108th Annual Convention

108th Annual Convention

Incoming President Speech by John Wanderer at Banquet–108th Annual Convention– July 16, 2002

Well, I really didn’t have time to prepare a big speech, besides nobody likes to hear speeches so when you see my wife get up and leave, you will know that’s time for me to sit down. Bill, I want to thank you for doing a great job this year, and I also want to thank you for giving me the freedom to initiate the programs that I think will lead the League into a bigger and better future. Bob and Ellie, thanks for a wonderful convention. We enjoyed ourselves and I’m sure everybody here did. In fact, I think we should all give Bob and Ellie a big round of applause. I want to thank my wife Dottie. She’s put up with my League activities for the last 12 years which has enabled me to become President of the League. And I also want to thank all of you. I want to thank you for being here, for supporting the League and I want to thank you for having supported me, I wouldn’t be here without your vote. Thank you very much. I am honored and thrilled to have this opportunity to lead the League. I know that you all have expectations, some favorable and some not. I assure you that I will try to do my best during the coming year.

We have a Strategic Plan. Last Friday we started with the first serious effort to implement it by making structural changes in the organization. Bill referred to those changes and the focus plan suggested by Mary Whitmer. That plan creates five or six national committees which directly relate to the goals of the Strategic Plan. We do our business through our committees. We have national committees, section committees and sometimes regional committees. For example, we have five or maybe six membership committees in the League. So what we’re trying to do is to consolidate and coordinate the activities of some of these committees around the goals of the Plan. Each national committee ultimately will be a department in the League. For example, we will have a Government Affairs Department which will handle all the legislative activities in the League from lobbying efforts to disseminating information to our membership. There will probably be a Meetings Department and a Membership Department. However, Membership may fall under Meetings; we don’t know. This is all a work in progress. We’re working on it now as we go along starting with the Education Committee chaired by Mary Whitmer. Bob Bernstein has agreed to head the Professionalism Committee. It will deal with ethics and possibly qualifications for membership. In regards to ethics, the Agency Section would like to have, and I think we should have, some sort of code of professional business ethics between the lawyers and the agencies. That will all come under Bob’s committee or department. We are looking at creating some kind of qualifications for joining this organization. We strive to be the preeminent legal organization in the country dealing with bankruptcy, collection law and creditors’ rights issues. You can’t be the preeminent organization if in fact anybody, with no qualifications whatsoever, can join. At some point in time we have to create some form of qualifications. We don’t know what they are; we’re going to study it; we are going to see how it affects membership. We can’t tell people just leave because we have changed the rules so we are going to examine whether grandfathering is appropriate. We have Agency members who have a large problem with the non-section agencies who have joined this League for nothing other than being able to use the name of the League which they are not supposed to do and which adversely affects the certified agencies. We understand that problem. We have asked the Agency Section to come up with potential qualifications for agencies to join the organization. Maybe the qualifications won’t be to join. Maybe the qualifications will be requiring the 280 agencies which are not part of the section to come to the meetings once in a while. We would like to see them, know who they are, and of course, if they won’t come, maybe they don’t need to be part of the organization. Those are the kinds of things that will be looked at through the Professionalism Committee.

The Strategic Plan talks about marketing, expanding membership and education. We think reorganizing the League along the lines I have described to you will enable us to concentrate our efforts to meet our strategic goals. This is a fluid concept. There’s nothing written in stone. We do not know at this time how it is all going to work. We believe the educational part of it is well on its way We will have in New York a showcase program of at least a day and a half of professionally presented educational programing. In addition we will have various other programs running side by side. We intend to market the education program outside of the League to lawyers who are not members of the League; lawyers in the metropolitan New York area. We feel that this will bring new members into the League. It will create name recognition for the League. That is what we want to do when the Strategic Plan talks about marketing. The primary thing that we are interested in doing is creating name recognition for the League. So when you, the lawyers, go out and talk to one of your fellow attorneys and you tell them “I’m a member of the Commercial Law League” they won’t roll their eyes back in their head and say “who are they?” That’s what we want to circumvent. We think that education is the way to market the League.

Education is going to proceed basically on three parallel tracks. The first track is the educational programs we put on at our conferences which we will market to nonmembers. I’ve asked the New England region to put on a one-day education program with support from the National Education Committee and they’ll get funding if needed. The program will be marketed to non-members in the New England area. I’ve asked the Western and the Southern Regions to both give serious thought of putting on one-day education programs in a metropolitan area within their district preferably at an airport where people can fly in at low cost, take advantage of the education program and get their CLE. We get the PR, potential members and might actually make money doing it.

