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Lawyers, judges collaborate and learn during 2019 Annual Meeting


More than 650 lawyers and judges from across the state traveled to Branson last week for The Missouri Bar’s 2019 Annual Meeting held in conjunction with Missouri’s Judicial Conference.

More than 650 lawyers and judges from across the state traveled to Branson last week for The Missouri Bar’s 2019 Annual Meeting held in conjunction with Missouri’s Judicial Conference. The event, held Sept. 18-20, was an opportunity for lawyers to network and earn a year’s worth of Continuing Legal Eduation (CLE), all aimed at helping lawyers even better serve their clients. Click here to see select photos from the event.


Annual Meeting plenaries historically focus on hot-button matters impacting the profession, and this year was no exception. Thursday began with lawyers Eric M. Walter and Paul D. Satterwhite, along with Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana at the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, and Dr. Mimi Vo, internal medicine specialist in St. Louis, discussed the legal implications of medical marijuana in Missouri. Missouri is the 33rd state to permit prescriptions, and the development brings big changes to the legal landscape. Panelists shared research behind dosing and touched on how it will adjust the ways employers, doctors, banks, and other agencies operate.

Next, Missouri Bar officer John Gunn, Hon. David Jones, and Bree Buchanan, a senior advisor to Krill Strategies in Austin, Texas, took the stage with moderator Dean Ellen Suni for a panel on lawyer and judge well-being. Numerous studies have identified lawyers and judges as having a higher risk of mental health challenges and substance use issues when compared with the general public. The conversation at Annual Meeting included several examples of personal experience with addiction, depression, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and other mental health concerns. Missouri lawyers dealing with such matters have free, 24/7 access to confidential counseling through The Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

“We’re not robots,” Gunn said. “Don’t identity yourself first as a lawyer. Identify yourself first as a human.”

The session was part of a conscious effort to bring more dialogue on wellness to the annual conference. Other strategies included specialty non-alcoholic cocktails, massage chairs, and a puppy-petting station open to attendees.

A final plenary on Friday centered on humanitarian issues, such as human trafficking and immigrant victims of domestic and child abuse. Speakers, including Mira Mdivani and Danielle Atchison of Mdviani Corporate Immigration Law Firm; Angie Blumel of Jackson County CASA; Chip Root, detective with the Joplin Police Department; and Allen Rostron of the University of Kansas City School of Law, spoke about cases they have dealt with, as well as tips for combatting these complex matters.

“Pro bono is the key to happiness,” said Mdivani.

Breakout course sessions focused on matters ranging from developing parenting plans during divorces and ethics when approaching the bench to white collar crime and how to a program which met the new elimination of bias MCLE requirement. The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section also hosted a special series of CLE programs for lawyers new to the profession.

Leadership Transitions

Annual Meeting marks the start of a new bar year, and Tom Bender, a lawyer with Horn Aylward & Bandy LLC in Kansas City, was elected and sworn in as the 2019-20 president of The Missouri Bar. Bender succeeds West Plains lawyer Ray Williams and will serve alongside President-elect John Gunn of St. Louis and newly elected Vice President John Grimm of Cape Girardeau.

In his opening address as Missouri Bar president, Bender shared his goals to continue to fulfill the organized bar’s strategic plan, including efforts aimed at providing equal access to justice.

“There are people in our communities who feel they are sometimes left behind, including veterans who gave so much and sometimes just need a little help but can’t afford it,” Bender said. “We need to ensure that Missourians, no matter where they live, have access to lawyers who can provide timely and cost-effective work.”

Bender also asked members of the bar to reach out with suggestions and changes: “We are stronger together. We do great things working together, making our lives even better along with the lives of all Missourians who need our help.”

Supreme Court of Missouri Chief Justice George W. Draper III also spoke with attendees. Draper focused on improving diversity and eliminating implicit bias in our profession and the courts. He also presented The Missouri Bar with a formal resolution in celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary of the Court creating the unified bar in 1944.

The Young Lawyers’ Section, too, gained new leadership, with Jose Caldera of Columbia becoming chair.


Annual Meeting is also an opportunity to celebrate Missouri lawyers and organizations who are outstanding in their professional pursuits or actively giving back to their communities. During The Missouri Bar Foundation & Public Service Awards Luncheon, lawyers and law firms were honored for their work to further access to justice for all Missourians. A complete list of all award recipients is available here. In addition, Liberty lawyer Douglass F. Noland and Ellen Suni, dean and professor emerita of law at the UMKC School of Law, each received a President’s Award . Supreme Court of Missouri Judge Zel Fischer was presented the bar’s Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award. Several lawyers were also celebrated as Senior Counselors, meaning they have practiced in Missouri for 50 years or reached the age of 75.


There was also time for relaxation and networking. Attendees had the opportunity to connect during a variety of special events and receptions. Special groups, including law school alumni, women lawyers and the Missouri Bar Young Lawyer’s section held events, and this year’s Best of Missouri Reception took place at the Branson Landing, where guests were treated to a fire and fountain show.

Missed the action? Mark your calendars for next year’s Annual Meeting Sept. 16-18, 2020, in Kansas City!

Link to President's Awards blog post

Link to McMillian blog post