Executive Summary: In the wake of coronavirus
Mischa Buford Epps
Mischa Buford Epps is executive director of The Missouri Bar.
Vol. 76, No. 3 / May - June 2020
We are living through extraordinary times. Meetings have gone virtual, and nearly all work is completed remotely. Face masks are strongly recommended for trips outside the home. Neighbors move to the other side of the street as we encounter one another and give a smile, nod, or wave.
As I write this message on Law Day 2020, most of us are hunkered down in our homes and adapting to rapid changes in our world that were unthinkable only a few months ago.
To say the least, the first weeks of my service as the executive director of The Missouri Bar have been personally and professionally challenging, but do not come close to the challenges of the 30 million Americans who are unemployed, the 1.1 million Americans who have battled the virus, or the more than 66,000 Americans who have lost their lives. I am honored and humbled that the Board of Governors chose me for this position and consider it a privilege to work with the Board, President Tom Bender, President-Elect John Gunn, Vice President John Grimm, our MoBar staff, and each of you to further The Missouri Bar’s mission.
My first exposure to The Missouri Bar came during the summer of 1993 when I was a summer associate at a St. Louis law firm. I accompanied Past President Doreen Dodson to a meeting on professionalism at The Missouri Bar Center. As I took notes and listened to the committee’s discussions, I was impressed that day by not only their substantive work but also the genuine friendships and amicable relationships among the lawyers I observed. I am sure that no one in attendance that day, including me, envisioned I would someday serve as The Missouri Bar’s executive director – and that such service would begin during a global pandemic. Without a doubt, the challenges before us are immense, but so too are our resilience and determination. I can assure you that The Missouri Bar will continue to deepen engagement with our members to address your concerns and emerge from these challenging times even stronger and better.
Our incredible team at The Missouri Bar has adapted nimbly to working virtually and continues to innovate to provide the best possible service to you. We launched an online Coronavirus Resource Center for Lawyers to provide members with helpful information and resources for your practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. To assist members in obtaining their continuing legal education credits, MoBarCLE is offering up to five free CLE programs related to COVID-19 concerns, including ethics and implicit bias programming. Visit mobarcle.mobar.org today to find more information on the free COVID-19 CLE programs that will be offered each week from now through Sept. 30.
Additionally, The Missouri Bar established a new online community, Lawyers Living Well, where lawyers can discuss self-care and mindfulness while providing each other helpful insights in a supportive environment. Right now, in-person contact is at a minimum. We are left with connecting by phone, email, text, or video, which, in turn, may exacerbate already-increased stress, loss, and isolation. I invite and encourage you to stay connected by participating in it or other online communities at connect.mobar.org.
We have also expanded our Free Legal Answers program to address legal questions posed by our fellow Missourians. Any citizen who is of modest means (temporarily increased to 400% of the poverty level) can obtain free answers to the multitude of legal questions that continue to arise. Lawyers are not alone in navigating the challenges of our ever-changing new normal. If you are able, please consider getting involved at Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org. From your remote location, you can scroll through the questions raised and volunteer to answer one or more in areas with which you are comfortable. It is an easy way to give back, and it is so valuable to those who need guidance.
The success of The Missouri Bar comes on the shoulders of our volunteers, including the Board, section and committee leaders, YLS Council members, CLE speakers, and countless others who donate their time and work tirelessly for the bar. Thank you all for the incredibly valuable work that you do.
In my new role as manager of The Missouri Bar’s day-to-day operations, I will work to make sure we are as efficient, transparent, and fiscally responsible as we can be. If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for continuing to diligently serve your clients and defend the rule of law during this crisis. Although the world is quickly evolving, The Missouri Bar remains here to help you even better serve your clients and the communities in which we live.