The second track is the Fund for Public Education which will also be putting on different programs. We have some very imaginative ideas for the Fund. We are going to look at possibly creating legal informational type cds or videotapes for the public, consumers and business people, informing them how the legal system works, how they can protect themselves in the bankruptcy court, and how a business person can pursue the collection of receivables. According to the last study I read, approximately 40 percent of the small businesses in this country don’t do anything with their receivables; they think lawyers are too expensive and they may not like collection agencies for whatever reason, we don’t know. But there is a need for an educational process. We think that the Fund for Public Education can do this. We’re going to explore getting public grants to pay for it. Either from private foundations such as the Ford Foundation or federal agencies that might have funds to do these kinds of projects. We think that we can produce these kinds of informational tapes under the name of the Commercial Law League and place them in public libraries or with the Chamber of Commerce offices all over the country. We’d be doing a public service, we will be getting our name out there and every newspaper in this country will know about it. They will know what the Commercial Law League is and everybody will benefit. My vision will take a lot of work. I hope it can happen, we’re going to try.

For the third track we have tentatively entered into an agreement with an organization known as Professional Education Seminars, Inc., (PESI for short). PESI is a company that puts on legal education programs. PESI has agreed to put on a series of one-day education programs across the country under the name of the Commercial Law League. I think this is a great opportunity to market the League at very little cost. The League will get the public recognition and hopefully new members.

Finally, next year’s convention is in Hawaii. We want you all to come to Hawaii next year. We’re going to do some great things and things that are a little bit different. As I said, nothing is cast in stone, only your imagination is the limit. Well, Dottie tells me I’m supposed to tell you Aloha, that’s for hello and Aloha for goodbye and with that I would like to adjourn the 108th Annual Meeting of the Commercial Law League. Thank you all again for coming.

President William Sturm’s report to Business Meeting-108th Annual Convention-July 13, 2002

This last year has certainly been a year of change. Some of those changes have been fortunate; some unfortunate. Some have been planned; some were unplanned and some have been beneficial to the League and some were not.

Last year for the first time in our history we used a management company to take care of our back office operations. All transitions have problems and certainly we were no exception. However, TSO has worked very hard to make our relationship work. The results have exceeded my expectations. Our dues statements, our financial statements, and our membership records are being kept appropriately, accurately and timely. TSO is learning the CLLA culture and with the exception of a New York conference, they now have a full years experience to guide them in the future.

I should point out that their meeting planner, Suzanne Spohr, has basically been running this convention. She’s talked to Bob and me to make decisions and I give advice. However, the fact of the matter is that on the day-to-day basis, minute-to-minute basis, she’s the one that’s running this convention, and so far, she’s done an excellent job. As a matter of fact, The Sanford Organization, in my opinion, has done a wonderful job, and I believe the transition has been a success.

Our search for a new executive vice president is progressing. The search committee has narrowed the number of candidates to seven. They are going to be interviewed in Chicago on Friday and Saturday, July 26th and 27th. I’d like to give you an idea about the candidates. There are a total of seven. Three men; two who have JD degrees; and four women; three of them have JD degrees. Five of the seven have either had or have experience in bar association activities. We expect that a recommendation will be made to the Board of Governors shortly after that meeting in Chicago.

One of the things that Tom Renk did after he was hired last summer was to make a change in the League Office in terms of an assistant. I will say that he chose very wisely. Lesley Metcalf has been a real find. Her help has just been invaluable. She has assumed additional duties since Tom left in March; she’s worked very hard. To give you an example, when we had to go out to the NACM Credit Congress to exhibit, she took care of everything. She arranged for our booth to be sent out there; she selected and bought the give-a-ways; she went out there and got everything set up; she worked the booth every day; she tore the whole thing down and got it back to Chicago safely. While John Wanderer, Frank Uhlman and I were around to help greet people, she took care of all the details. She did a very nice job.

In March, the Board of Governors approved a new relationship with DePaul Law School in terms of our Journal. In April, the DePaul Business Law Journal Editorial Board joined us at our Chicago meeting to meet with the Board of Editors. We expect that they’ll meet with us every year in Chicago. I think that you’re all going to be very happy with the new Journal. The first issue of that will be distributed in early fall.

This has been a tough year financially. That’s the bad news. The good news is we’ve taken all of our losses and we started fresh June 1st with a new budget that projects a considerable surplus. As you know, there was a dues increase this year. We not only took in more money, which was expected because of the dues increase, but more importantly to me, a higher percentage of our members had paid their dues than by the same date a year ago. This is significant since the dues statements were mailed out a week or two earlier last year than they were this year. And so we’re very encouraged by that.

Rick Johanson and his committee did a wonderful job working on dues and making recommendations. It was that committee that made the recommendation to the Board that some of the various charges be consolidated into one statement. That happened.

Yesterday the committee made another recommendation to the Board in terms of providing bankruptcy judges and U.S. Trustees with complimentary memberships in the Commercial Law League. We’re working on getting that implemented and I’m very pleased with the way things have gone. Treasurer Bob Bernstein and the Finance Committee have done a wonderful job of getting a lot of things cleaned up, looking at a lot of different funds, making recommendations and I think that we have our financial house in order.

I’m also very pleased with the progress that has been made in partnering with the NACM. The joint legislative conference in Washington, D.C. in March was a great meeting for our members. There were a lot of ideas exchanged between the two groups. The next month in Ireland we had the Ireland Conference that was chaired by Nancy Hamilton. That also was a great meeting and a wonderful opportunity for our members. We look forward to future meetings and President-elect John Wanderer already has been talking to NACM and some of them are in the works.

At the April Board meeting, there was a discussion about League meetings. At the Board meeting yesterday, there was a discussion about the structure of the League. The committee chaired by Mark Sheriff has made recommendations and has proposed a number of resolutions to the Board. Although there’s much work still to be done in this area, I think that we need to adjust the way that we do business. We have to adjust our meetings to accommodate the financial realities of today’s economy. Just as an aside, I found it interesting that in just the last day, several people have mentioned to me, that they thought that this convention was reasonably priced in terms of what people are getting. I don’t know if that’s a universally held thought, but I find it interesting because Bob Bernstein and I really agonized over the registration fee which is probably the highest registration fee we’ve had in years. I think it’s still low compared to almost any organization where you go to a convention, but we spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what that registration fee would be in the hopes that we’d move toward these conventions becoming self-sufficient.

I think the League will continue to thrive and I think we’re going to continue to thrive because of the many dedicated members that we have. They take time to participate in League activities, they attend meetings; they join committees; they’re active in sections and later they move on to national leadership roles. I thank all of you for your help this year and that concludes my Annual Report.

Report of Robert S. Bernstein, Treasurer’s Report at Business Session-of the 108th Annual Convention– July 13, 2002

Welcome everyone and as Treasurer, it’s my pleasure and my duty to give you the Annual Audit Report on the state of the finances of the League. From the financial side of the house, things are looking good. The Annual Audit is progressing, although it’s not completed. It should be finished in the next few weeks. The initial reports are good. With the able assistance of Dick Schascheck of The Sanford Organization, we have located, cataloged and hopefully understand all of the various special funds (pots of money) that the League has that have been created over the years.

We’ve taken a giant step also toward consolidation of our cash management system. Several of our subsidiary organizations have become included in the League’s cash management system so that we can manage the funds jointly, get a better bang for the buck when it comes to investments, and saving money when it comes to simply managing bank accounts and bank statements, etcetera. Among those subsidiaries are the Young Members’ Section, The Bankruptcy Section, The Creditors’ Rights Section, and the Patron Fund. And while each maintains control over its own funds, the League benefits greatly by this consolidated cash management system and we’re confident that the rest of the subsidiaries will see the benefits over the coming years and join up. As Bill mentioned, we’ve also issued a Consolidated Dues Billing Statement this year so that you, as members know what you’re paying and so that you only have to write one check. You don’t get nickel and dimed. Bill reported that as of June 30, our dues collections both in terms of number of members and in percentage of dues collected, are greater than they were last year time at this time which is a very good sign about the membership of this organization. While we’ve had considerable expense in the transition to having TSO be our back office management company, that seems behind us now. The hits have been taken; the losses have been taken and recorded and the future is bright. I was pleased to be able to step in between past treasurer Gary Plotkin and future treasurer Rick Johanson and help the League and my friend Bill Sturm through this year. With your new Treasurer, Rick Johanson, and with the steps the League has taken in the last couple of years, and with the current focus and efforts of the Board of Governors, I can tell you that from my perspective, the financial state of the League is sound. Thank you.

Memorial Exercise Delivered by Louis LeLaurin, III-July 13, 2002

Each year as we gather we note that there are those that have been here before who are no longer among us. They have walked with us; we’ve had business relationships; we’ve had personal relationships that can vary from working on big cases from which we both benefited, to simply waving and saying hello in the hall, to smiles exchanged, to embraces, to all of the things that make people special to us. Its my duty today to read a list of names. We may not each have known every individual on this list, but I know that someone in this room knows every name on this list. They have walked among us, they have given to us something that touched our lives. Some names on this list mean a lot to all of us, but all of these people were members, were friends, were people that we embraced in one way or another. And so I’ll ask you to stand for a moment while I read these names of people who have passed away within the last year.

Jacob W Abraham of New York, New York

Harold A. Block of San Raphael, 17 California

Murray B. DeGroot, past President from Grand Rapids, Michigan

Lewellyn W Gray, of Kalamazoo, Michigan

Wesley C. Grick of Manchester, Connecticut

Irvin Mark Lader of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Richard Pollace of Portland, Maine

Marion Ii. Singer, Sarasota, New York

Larry Elliot Solomon, Tampa, Florida

J. Chester Whem, Waltham, Massachusetts

Jeffrey J. Wong, San Francisco, California

And finally, Flo Lubitz, White Plains, New York.

May the Lord bless each of them. Shalom.

Introduction of Jon Becker as President’s Cup recipient– delivered by Murray S. Lubitz at the 108th Annual Convention-July 16, 2002

Just imagine, you’re 45 years of age; senior partner in a thriving law practice; married to your high school sweetheart; the father of four beautiful children, President-elect of 00 the Commercial Law League, and within the span of one year your life has come to a crashing halt. You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic debilitating illness. You’re unable to drive a car; you can’t work; you can’t really eat; you’re constantly fatigued; and you end up renouncing the Presidency of the League. You’re not even sure you’ll see your children grow up. These are some of the challenges faced by this year’s recipient of the President’s Cup, Jon Becker of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

But Jon has managed to transcend his physical limitations through his faith in God. Jon’s presence here this evening bears witness to his extraordinary inner strength and depth of character. So let me tell you a little bit about Jon Becker.

He was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia, the third of four brothers. By all accounts, his childhood was typical of a family of four boys – the consumption of prodigious quantities of food followed by fights and more fights. But all this changed when Jon was about to enter college. Jon’s father became ill and died. His older brothers, Tommy and Sydney, were no longer living at home. Jon found himself at the age of 18 with the responsibility of being both a brother and a quasi-father to Andy, who was eight at that time, and helping his mother through that most difficult period. Imagine what a tremendous responsibility to undertake at the age of 18.

Jon met Susan when they were both in high school and they married during Jon’s senior year at the University of Richmond. Upon graduation they set off for Spokane, Washington where Jon attended Gonzaga University School of Law. Upon graduation, they returned to Norfolk where Lisa was born. This was followed by Amy a year and a half later. Jon began his law practice and it was about that time that Susan and Jon attended their first League meeting. It was love at first sight. They quickly immersed themselves in the League realizing the unique possibilities for both business opportunities and lifelong friendships. It also afforded them other opportunities. Their twins, Jennifer and Katy, were apparently conceived at the summer meeting in LaCosta following the Richard Simmons’ Fitness Breakfast.

Jon’s involvement in the League is well known to all. He was chair of the Young Members’ Section, chair of the Southern Region, Young Members’ representative to the Board of Governors, Recording Secretary, Attorney Board member, President-elect, ya da ya da ya da.

But Jon’s passion for the League is not exclusive. Jon is an observant Jew. He follows Jewish dietary laws; he observes all holidays and customs and he attempts to conduct his life as a pious individual. He is involved in many Jewish philanthropic endeavors. He’s a past president of the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, the school his daughters attended. He is a past vice president of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, and a life board member of that organization. He was Vice President of Temple Beth El; and is on the Board

of the Synagogue he currently attends, B’nai Israel. He is single-4 handedly in charge of fundraising for the Chabad House in Tidewater.

Jon Becker, a person of vision, character and courage who exemplifies the very best that this League has to offer, someone truly deserving to join the leaders of our industry, the past recipients of the President’s Cup. So it’s my pleasure to ask Tom Hamilton of the American Lawyer’s Quarterly to escort Jon Becker to the podium.

Acceptance by Jon Becker of President’s Cup

I knew I was getting the President’s Cup. I did not know that Murray was going to be delivering that introduction and if I had any sense at all, which I’ve never been accused of, I would just sit down and say thank you. But anybody who knows me knows that that’s not going to happen. It was November of 1981 when Susan’s dad called me, he had a business in Hampton, Virginia and he said that a customer in Florida was refusing to pay him for a large shipment of scallops and could I help. I said, of course, and then I hung up the phone and had no idea what to do. I quickly realized that I needed an attorney in Florida to help. I remembered seeing a book at the law library that had a lot of dust on it, but it had a list of attorneys that did collection. I went down there and I picked the book up and I looked up Florida. My geography was not that great about the right county, but I got Allan Levine, of blessed memory, and Allan sent me on the right track to handle the case, and he also set me on the right track for the rest of my career. He said to me you know there’s a group of lawyers who do this and in a few weeks, we’re meeting in New York. Why don’t you come? At that point in my career, I had a new partner, and I thought, well, here’s a great opportunity to go to New York with Susan and have my new partner and the IRS pay for a good portion of it so I figured I couldn’t lose. I will tell you that with the help of Lillian Reese, then and for a long time after, Susan and I had an experience that truly changed my professional and personal life. It was at that meeting that I met a group of lawyers, collection agencies, law-list professionals who could have been anything they wanted. They were the cream of the crop in this country. They were attorneys that could have chosen to go to any firm and could have practiced any type of law and this is what they chose to do.

At that weekend I not only got an education in commercial law, I got an education that the type of law I was practicing was a valid, strong area of law to be proud of and it was an area to be practiced with a degree of pride, with a degree of strength and that if it was practiced that way, would be one that would last me for a career. Over the next 20 years, I developed a sense of pride in what I was doing and the type of law I was practicing. To receive an award from an organization representing my profession would seem to be the most anyone could hope for but for me, it went one step further because the award is sponsored by ALQ an organization, but it’s two people, Tom and Nancy Hamilton, who have been friends to Susan and me since we joined the League and to me, they represent the epitome of everything good about the Commercial Law League and to receive this particular award is more than I could have ever hoped for, and thank you.

