The VBA held its in-person Mid-Year Meeting at the Equinox Resort and Spa in Manchester Center on March 31 and followed up with a slate of webinars the following week. Attendance figures made it clear that people are ready to get out and meet together again! Last year’s Mid-Year Meeting was held in downtown Burlington and it drew what was then a post-pandemic record crowd for a VBA event: 132 attendees. Given Manchester Center’s less-than-central location, we estimated that we might have 125 people. Instead, we had 228 registrants and, with the judges, Professional Responsibility Board, staff and sponsors added in, 258 people were in attendance! This did cause a bit of crowding and congestion, but the goodwill was palpable, and the mood was excellent.
Breakfast with our sponsors (13 altogether) kicked off the day (eggs, bacon, the whole thing) followed by the first CLEs of the day on managing trauma in the workplace and the future of non-competition agreements in Vermont. Those were followed by a break to get some of that breakfast and talk to our sponsors. The morning finished up with CLEs on modes of mediation and open meetings and public records laws. Then it was time for lunch and the VBA business meeting.
Board of Managers President Andrew Manitsky presided over the meeting which began with a recorded video message to the VBA from ABA president Deborah Enix-Ross. Andrew then moved on to the main business of the meeting, which included a vote on whether to change to the VBA Constitution to include the VBA Mission Statement: “The mission of the Vermont Bar Association is to promote the highest standards of skill, ethics and professionalism within an inclusive legal profession; foster understanding and respect for the rule of law; support equal access to a fair and effective system of law; and provide valuable resources to its members.” This passed without debate.
It was then time for the pro bono award. Andrew presented this year’s award to Attorney Sarah Starr, who is the head of the VBA’s juvenile law section. Her outstanding work will be featured in a story in the Spring 2023 Vermont Bar Journal.
Elections on the uncontested slate of candidates for the VBA Board followed and these were also handled with alacrity and without debate. They are: President-Elect – Josh Diamond; Treasurer – Matthew Valerio; Secretary – Edward J. Tyler. Three At-Large members were also elected: Jessica Bullock, Richard Cassidy, and Jordana Levine.
Bonnie Badgewick, a Board Member of the Vermont Bar Foundation, then gave an update on the VBF’s Access to Justice Campaign and encouraged attendees to “see Jose.” That is, Bar Foundation Executive Director Jose Herrera, who was on hand to give the VBF report and to promote the VBF online auction that is underway this spring. Elizabeth Kruska, a past president of the VBA and our delegate to the ABA, gave her report on the ABA meeting, which included a contentious and as yet undecided question about the future of the LSAT in law school admissions.
After lunch, the crowd moved back to the classrooms to hear the Hon. Helen Toor give tips from the bench on civil practice. Then, to wrap up the day, there was a standing-room-only ethics CLE led by Andrew Manitsky, the Hon. Mary Miles Teachout (Ret.), and bar counsel Mike Kennedy.
The trio led a lively discussion of the results of the civility survey that the VBA conducted this winter. Improving civility is one of Andrew’s goals for his presidential year and it was clear that his interest is widely shared. The topic has got the attention of the judiciary and it will be taken up again at the annual meeting, Sept. 29 in Burlington.
The Women’s Division and the Young Lawyer’s Division also had their meetings in Manchester. The WD elected Alison Stone – Chair; Breanna Weaver – Vice Chair; Caryn Connolly -Treasurer; Rizlaine “Riz” Sabiani – Secretary, and Erin Gallivan – Delegate to the VBA Board. The YLD elected Pam Eaton Chair; Justin Brown is Chair-Elect, Ryan Long is treasurer and Kevin Lumpkin is Past Chair.
Rain and snow had begun to fall as the Manchester meeting wrapped up, which reminded some of us why remote meetings still have their charms. As noted, webinars continued online the entire following week. There were 11 classes offered over the following five weekdays with 12.5 total CLE hours on offer. With 698 Zoom log-ins the Mid-Year meeting webinars also proved very popular.
Thanks to all of our presenters and to all who attended. We will see you for the annual meeting on Sept. 29 at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain!