The state of the Branch
by Barry Cavanaugh
As we begin a new year, this seems an apt time to reflect on what the Branch Office has been “up to” over the past while, and to reflect on what we’ve done and where we’re going--in the interest of keeping you informed on your professional organization.
The Branch has been very active in the past months. In addition to usual responsibilities, we’ve been involved in new initiatives on your behalf, all with the aim of making your membership more useful and worthwhile. One such initiative is our Internet site. Launched at the September 19 Council meeting, www.cba.org/bc intends to bring you all the information the Branch provides, in one accessible place.
We’ve introduced new member benefits and services, too, including a preferred corporate rate with Coast Hotels throughout BC and Alberta; special discounts and benefits with Corporate Express, the major office furnishings and supplies company in BC; special discounts and services through IKON Office Solutions; a special low regular rate with rental cars, through Avis; new clothing discounts at Goldman & Sons and Dunn’s; new special privileges, services and rates with the Scotia Bank professional plan; free membership in the Disney Magic Kingdom Club, for big savings for the family; and more.
I am working on a retirement, or pension plan for CBA members and I expect to put a full proposal before Executive Committee this winter. We’re also discussing, with Jardine’s Insurance Services, a prestige personal insurance line exclusively for the CBA; and with AT&T, we’re discussing a proposal for deep discounts for members on long-distance calling.
In the past, the Branch introduced a new committee focusing on Real Estate Practice issues. This high-powered group has been very active on behalf of BC lawyers, and has made good progress on a number of issues. We are involved in a number of ongoing programs which impact the way lawyers practise. Two of the newest are the electronic filing and registration initiatives and the videoconferencing pilot project. We have taken real and meaningful leadership of the profession and the community on legal aid issues, through our initiation and continuing active support of the Coalition for Access to Justice. We have brought forward a new means of both informing and hearing from our members, with the concept of the President’s Forum.
The Executive Committee established both a Task Force on Sections and one on reform of the Council process, and those groups--in which I am involved--are already hard at work. (Call me with your suggestions for the improvement of the Sections or of Council). Dial-A-Law currently handles an average of 128 calls daily, and we’re revamping the technical system, to even further improve our service. Lawyer Referral refers an average of nearly 6,000 callers to lawyers per month, and 2,575 lawyers are enrolled.
The Branch records are under major reorganization, and we’re upgrading our office technology, to better support staff and thereby “do more with less”. We do that well. For the second year running, the Branch had a solid fiscal performance. Despite budget overruns in many Committee and Section expenditures, and general cost increases, we’ve reduced operation costs. Our staff consistently responds with innovation and efforts to become ever more cost-efficient.
We could discuss many more initiatives, results and plans. Your Branch office is a very busy place, and the staff of the Branch are dedicated to the service of and the aims of the legal profession in BC. The Branch year just finished has been, to my mind, a great success, and the energy, vision and momentum gathering in the BC Branch foreshadow a great year for 1998/99. I look forward to it!
This article was published in the October 1998 issue of BarTalk. © 1998 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.