Now, I probably should end, but once again, I won’t. I came out here thinking that there were some real problems, and there are. But I have to tell you that I went to the Young Members’ lunch for the past chairman, and then I went to the recording secretaries’ dinner and I went and I listened and I heard what Bill has done this past year and I looked at some of the new leaders coming up and what the young members are doing, and I saw what John has planned, and I realized that this organization is going to be strong. We’ve stopped whining; we’re going to be positive thinking; we’re going to keep what works and we’re going to change what doesn’t, but this organization will go on. There is one area that is my pet project and that I would hope to see come into fruition, and it depends on all of the members of this organization that are the senior partner, or the managing partner in their firm. The Young Members’ Section is what keeps this group going. And the young members get the members who come here, but they can’t make members out of people who aren’t here. So you, the people who decide about spending the money, bring your associates, bring your partners; I know its expensive, but I can tell you from personal experience, if I had not started bringing my associates and brought my brother early on, when I got ill, my firm would have ended. But because he was here, he knew the people; he had the connections; it works. This is not just for the benefit of the League; its for the benefit of your business and your practice. You must help the League grow through the only natural way which is the young members. You know, you can try and be everything to everyone, and you’ll end up being nothing to anyone. There’s a lot of organizations out there, but you’ve got to decide which ones fit you; let the League be one of them; narrow it down to a couple, spend your effort, your time, your finances on the League and it will give you rewards well beyond your expectations. Now, finally, I want to say a couple of thank-you’s. Three years ago you were good enough to give me the opportunity to address this group, and at that time, probably thought it was the last opportunity and I said that I learned at a young age that you say thank you when you’re given the opportunity and I gave a rather long story which Murray just repeated some and I told you that whatever I have achieved in life is because of one person. And I went into detail and I won’t repeat those details, but I will tell you that whatever I said then is not only true, but over the past three years, it is through the strength and the courage of Susan that I have been able to deal with it and to be here and to keep moving on. Susan, I love you, I am so proud of you and everything you do on a daily basis. Thank you.

Along those same lines I am very fortunate tonight to have with me my daughter Amy I have four daughters and I am proud of each of them. What they have accomplished; the young women that they have become, is what has gotten me through these past few years. When I would get sad, when I would get down, I remember why it is that I keep going. What’s important in my life, and it’s them and it’s being here with them. Amy, as a representative of your sisters here tonight, thank you, I want you to know how proud I am of you and your sisters, that everything that mom and I do, we do for you guys and we know what you have done for us, the way you have taken care of your younger sisters when we had to go away for a month to the hospital and all those things. Honey, I’m so thrilled you’re here. We love you.

We all have this vision; this fantasy. Mine was after having watched many presidents have two tables of their partners and their friends from home, that I would have this President’s Dinner and they would all be there; that didn’t happen. It wasn’t to be. But tonight, two very good and close friends of ours from Virginia Beach flew up here to join and be with us this evening, and Art and Annie Sandler, I just can’t tell you how much it means to both Susan and me to have you here and to share this with us. Thank you.

I would like to thank all the people in the League who have helped me reach this day. I will not call your names because you know who you are. You know what it meant to me when we came through the door when we first got here and I started seeing you and realized how much I love each and everyone of you.

There is one person that I must thank. There’s an individual that knew everything about the League and every speech I ever gave, except for this one, I would look out into the crowd and into her big, beautiful eyes and I would know that everything was going to be all right. She was the most positive individual I ever met in my life. And one day, about four years ago at a Chicago convention, Flo Lubitz and I both got phone calls from our respective doctors with lousy news, and about five minutes after that we were in each others room, and we started laughing. And we told jokes, and for four years, that’s what we did. We called each other; we e-mailed each other; we visited each other and I got an enormous amount of strength from Flo because she was the most positive person I’ve ever met, and when I would get down, I’d think if she could deal with what she’s dealing with, then I had no right to complain. Last night, at the Recording Secretary’s Dinner, Murray didn’t know I overheard him talking to someone, and he said, it wasn’t that Flo didn’t see bad or didn’t know that there were people who weren’t good, but she could find the positive and the good in anyone in anything so what I ask each and every one of us here tonight, in honor of Flo, and in tribute to Flo, that we look at the League, we look at our own lives and we find the good. We recognize what isn’t and we deal with it, but we find the good; we find the positive; we build on it and we continue to grow, and in her honor, then, we will have an organization that will be here for generations after us to provide the pride that it has for me and for so many of you; for all those to come. Thank you once again for this wonderful honor.

Convention Report

By Beau hays of Atlanta, Georgia

Perhaps you are wondering why my name keeps popping up on the by-line for this section. Maybe its like Woody Allen said, that ninety percent of life is just showing up. I went to Utah. You didn’t. I get to write about what went down and you get to read it. Could be the other way next time. Come to Hawaii next year; maybe it will be your turn.

First we need to dispel a rumor. It was not hot in Park City. No. It was freakishly hot. 90+ degrees hot. Ten or fifteen degrees above the record hot. It was hot. But it was a dry heat. Seriously I’ve always laughed at that phrase, but it is really different. It turns out that when the relative humidity is in the single digits, the heat index actually goes down. Remember in science class when they taught about how perspiration is the human body’s way to cool itself. Yeah, always thought it was some evolutionary joke, since down here in Georgia most people take to panting like dogs to keep cool. Out here it really works. Even with the temps in the nineties, in the shade it was pleasant. Swimming in the pool was glorious. Getting out of the pool felt chilly. And as the nights cooled into the low 60s, it was easy to forget how hot it was going to be the next day Now back to our tale.

