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Congratulations President Kruska!

The VBA President’s gavel was officially passed with great fanfare to Elizabeth Kruska of Woodstock, Vermont at the VBA Annual Meeting held virtually on October 1. In her remarks, President Kruska shared that she has “decided to think about 2020 as the glass half full. Because I think as difficult as it has been, we can use this experience to become better lawyers, better practitioners, and better people.” See below for the rest of President Kruska’s compelling and heartfelt remarks, and click HERE for the video of many VBA past-presidents remotely passing the gavel to Elizabeth while pursuing their favorite wellness pastimes!

President Kruska's acceptance remarks:

Thank you, Beth. Thank you to the board, the VBA staff, and to the membership. I am excited and honored to be your bar leader this year.

When I was approached back in late 2018 to lead for this year, I immediately started to think about what 2020 could look like. I think it’s no secret that nobody could have predicted what 2020 would look like.

I’ve decided to think about 2020 as the glass half full. Because I think as difficult as it has been, we can use this experience to become better lawyers, better practitioners, and better people.

We all had to learn a lot of lessons very quickly.

We learned that haircuts and dress pants aren’t as important as we thought, but we’ve learned that hugs and handshakes are more important than we ever realized. We miss seeing one another at court hearings and bar events, but we appreciate that we can participate from all corners of the state without a commute. We’ve rediscovered that baking bread and growing gardens at home are satisfying, but it would also be nice to get away for a little bit.

As much as we miss the old normal, and the old way of doing things, I challenge us to keep looking forward. Just because we liked our old way, doesn’t necessarily mean the old way is the only way.

I realized early on – perhaps as early as April – that this is a huge moment for our profession. We have a truly unique opportunity to re-form our profession and the way we practice into something new. We can take all this negative energy the universe has thrown at us, and turn it into a positive force, making us all much stronger.

I am very inspired by our profession and our association’s response to the COVID-19 shutdown. We’ve shown how nimble we can be when we need to be. Within a week or two of being shut down the VBA created the COVID-19 committee to help lawyers collaboratively work together when nobody really knew what that would look like. We began regular meetings with the section chairs and county bar presidents, and have been able to share information back and forth between the bar and the judiciary. We stay in touch. We brainstorm. We have ideas.

And so let’s do this. Let’s continue to adapt. Let’s continue to be creative and to take some of the shutdown lessons we’ve learned. Let’s keep the best ideas and help them grow. A year ago if you told me that on one day I would have a hearing in Burlington, then a hearing in Rutland, then another in Burlington, then a committee meeting, and a hearing in Woodstock all before 3 p.m., I’d have said you were out of your mind. If you told me that now I’d say, “yeah, that sounds like Monday.” Our adaptations as lawyers, and as humans, allowed me to advocate for four different clients in three different parts of the state, and to work on a project that’s important to me. A year ago I couldn’t do that all in one day. At least not easily, and not without driving three hundred miles.

I use this as an example of how brilliantly efficient we can become, but also as a caution. Because as we become more efficient, it’s also possible we can become more busy and more burdened. And here is where we have our choice.

Since we are the captains of this ship – this ship navigating the unpredictable waters of practice during and after COVID-19 – we get to decide what happens next in terms of our profession. We can choose to use our new-found efficiencies to work harder and to do more.

We can also decide to do something else, which brings me to my next point. Lawyers, as a profession, have begun to focus more and more on attorney wellness. Wellness can include a lot of things. It can be working more mindfully. It can be structuring our respective practices so we have time for other things. It can be making sure you eat well, sleep well, exercise, and get fresh air. It can be spending time with family. It can be reading a trashy novel or binge-watching something on Netflix and eating ice cream directly out of the tub. It’s whatever you need it to be.

But now that we get this unprecedented opportunity to rebuild how we work, we can demand that we include caring for ourselves and each other. We are lawyers by profession, but we are humans 100% of the time. It costs nothing to be kind to each other, to ourselves, and to our communities.

We are fortunate that we live and practice in Vermont. We’re the kind of bar that looks out for one another. We’re the kind of bar that makes a gavel-passing video like a torch relay with each of us doing things we like to do.

As I look to the year ahead, I look forward to working with the bar and advocating for our well-being. I’m thankful to the VBA staff and executive director who work so hard to keep our association running. I’m thankful to our immediate past president Beth Novotny, and to all the past presidents who have set the standard for leadership – I can only hope my year ahead lives up to the standards they have set. I thank the judiciary for its continued willingness to work collaboratively with the bar.

I’m grateful to all the lawyers and judges I’ve had the pleasure to know and to work with over the course of my career thus far. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to know more members of our legal community. I look forward to the time we will spend together during the coming year, and I hope we all are able to continue to grow and learn from one another.

And last, thank you to my dear husband and fellow VBA member, Wesley Lawrence for his unwavering support.

And now, I get to shift platforms from Webex to Microsoft Teams and teach a group of fifteen law students how to do this profession we are working so hard to perfect. Thank you for this opportunity and for your confidence – I look forward to leading our bar into a new, and hopefully more excellent, year.