Bar staff, Stu will lead us into our next chapter.
When I began my term as president, as we faced these unprecedented challenges of our day, I asked for your help. A great many of you responded in myriad ways. Although I now will be a “past president,” I will continue to do everything I can to advance our fight for the rule of law, the judiciary, and the profession. As I depart the presidency, I would respectfully make one final request: Please help Stu and the State Bar, like you helped me. Our work is far from over.
I look forward to seeing you in Billings Sept. 13-16.