It must be distinctly understood that there are two Utahs. There is the very Mormon, extremely clean and polite world of Salt Lake City. Then there are the mountains-Park City and Deer Valley and environs-where the ski bums and snowboarders live and work. The Olympic boom town. Since I was last here in 1997, Park City has grown from a small town with four restaurants to a small town with 831 restaurants. Mountains, cool water, lots of restaurants–the kind of place the CLLA likes to go, even if the liquor stores close a little early The Canyons Resort.

It was developed as part of the 2002 Olympic gold rush. By all appearances, it is a terrific ski resort. The mountains gondola is right out the back door. Riding the gondola up a couple thousand feet higher helped bring down the temperature. It also opened out onto a variety of ski runs-which in July is pronounced `hiking trails: The rooms run the gamut from small to gargantuan. There were plenty of permutations to keep those of our members who never like their first room happy Mountain views all around. A very nice restaurant in the hotel, another one at the top of the gondola. A fullservice spa that was frequented by a fair sampling of the membership. Just the kind of place the CLLA likes to go.

The first day of every national convention is about getting checked in, getting a name badge and getting caught up on the last few months. That’s on our end-the attendees. It’s different for the hosts–Bill and Kay Sturm and Bob and Ellie Bernstein. The first day for them is about waiting to see if the plans, the understandings with the hotel and the preparations for the events, will go up in smoke and leave them running a five-day version of Live at the Improv. But that’s their problem. Our problems are how to get to the hotel (an easy forty minutes from the airport), whether to schedule some side trips now (nah, let’s wait til tomorrow), and what’s the dress code is for the opening night event. (Casual. It should always be casual. Who wants to unpack and probably iron something as soon as the bellhop leaves the room?) On this opening night, it was a buffet and a DJ. Casual entertainment, because it is really only the back-drop to hands being shaken, necks being hugged, and kids to be stared at in amazement at how much they’ve grown since last time.

Saturday morning’s business session was without suspense. Every year, several hundred people travel to some distant location for this meeting. It is purportedly held to conduct the business of running the League. And then, with the exception of those rare years when there is a controversial amendment to the League Constitution, the business session has all the spontaneity, thrills and entertainment value of the Republican National Convention. No wonder it strictly for people who are already awake before the brunch. But I’m reporting the event, so I went. It helped to know where the Starbucks was located down the road.

Bill Sturm reported on his year as President. I’m sure that it wasn’t the report he had in mind last year when he took the post There was not time for an ovation worth of the job he’s had to do this year. Just the transition to a League without Max Moses would have been enough; just getting used to having the administrative jobs handled by The Sanford Organization would have been enough; but then we throw in the impact of September 11-effectively scratching the New York meeting-and add the problems of not having an effective Executive VicePresident. The result: How the Grinch Stole My Agenda. Bill, however, handled the whole year with good humor and a steady hand. I’d say we should give him another shot at actually accomplishing something-but then again maybe be is jinxed. Bob Bernstein presented the treasurer’s report. The treasury was reported to be smaller than in some years past, but is scheduled to grow. As always, the memorial service was moving in its simplicity. This is the one moment of any business session worth attending. Even if I don’t recognize a single name, I am reminded every year of the common bond that I have with all of the other members of this organization through the years.

Since there were no contested elections, the new officers were elected by the Recording Secretary Joe Marino at the annual welcoming brunch. John Wanderer created a little suspense when he was called upon to make his acceptance speech, and spent the time by musing that this was his last chance to refuse the job (an eventuality that may have pleased some people). In the end, he concluded that since he had gone to all the trouble of getting elected the year before, he should accept the nomination. John was then was elected by that same single vote, but his synopsis of the work involved in being League President did succeed in officially discouraging at least one member of the League from ever taking the plunge.

There were a few meetings scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but most of the people took the chance to visit Park City, try the alpine slide, raft down the Weber River, drive into the mountains or in some other way see what entertainments Utah had to offer. At the Utah Olympic Park, one of the activities available was to take a run on the Olympic bobsled track. This was simply not to be missed. The sleds have wheels in the summer, which slows the average speed down from 85 to 67 miles per hour. You get strapped in instead of trying to jump into the moving sled-definitely a good idea. But once you’re in that rolling rocket, it is as close to being an Olympian as any of us are going to get. (Of course, I can always run the streets of Atlanta on a smoggy July morning, which is exactly like being an Olympian but I prefer not to. More from the Olympic Park later.)

Sunday was athletics day, beginning with the fun run at its usual ludicrous hour of way too early. The one mile race was won by Barbara Plovie, ahead of Steve Ungerman and Steven Johanson. The five-mile race (men’s division) was won by Brian Gearhart, with Kevin Terrell second and Don Sullivan third. On the distaff side, first place was taken by Katie Bernstein, followed by Georgean Goldman and Theresa Johanson. (This is a good place to note that we must do a better job of recruiting female League members with some athletic ability. When third place in the ladies’ division goes to the fastest walker on the course, it is clearly time to get some more women involved.) Since there were enough runners to divide the awards again, the Under 18 division winners were Richard Johanson, Alex Bernstein and Terry Natasha.

