The VBA held its in-person Annual Meeting at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain on Sept. 29 and followed up with a slate of webinars the following week. Attendance was healthy at the hotel with 198 registered and a total of 267 on hand (including judges, sponsors, guests, and staff). More than 200 people participated in the Zoom programs which carried on through the following week. The week of webinars finished with the long-standing basic skills courses, taught over zoom, which attracted nearly 150 attorneys.
Sept. 29 – The Morning
Breakfast with our sponsors (13 altogether) kicked off the day on the 29th, followed by the first CLEs of the day on wellness led by Samara Anderson or a panel discussion of recent changes to Vermont’s employment law moderated by Steve Ellis. Panel members in the employment law session included Emily Chamberlain Adams, Rich Cassidy and Kerin Stackpole. The Law Office Study program was the focus of another CLE scheduled in that time slot. It included moderator Andy Strauss, and panelists Sam Abel-Palmer, Kira Bottig, Bob Paolini, and Patty Turley.
After the first CLEs wrapped up, participants got a break to get some of that breakfast and talk to our sponsors. The morning finished up with CLEs on Artificial Intelligence, led by Ott Lindstrom, Shane McCormack, Daniel Shin, and Gabrielle Shea, and working with trauma victims, featured Sam Angell, the Hon. Karen Carroll, Don Cuerdon, Samantha Prince, and Donna M. Then it was time for lunch and the VBA business meeting.
Board of Managers President Andrew Manitsky presided over the meeting as his last act as President. It began with a live Zoom appearance from Senator Peter Welch. Welch had been scheduled to appear in person but snarls in Congress served to keep him in Washington that day. After his remarks, the program moved swiftly to the presentation of the first-ever Civility and Professionalism award to Nadine Scibek.
Civility and professionalism were major themes of Andrew’s presidential year. The award was established in recognition that honoring good behavior is at least as important as calling out bad behavior. Nadine had received a glowing nomination from the Hon. Helen Toor, which Andrew quoted to applause. Nadine then shared a few gracious words about how she manages to work so well with opposing attorneys and pro se clients.
The business side of the meeting was then dispatched with alacrity (the minutes and treasurer’s report). Members who were lost since the last annual meeting were remembered with a moment of silence. Emeritus members were named and those present received plaques from Andrew (Ernest Tobias Balivet and Harold Stevens.).
The presentation of the President’s Awards for service to the bar followed. This was another highlight of the meeting. This year awards went to Jim Knapp, longtime co-chair of the Real Property Section and one of the VBA’s most dedicated presenters of CLE, Mary Ashcroft, the VBA’s Legal Access Coordinator and hero of low bono and pro bono work in Vermont, and to Fastcase, represented by Joe Patz Vineyard, VP of Alliances & Strategy @ vLex. Another of Andrew’s major presidential-year efforts was to create a searchable online database of Vermont trial court decisions. The VBA partnered with Fastcase to make the database a reality.
After the President’s Awards were bestowed, Maya Tsukazaki, the current Poverty Law Fellow, addressed the audience about her work this year on behalf of immigrants, with a special focus on young people. The Poverty Law Fellowship is sponsored every year by the Vermont Bar Foundation. Rich Cassidy, a VBA and VBF Board member, followed Maya with a brief report on the Bar Foundation, urging those assembled to choose banks that offer good interest rates on IOLTA accounts as interest from those accounts goes to the Foundation.
It was then time for special guest, Attorney General Charity Clark, to reveal the results of the 7th Annual Legal Community Fighting Hunger Food (and diaper) Drive. She reported that more than $12,000 had been raised by Vermont’s legal professionals during the two-week drive this fall. This will provide more than $50,000 worth of food for Vermonters through the Vermont Foodbank. Additionally, more than 1,000 diapers and food items were donated.
The final event of the meeting was the passing of the gavel from Andrew to the incoming VBA President, Judith Dillon. Judith, whose special focus in the year ahead will include workforce development and succession planning for late-career attorneys, announced the creation of the VBA’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program. The new program will help attorneys working in under-served areas of the state and under-served areas of legal need to pay their student loans. Applications for the first awards are open now until Nov. 3. More information is here. Both Judith and Andrew had family members present for the meeting, which added a warm quality to the proceedings.
After lunch, the crowd moved back to the classrooms to hear CLEs on Vermont’s Medical Shield law from a panel made up of Ben Battles, Linda Cohen, Josh Diamond, and Lauren Layman, or on AI as it is impacting the legal profession. The AI CLE was organized by Ed Adrian and he appeared along with AI expert Niki Black (who was present remotely), Mike Kennedy, and Buddhist Monk, Soryu Forall, a nationally known figure in the discussion around AI.
The final CLE of the day was a plenary session on Advanced Civility & Professionalism. This was a follow-up to the civility presentation at the VBA Mid-Year meeting in March, and a topic which has been getting special attention from many corners of the bar since then. Speakers included the Hon. Christina Reiss, the Hon. Helen Toor, Mike Kennedy, Chip Mason, and Andrew Manitsky.
Recordings were made of most of the CLEs presented on Sept. 29 (not wellness or AI and the legal profession). Anyone who registered for the meeting can view the recordings of sessions they missed or sessions they would like see again by emailing Laura Welcome, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to all of our presenters, sponsors, and to all who attended. We will see you for the Mid-Year Meeting on March 29 back at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain!