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Executive Summary: Building even better leaders: The first Missouri Bar Leadership Institute

by Sebrina A. Barrett, Executive Director of The Missouri Bar

Sebrina Barrett - Medium Size PhotoEarlier this year, bar leaders from across the state came to Jefferson City to attend the inaugural Missouri Bar Leadership Institute. The purpose of the institute – also known as Mo BLI – was to provide the opportunity for leaders from local and specialty bar associations to meet with each other and state bar leaders; learn about best practices in governance, membership engagement, time management, and effective communication; and discover opportunities to share resources and collaborate with one another.

As one attendee stated, the program “went past general information and really covered specifics regarding topics that upcoming bar leaders need to know.” The institute, which began with a tour of the federal courthouse in Jefferson City and lunch courtesy of U.S. Magistrate Judge Willie Epps, concluded with media relations and crisis communications training from The Missouri Bar’s media relations director, Farrah Fite. To help keep cost from being a barrier to participation, the institute was supported by several generous sponsors. The early bird registration rate was only $75, and several scholarships, up to $250 in value, were offered to cover the registration fee and travel expenses. The institute lasted a day-and-a-half and included time for networking.

Attendees shared their impressions of the institute on social media. One commented that he took away “[l]ots of great ideas to bring back and help grow and connect our local bars.” Another stated that her county bar was “already building on ideas we heard there.” A third attendee commented on the “wonderful speakers” and said that “[w]e are still abuzz with excitement . . . We had our first [board] meeting since and it was great!”

Post-program evaluations showed that the top takeaways included: the power of the “personal touch,” meaning that much can be gained from personally reaching out to individuals; the fact that regardless of bar size or location, everyone is facing the same issues and challenges, and that we can be a resource for one another; and tips on diffusing difficult situations while gracefully moving forward. Another key take away shared by a participant was to not be intimidated into believing that you can’t be a leader: “As a young lawyer, I look up and see so many great people leading our bar and I think I could never do that. Now, I think I could definitely try!”

“It was refreshing to see that each leader had their own style of leading firmly without resorting to bullying or negative tactics,” said one of the participants.

Boosting relationships with specialty and local bars is an important goal of The Missouri Bar. Over many decades, we have had positive and supportive working relationships with bar associations statewide. I value our partnerships on projects like this, as the input of my fellow executive directors make all our organizations and the profession stronger. The new relationships being built with bar leaders from across the state, coupled with the positive feedback from the program’s inaugural participants, confirms we are on the right track. That is why planning will soon be under way for next year’s institute, which will be held April 2-3, 2020. Please save the date and keep an eye out for more information about the program later this year. We hope to see you there!

2019 Missouri Bar Leadership Institute