The annual putt-putt outing was contested over a course built at the Park City ski resort. As soon as the temperature drops below 40, the whole course, including the bubbling brook that runs through it, is boxed up and the place becomes the beginner ski area again. But on this day some 30 contestants wiped the sweat from their brows and played the full 18 holes (plus a 19th). As always, the number of prizes awarded was based upon the number of entrants in each age group. In the 10 and under age category, the low score was Meyer Ungerman, followed by Jason Thompson. In the Over 10 category, prizes were awarded to Brendan Nahmias and Blake Anderson, with Rachel Welford winning first place for girls. The best award, though, was the large sno-cone that awaited each contestant at the end of the round.

Around the same time, The Young Members’ Section was holding a luncheon to honor all of the past Chairs of the Section, in connection with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Section. Feeding the older Young Members is a good a way of reminding them that the current YMS needs their help, but why do I mention it? Because I’m a sucker for a ceremony. It’s my report, you get to hear about what I liked. I didn’t get to go to the luncheon, but I loved the idea.

The event which has always been called mini-Olympics (but had to be renamed because someone at the hotel knows a trademark attorney) was held high on the mountainside. The first event was gondola riding, and amazingly this eliminated a lot of people (but no one actually fell out of a gondola, so that was a plus). With a smaller group and no children in the game, the beer wasn’t just chugged. it was toted around the whole afternoon. The Polygamy Relay had to be cancelled due to a lack of brides. There was no enthusiasm for a game of Pin-the-Tail-on-theOsmond. So the main events were pitching horseshoes (or more accurately, heaving what must have been shoes for a Clydesdale) and a round of Frisbee Golf. In a very close contest, team seven-Walt Lockhart, Yu-Soon Koh, Kevin Terrell, Gary Weiner and Britt Rudman-took home the prized drink cooties and Park City thermometer keychains (registering a mere 84 by the close of the games). After a last-minute game of gondola-riding, the players returned to the hotel to prepare for the evening’s festivities.

The highlight of the week was the Sunday night event. The whole contingent was carried by bus over to the Utah Olympic Park for a night with real athletes. First were the ski jumpers; US ski team veterans showing off their training on both the 90 meter and 120 meter jumping hills, the ones last seen during the Olympics. The whole mountain was green instead of white. During the one of breaks between innings (during which the jumpers rode their lift back up to the top of the jump), they explained how they made up a jumping hill for year-round training (the key, as we learned in “The Graduate,” is plastics). Other lectures explored such arcana as jumping style and why they fly farther in summer. The jumpers love the hot weather, since it makes the air lighter. It increased the range on some of the jumps to “oh, wow” distance. It had been another scorcher, but as the jumpers finished showing off their form, the sun disappeared over the mountains and the evening cooled off enough to enjoy the buffet on the veranda overlooking the jumping pool. After dinner, the aerial show began. Skiers and snowboarders put on a terrific exhibition, landing their aerial tricks into a huge swimming pool. (Those soggy ski boots must be gross to put on every day.) Olympic medalists, world aerials champions, and a few Winter-X games veterans threw single flips, double flips and even triples, with no twists or one, two or three, culminating in a free-for-all finale that had about nine bodies airborne at once. The unanimous opinion after this event was that the whole thing was much better than anyone had imagined that it was going to be, and not to be missed. If you get out to Utah, check out the Olympic Park. Sometimes these kids are practicing, and you get a show without paying for it.

After everyone had returned to the hotel, the hospitality suite opened up for business. Jim and Pat Russell, who may already have the singular distinction of literally knowing everyone in the League, hosted a nightly party in their suite, featuring libations and collations for kids of all ages. On Sunday night, the party really got rolling with the addition of home-baked cookies. Harry Greenfield commandeered a corner of the hotel kitchen and spent several hours preparing chocolate chip, chocolate chip with pecan, and macadamia nut cookies. Word got out during the day that it was going to happen and the elevators were smoking from all the traffic until well after midnight. Something over 150 cookies disappeared. Providing a nightly spot for a night cap or a nosh was an inspired idea from our convention hosts. This ought to become an annual tradition.

Monday was another day that was light on meetings and classes, but heavy on Utah exploration. (The schedule was light on education all the way around.) The annual golf scramble was held at the Homestead course, a few miles down the road. The winning team-Chris Kailas, Barry Gammons (how does the event coordinator manage to get on the winning team?), John Pucin, and George Eliades-posted a 10 under 62. The runnersup posted 6 under 66 scores-Don Sullivan, Terry Tony, Eric Main and Tom Hamilton were awarded second place over Jack Birk, Jim Moore, John Buffaloe and David Zell, by virtue of a better working knowledge of Micronesian island capitals or some similarly arbitrary competition. Afterward, the Young Members hosted their annual family dinner, a Mexican buffet, at the Homestead.

On Tuesday there were elections for contested seats in the Young Members’ Section. Turnout was low, since there was nothing else on the ballot. The results are to be found in some other location in the magazine. There was plenty of time for one more swim, or hike or quiet afternoon on the balcony The golf enthusiasts, and some more casual players, trooped back out to the Homestead course to play the CLIA tournament. This year’s golf stud is John Pucin, who posted a young 75 to edge Don Scott. Chris Kailas is net golf stud, with his adjusted score finishing a stroke ahead of six other guys. Dottie Wanderer took home all the prizes in the women’s division, by virtue of being the only woman playing (did I mention that there is a dearth of female athletes in the League). The team award went to John Buffaloe, George Eliades, Chris Kailas and Charles Litow. But by far the best award was for the worst team score-a staggering group total of 408 (and a good conduct ribbon for counting them all)-Mel Weinstock, Sid Friedman, John Miller and Matt Malament. The best news of the day was that the entire event only took about four hours. In some years, the tournament is a six and a half hour death march, resulting in a three-event day-play golf, shower, and go to the banquet-which isn’t that much fun.

Before the banquet was the annual reception in the hallway outside the dining room. It was time for everyone to claim their pictures from the week off the bulletin board. Most people claim pictures so that they can prevent anyone else from seeing them (I mean, none of us look good with a mouthful of potatoes), but there are always a few keepsakes. The Sturms and Bernsteins get full marks for putting on a five-course dinner at the banquet. Most everyone was full before the desserts arrived.

The highlight of most banquets is the awarding of The President’s Cup. In case you don’t know, the President’s Cup is a special award that only goes to people who have made significant contributions to the League. This year, it was presented to Jon Becker. We were supposed to be honoring him, but somehow it was the other way around. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time Jon had finished talking about what the League meant to him.

It was time to find out what the suites at the top of the elevator looked like, dropping in on our hosts. I don’t know if the whole convention worked out the way planned or if they were making it up as they went the whole time. But from this end it was a well-run show with no disasters and apparently no injuries. The rest of Harry’s cookies were there. If that wasn’t reason enough to visit Park City, then none of the rest of this stuff would be either.

Address by Outgoing President, William Sturm at Banquet of 108th Annual Convention-July 16, 2002

It’s traditional at this time for the President to take a few minutes and give a speech thanking all of those who have provided special help over the past year. I’m going to break with tradition tonight because I gave that speech in Chicago. Many of you that were there, and I imagine that most of you, remember that I thanked John Wanderer, Bob Bernstein, Mark Sheriff, Rick Johanson, Lou LeLaurin, Elliot Levin and especially Kay I’m not going to do that tonight.

Tonight I would like talk about the future of the League. I believe that that future is bright-very bright.

From an operational standpoint, our transition with TSO has been a success. Our financial records are in order; our budget that started June lst has a considerable surplus built into it, and dues that have been collected are ahead of last year. This includes not only the dollars collected but also the percentage of membership that has paid thus far this fiscal year.

We are moving forward with our selection of a new executive vice president. The seven finalists are going to be interviewed in Chicago at the end of this month. Of the seven finalists, four are women, three of them with JD degrees and three men, two of them with JD degrees. Five of the seven either have or had experience working with the bar association. The general consensus of the search committee is that we have a very strong group of candidates and we’re excited about interviewing them the end of this month.

From a strategic standpoint, I also believe that the future is bright. One of my goals this year was to have the Board of Governors take a look at our strategic plan and figure out how we could meet the goals of that plan.

You’ll remember that our strategic plan had specific goals in five areas. Those areas were Education, Legislation, Marketing and Membership, Professionalism, and finally Governance.

That was my plan. Then the year started. The Board Meeting in New York was abbreviated, so we had it on the agenda for March. Then we scheduled it for the agenda in April in Chicago. Both of those meetings ended up with operational issues for the Board to address. However, at this meeting we finally got to it. I should point out that just because we didn’t get to our Strategic Plan, did not mean that we didn’t make some progress in a number of areas over this last year.

John Wanderer, your president-elect, and I have very similar views about where we would like to see the League go and what needs to be done. While I worked on the dayto-day problems and issues, John was willing to jump in early and worked on a number of projects. Those projects included Education, Web site reconstruction and Pamphlets.

Everybody in this room knows how long we have talked about Web site reconstruction, changing the Pamphlets and Education. We both decided that the time for talk had come to an end, and we were simply going to move forward with this. I asked John if he would simply do what needed to be done.

The new pamphlets are written, they are printed and they have been distributed at trade shows. The Web site reconstruction contract is ready to be signed and it’s funded. Our National Education Chair Committee is actually operating. I think that when you come to the New York meeting, you are going to find that we have done an excellent job. That committee has done an excellent job of increasing the quality and quantity of educational programs that will be available.

Last Friday, when the Board looked at our Strategic Plan, Mary Whitmer presented a four-page proposal. It outlined how we might organize ourselves to build on the strengths of our sections and our regions to achieve our goals in each of those five areas outlined under our Strategic Plan. The Board endorsed the general concepts presented and now over the next year John is going to take steps to implement them.

Copyright Commercial Law League of America Sep/Oct 2002

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