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Lee Wedekind
Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 13, 201412:00 PM EST

Bar Bulletin: Sutton's Law in motion at The Jacksonville Bar Association

by: Lee D. Wedekind III

Prolific bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked by a reporter, “Why do you rob banks?”

His famous reply: “Because that’s where the money is.”

Sutton’s witty retort has given rise to Sutton’s Law, an aphorism now taught in the context of diagnostic medicine to demonstrate the importance of first considering the obvious.

The Jacksonville Bar Association’s Board of Governors has made good use of Sutton’s Law in informing its ongoing self-evaluation to determine how the Bar can remain relevant in the age of information and convenience.

The process kicked off two years ago at a brainstorming session as part of a Board of Governors retreat intended to focus on long-term planning.

Two years later, the goals and strategies that were developed are now being implemented and hopefully will soon begin to bear fruit.

One obvious function the Bar considers to be important is to serve as an aggregator and clearinghouse of information helpful to our members’ practices.

Another is to be a driver and facilitator of communication among our members collectively, as well as with the community in a more broad sense.

Most of the Bar’s decisions are driven, at least in part, with an eye toward advancing one or both of these two foundational roles.

These functions recently have been improved in at least two ways.

First, the Bar’s committee structure underwent a substantial reorganization two years ago.

The reorganization was designed to create more opportunities for members of the Bar to become involved and to create more paths to leadership for those who are interested.

Second, the Bar’s website was updated and upgraded to enhance our members’ engagement by increasing the flow of information to them.

These projects have at least one thing in common: Both were designed to promote the Bar’s relevance by increasing the amount and accessibility of information that is available to our members.

Remaining relevant during times of great change is a challenge.

The legal industry has undergone a paradigm shift as a result of the convergence of technological advances, a gradual generational transition and the ongoing economic instability. Lawyers practice much differently than 10 years ago (e-filing, email, e-discovery), people communicate and interact much differently with one another (more frequently, less face-to-face) and legal budgets are tight.

Despite these headwinds, the Bar has and will continue to identify significant strategic advantages that ensure its relevance to its members and the Jacksonville community.

The diversity of our local businesses is reflected in the breadth of practice areas represented within the Bar’s committees.

But, there always will be a need for a group to serve as a collective gathering point among our members.

Our regular committee meetings, monthly lunch meetings and annual events provide opportunities for our members to interact with one another in ways that can’t be handled through email or over the phone.

This process of self-improvement remains ongoing. The board is exploring several projects it believes have the potential to contribute significant value to members.

Like Sutton, our efforts are focused on going where are members are, and our success will be measured by their participation.

If you have thoughts on how we can improve, whether in structure, programming, benefits or otherwise, or are interested in becoming involved but don’t know a good entry point, please let me know.

And, as always, if you have any criticisms or grievances, please contact Troy Smith.

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