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Executive Summary: The home team: 75 years of serving the profession

Vol.75, No. 3 / May - June 2019


More than 50 years ago, then-executive director Wade Baker aptly said that the Bar “lives on borrowed time,” noting that a primary source of a Bar’s talent is “the time it is able to beg or borrow from busy lawyers.”

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

More than 50 years ago, then-executive director Wade Baker aptly said that the Bar “lives on borrowed time,” noting that a primary source of a Bar’s talent is “the time it is able to beg or borrow from busy lawyers.”

That is certainly true. Throughout The Missouri Bar’s rich 75-year history as a unified bar, countless volunteer leaders have given their time and talents to their profession, and these members have been instrumental in our Bar’s decades of success. 

In my nearly 10 years at The Missouri Bar, I’ve worked with leaders who not only are giving, but who also are grateful. They frequently acknowledge that another key component of the Bar’s success are the contributions of a dedicated, professional, highly-engaged, and experienced staff. I couldn’t let this anniversary pass without recognizing the people who I am honored to work with each day in Jefferson City. They carry on a tradition of service that has greatly benefitted both Missouri’s lawyers and citizens. 

In 1960, the Bar, which at the time had a membership of 7,000, employed eight staff members, two of which were full-time administrative professionals. In an article titled, “Service is Our Business,” Baker wrote that “[t]heir typewriters are going at top speed continually writing letters, typing mats for reproduction and carrying on the many other services to aid the directors in their work.” 

Nearly 60 years later, 45 full-time staff members support hundreds of activities and initiatives to help more than 30,000 Missouri lawyers even better serve their clients and communities. Like the profession, the Bar’s staff has grown, and while the speed of their work hasn’t slowed in the slightest, much has changed, including trading in our typewriters for the technology of today, thanks to the recent implementation of a broad technology audit. Your Missouri Bar staff remains efficient, with one staff member for every 662 members. Other unified bars our size average one staff member for every 365 members.

Once they have joined our team, members of our staff tend to stay. In 2010, then-President Skip Walther wrote in the Journal that the average years of service for Missouri Bar staff employees was 14.3 years. He noted that this longevity “adds value to all Missouri attorneys because our staff is experienced and diligent and efficient in their work.” In the same article, Walther stated that the 1994 enrollment fee increase was projected to last five years, but instead lasted 14 years because “the efficiency of our staff stretched this timeline out almost three times longer than anticipated.” 

The Bar is blessed with several staff members who have been with us for tenures ranging from 10 to 35 years. Currently, with the retirement of my executive assistant after 44 years of service to the Bar, our longest-serving full-time staff member is Gary Toohey, who has ably worked as editor of this publication for 35 years. But Toohey isn’t the longest serving member of our current team. Carol Sandbothe has provided part-time help for the past 12 years in our accounting department, after 39 years of full-time service, for a total of 51 years! Sandbothe initially joined the team just two years after the Bar Center was built in 1965. The institutional knowledge and expertise of our long-serving staff complement the fresh perspectives and diverse experience of new staff members who have joined our team due to several recent retirements. Regardless of whether a staff member has been with us one week or several decades, their contributions are essential to the fulfillment of our mission of helping lawyers even better serve their clients. 

A tradition of excellence is the hallmark of our staff. Many former and current staff have held leadership positions in national organizations, such as the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) and the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE). Both Baker and former executive director Keith Birkes are past presidents of NABE, and former Director of Information Wally Richter has an NABE award named after him. Further, many of our staff members are called upon frequently to share their expertise with bar association professionals and bar leaders across the nation.

On the Bar’s 60th anniversary in 2004, the Board of Governors recognized the contributions of our staff with a resolution that stated in part, “The Missouri Bar’s staff consists of a talented and dedicated group of professionals who epitomize the necessary teamwork, collegiality, creativity and ‘can-do’ spirit that is responsible for The Missouri Bar achieving the status of one of the most preeminent bar associations in the United States.”

I realize I am biased, but I wholeheartedly concur. As we have been for the past 75 years, the Bar staff is available to provide information or assistance to the public and our members. We are simply a call, email, or tweet away. And, as Birkes stated in a Journal column more than 30 years ago, “the staff will be responsive, informed and capable” of handling your requests. We mean it when we say we are here to help, but we are human. “We hope we serve you well,” Baker wrote in 1975. “If we don’t, be kind and tell us where we have failed.” When we get it wrong, let us know, and we will try to make it right. As we celebrate the Bar’s 75 years of unification, it is humbling to serve alongside the best Bar staff in the nation – a group of individuals who care about lawyers and the clients they serve.