We Have Power to Effect Change

It does not seem as though a year has gone by already. Service as president of the Tennessee Bar Association has increased my deep appreciation for lawyers and judges, for our elected representatives and their importance in our society. This role has been a phenomenal learning experience and provided an excellent civic lesson for someone who has been practicing law for a number of years. My faith in our attorneys and pride in our profession have been heightened. My gratitude for the amazing volunteers across our state committed to our profession and to those they serve has deepened. A heartfelt thanks is woefully inadequate, as shown by some of the great achievements of this your association.

The TBA has a number of reasons to celebrate as it recognizes its 126th year in existence. For the first time, this voluntary bar association has more than 10,000 members statewide. Always looking for new ways to serve members, the Tennessee Bar Association will continue to grow. Quality CLE programs, membership services that focus on making attorneys more professional and productive in their careers, will expand and provide essential value. The Tennessee Bar Association is an award-winning association because of the excellence of its executive director and staff; with their constant focus on this association, they give life to new programs and initiatives providing valuable services for its members. Advances for this association and its fresh focus also come from the number of volunteers for special projects, including the Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Well-Being Task Forces; chairing committees or sections; through the Young Lawyers Division and Leadership Law programs. What a rich offering your bar association provides you.

The Tennessee Bar Association is recognized as a respected provider of communications resources. The Tennessee Bar Journal will undoubtedly garner additional praise, while TBA Today continues to provide timely and essential information for our members. The CLE offerings have increased to more than 200, and the new Webcasting capabilities will bring legal education and CLE to desktops of attorneys throughout the state. Access to justice will continue to be a focus, as will initiatives to serve people who cannot afford to pay for legal services. These exceptional achievements, and forecast for future growth, lie in the leaders who preceded me, and the wisdom of the Board of Governors and membership chairs. [I will not list individuals by name, and I trust that I have thanked you for each of your numerous contributions as this year has progressed.]

We will celebrate as Buck Lewis takes his oath of office as president of the TBA. Buck has his own style, and the bar will continue to grow under his experience and wisdom, and more importantly, his vision for what the TBA can be. Change takes courage and a willingness to look at things from a different angle. The Young Lawyers Division has tackled changes in a positive way and will continue to flourish under the leadership of Michelle Sellers.

Chief Justice Barker has announced his retirement effective Sept. 1, after 25 years' service as a judge. Upon retirement, he plans to participate in church mission work and become more active in civic projects. We all look forward excitedly to his next commitments to public service and celebrate his years as a jurist.

Also to be celebrated is the first occasion in Tennessee when a woman will have the title of Supreme Court Chief Justice. Throughout her career, Justice Janice Holder has given back to our legal profession in so many positive ways. In Memphis, she was instrumental in implementing the first programs to assist lawyers suffering from addictions or depression. The TBA Well-Being Committee will continue that focus, providing resources to assist attorneys in coping with stress.

None of this life-changing journey would have been possible without the unconditional enthusiasm and support of so many " my husband David has suffered, sometimes not in silence, with travel schedules or bar commitments. He (I hope!) eagerly anticipates that we can again spend quality time with one another. My Girls' Night Out group has supported me with e-mails and shared exciting personal updates, and I very much look forward to being able to spend time with them again. Many thanks go to my firm Miller & Martin for continued encouragement and support, and for ensuring that attention and service to clients were uninterrupted. Deepest thanks go to Diane Nelson, my assistant. Diane came to work with me immediately before I embarked on this fantastic voyage, and I have relied on her more than I can properly thank her.

This year has expanded my horizon. No longer just a "desk jockey," tapping out endless e-mails, I have met many of our members and volunteers, and newly licensed attorneys or law students. Meeting each of you has been a renaissance. My perspective has been immutably changed. I appreciate all that you do and all that you will do for our profession. Recently, I visited with a past president who described himself as "a cup half-full person." This person looks at challenge positively, as an opportunity.

One of my favorite artists is Maurits Cornelis Escher, who combined art and mathematics in a unique and beautiful way. His intricate work teaches us that initial impressions or perceptions may be somewhat deceiving, and that we all need to look at our world from a variety of perspectives to achieve a more total understanding of the whole picture. Each perspective may reflect a different group, but each is essential to the total piece of art.

As lawyers, we deal with risk in our daily work. We analyze and solve problems. When facing change or challenges, there may be a tendency not to become involved, not to take advantage of an opportunity. I encourage each of you to take that risk, venture out of your comfort zone. Without accepting risk or change, we may ignore a new perspective, and through that overlook new opportunities to grow.

As lawyers, we have a tendency to try to do everything ourselves, as if "there is no problem we cannot solve alone." Although we are each unique with special talents, we are not alone. We have great power together to effect change. Together, we can continue to make a difference.

This association has a lasting and firm foundation, and the future is bright. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this fantastic journey! See you for our Meeting in the Mountains, June 11-14 in Gatlinburg.

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. " Dr. Seuss