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Long Live the CWBA!

Long live all the mountains we moved

I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.


These immortal words of the great poet Taylor Alison Swift blared from the speakers in the Colorado Room at the Hythe in Vail as I ran to the stage triumphantly holding the CWBA gavel.

To explain this moment, I need to take you back in time to April 2023. At the CWBA Board of Directors annual retreat, I revealed my President’s theme—Intend to Thrive. Our goal was to thrive and to act with intention so we would thrive. Importantly, I wanted Board members—me included—to thrive in their roles. The CWBA’s mission is advancing women as leaders in the law, and it made no sense to me for the leaders of the organization to be martyrs to the cause.

 

To make this point at the retreat, I pledged to lead in a way that would leave me with enough energy at the end of my term to run a victory lap at Convention, ready to renew my commitment as a lifetime member of the CWBA. And so, at our Annual Dinner and Passing the Gavel celebration, I did just that.


I was intentional (ahem) in my choice for music during my victory lap. When gearing myself up for a court appearance or a workout, I might choose an individual-overcoming-the-odds song like “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera or “Defying Gravity” from the Wicked soundtrack. For the CWBA Convention, I knew I needed a song about community triumph. And “Long Live” is Taylor’s love letter to her band and fans, celebrating all they’ve achieved together.

 

Reflecting weeks later, the idea of “Long Live” feels like the most fitting description of the CWBA’s 2023-24 Board year. Much of this year was about stepping back and reflecting on the best use of our collective time and energy. I wanted to lead the CWBA in a way that made sustainable use of our resources, emphasized quality over quantity, and focused tightly on our mission. Why? Because we all want the CWBA to live on for a long, long time!

 

I joked during my Convention speech that, when giving the highlights from the year, I was excited to brag that we did less!

Here are a few of our less-is-more accomplishments . . .

 

Judicial Endorsements

 

We started the year by putting a temporary pause on our Judicial Endorsement process. We took the time to step back so we could consider the time commitment, our volunteer resources, and how we could best assist the Governor’s Office in its selection process. And this past fall, we rolled out a new process – shifting from calling references to interviewing the candidates who sought our endorsement. This has made for a more streamlined, efficient process and we’ve received positive feedback from CWBA volunteers and judicial candidates alike. Our co-chairs emphasized how much more you can learn about people after having a conversation with them. And now all newly appointed judges have had a chance to meet some of our members. With its additional bandwidth, the Judicial Committee is working on ways to support women judges and our members who aspire to the bench.

 

Public Policy and Advocacy Work

 

We retained a new lobbying firm for the first time in 30 years late last year. Our relationship with Amanda Gall and Adeline Hodge from Meridian Public Affairs is off to a thriving start! With their guidance, the Public Policy Committee scaled back our legislative agenda to focus on key issues that advance our mission, to advocate for bills where our unique lens mattered most, and to be intentional about the best use of our political capital. This year we advocated for laws intended to make women and children safer in domestic violence situations. One particular success was advocating for a bill that requires online dating services to have a safety policy. We were also an early endorsing partner for Ballot Initiative #89, which would enshrine the right to abortion in the Colorado Constitution.

 

Updates to Committee Structure

 

This year, we also rethought our committee structure by looking for potential synergies and subject matter overlap. I’m happy to report that two successful mergers took place!

 

The Publications and History Committees joined forces. What better place to catalog, celebrate, and share CWBA history and the history of women in the law than on this very blog. (Even the title is historical – 1891 refers to the year the first women were admitted to practice law in Colorado.) We end this Board year with a strategic plan in hand to guide us in seamlessly incorporating our history onto the blog and into the rest of our work.

 

We also saw the merger of the Membership and Mentorship Committees, now affectionately known as “M&M.”  The committee focused its energy on creating low-key spaces for members to connect like walk-and-talks at local parks, monthly Zoom gatherings to welcome new members, and a cozy conversations kick-off to our mentoring program where members forged connections over hot chocolate. We held one less big social event this year and innovated on the ones we did hold. The Summer Social featured the annual committee showcase (historically held in the fall) to allow our members—fresh off the energy from Convention (psst–register now to join us on July 10th!)—to learn about ways to get involved earlier in the year. And our Membership Appreciation Event in the spring featured superlative awards like high school yearbook and merit badges like Girl Scouts to show our members just how much we appreciate you!

 

Intentional Events

 

Our other events were similarly thoughtful, meaningful, and focused.

 

The Professional Advancement Committee held its third iteration of the Profiles of Successful Pivoters panel, highlighting women who have made significant career transitions and taken non-linear paths.

 

Because a key part of thriving is financial well-being, the Programs Committee put on a three-part webinar series on that very topic. Our members heard from seasoned experts on preparing for your financial future, generational wealth, and thriving in retirement.

  

In response to the Supreme Court decision last term striking down affirmative action at universities, the DEI Committee—along with Colorado’s other diversity bar associations—convened a panel to discuss the importance of DEI initiatives in the workplace. It was followed by a carefully structured networking event that facilitated conversations in a way that celebrated our differences and identified commonalities.

 

The CWBA also hosted its first-ever “Friendsgiving” event aimed at fostering relationships between lawyers and law students. And we continued our popular On What Grounds series—a virtual leadership café and coffee talk gathering for members to share what’s really on their minds.

 

A crucial part of my goal to lead a thriving board was to give board members more opportunities to connect in person. After all, many people choose to get involved in the CWBA to network and form friendships. So rather than limiting ourselves to Zoom and law firm conference rooms for Board Meetings, we got out into the world and had meetings at local breweries and restaurants. A few times, we even adjourned to Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary’s.


I would be remiss not to mention our flagship event—the Annual Convention. Each time I look at pictures, think back to a session, or recall a conversation I had, my face breaks out into a grin. Walking around at The Hythe that weekend, it was unmistakable how much our organization and its members are thriving. The amount of planning and details that goes into an event like Convention is as hard to put into words as the experience of attending. And everything that we experienced—from the speakers to the swag, to earning CLE credits, to the overall vibe and connection—was the result of many intentional decisions and lots of hard work.

 

Planting the Seeds of Tomorrow

 

Last year, at our annual retreat, as a bonding activity to help us connect as a Board, we did a group art project. We each colored individual squares that when put together, formed the image of a vibrant, thriving tree. I’d like to think of this tree as a metaphor: each individual contribution makes for a beautiful whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

 

The tree is also a metaphor for our approach to the year. Much of the focus was on planting and nurturing seeds that will grow long after my tenure. To guide us in reworking our leadership structure, we retained consultants from the American Bar Association. We launched a Strategy and Finance Committee and are collaborating with a small, woman-owned consulting firm called Upstream LLC to help us with our strategic partnerships and fundraising. And, to ensure that our events and programming continue to serve our members and our broader goals, we started conducting After Action Reviews following each big event. This has proved to be a valuable tool as we think about future events and programming. While none of these are likely to elicit enthusiastic cheers when announced from a podium, they are among my proudest accomplishments from this year.

 

Long Live!

 

“Long Live” is an expression that celebrates sustainability, adaptability, and longevity. This is the perfect note to end on as we celebrate our past accomplishments along with the seeds planted in the hopes of a vibrant future. It’s been the honor of a lifetime to lead the CWBA for one chapter of its rich history.

 

And I really did have the time of my life fighting dragons with you.

 

Long Live the CWBA!

xoxo

Emma

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Congratulations, Emma, on an incredible tenure!

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