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Voyles: Thoughts for this, my final column

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As my year as your President comes to an end and my friend, Chris Hickey, begins her year as your President, I just wanted to take this opportunity to jot down some of my random thoughts from the past year.

As a lawyer who practices in the field of criminal law - and one of the few who has been given the honor of being President of the IBA - I would like to thank all of the other great lawyers who also practice criminal law and all the public defenders who labor so long and hard, making us proud as they protect the rights of all citizens.

To all the other wonderful lawyers who have stopped me on the street or shook my hand at a social event to tell me that they are proud of the IBA, the work that we do and the effort that our staff makes to carry out its duties, I say "thank you."

At the beginning of my term last January, I could not have predicted all the support I have received. Those things I told you I wanted do for the IBA this year, I believe we have met our goals. We've increased membership and seen dues renewals come in at a tremendous rate, given the state of the economy.

We've seen young people get involved in the Bar, whether it's through committee work or pro bono projects. That's something that I am proud of - that our local practitioners continue to see the value of making connections and collegiality.

I must tell you that when I was asked to meet with the nominating committee almost three years ago as a possible candidate for the President of the IBA, I agreed very reluctantly to attend that meeting. When I was called and informed that I had been chosen, I was both surprised and fearful that I had just made a very bad mistake.

Now three years later, I can tell you it has been one of the best years of my law career. Somehow, with the help of all of the invaluable people I count on every day, I was able to make most of the meetings and social events - and finish this column on time. I have used other columns to thank both my staff and the staff of the IBA for all that they have done, but the sentiment bears repeating.

I guess you never really know if you have been able to keep up the standards that others have set for the IBA, but as I look back over the last year, I think we have had some success in that area. With my hard-working and dedicated board and the association's standing committees, we tackled issues such as judicial criticism, membership recruitment and retention, professionalism standards and recognition, and more.

One of the things I treasure most is having a sense of humor and boy did that come in handy this year. Not only did I take the time to laugh at myself pretty often, but also to enjoy some light moments with my board and fellow officers. As a famous comedian once said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."

During the last year we have also had some sadness, as members of our profession have passed away, along with family members and friends. This is all just part of the human experience we deal with in our lives.

As we move into the new year, I hope all of you will continue to be active in the IBA by helping to bring in a new member and enjoying the benefits of the best bar association in the country.

The role any President has is merely a reflection of the quality of the organization he or she leads and to keep your hand firmly on the rudder so that you guide that association both through smooth and troubled waters.

I hope you believe I have done that for the IBA in 2009.

Thank you all for permitting me to lead you and for all of your support - it has been a wonderful experience. Please help Chris Hickey have an even better year in 2010 for the IBA.

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