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OSBA Annual Regional Meeting Packed with Information

Legal News Reporter

Published: March 26, 2013

The Ohio State Bar Association held its annual 11th District (Summit and Portage counties) meeting at the Knight Center on March 14.

The meeting featured outgoing Executive Director Dennis Ramey, OSBA president-elect Jonathan Hollingsworth and the two current candidates for president-elect, among other luminaries.

Ramey is “taking the tour” of all 18 district meetings in his farewell to the position that he has held for 33 years. Ramey, who received an “Akron” t-shirt and Don Drumm sun sculpture from the group as a parting gift, said that he was only the third executive director in the organization’s 133-year history.

He was feted by several speakers, who called him the primary reason that the OSBA is considered by many to be one of the finest bar organizations in the country.

“The bar association will not skip a beat with the new director,” Ramey said. “It may be even better.” He also said that he will stick around as a consultant when and if needed, although he will now have the chance to concentrate more on golf.

President-elect Hollingsworth updated the group on the search for Ramey’s replacement, saying that the field of candidates had been considerably narrowed down form an initial list of over 250.

A final decision and announcement are supposed to be made by the time of the next OSBA convention, which will be held in Cleveland May 8-10.

That convention will be one of the last multi-day conventions the OSBA will hold. By 2015, the association’s annual conclave will only be one day long.

The Cleveland convention will feature an election for the association’s next president-elect between Martin Mohler of Toledo and Belinda S. Barnes of Columbus, both of whom addressed the gathering.

Barnes began her three-minute presentation by talking about trying to make the association more user-friendly to younger people. For one thing, she said that she wanted to see electronic voting for the office she is running for. As it is, a member must be present at the convention to vote. This will be even more inconvenient after the convention moves to a one-day format, Barnes said.

Barnes also said that, “we need to get young members in and get them involved.” She particularly highlighted a need that she sees for mentoring programs beyond one year, and for more diversity.

Mohler, who chairs the association’s government affairs committee, echoed the need to attract and keep younger lawyers, and also pointed out senior attorneys as people whom the OSBA needed to serve. “Fifty percent of the membership is over the age of 50,” he said.

Mohler also said that the OSBA, “has a lot to offer to both large and small firms,” and proposed that large decisions of the organization should be made by the consensus of the membership.

The primary presentation came from president-elect Hollingsworth, who was filling in for current president Judge Patrick F. Fischer.

In his “state of the association” talk, Hollingsworth talked at length about the organization’s opposition to the state budget proposal to tax legal services.

The sales tax proposal, contained in the House Bill 59 budget proposal, he said, “has been an incredibly unifying force for lawyers. It has been very big for bringing us all together for a common cause.”

He promised that there would be, “a concerted and continuing effort to reach out to members of the General Assembly” on H.B. 59. “Things can change very quickly,” he said, pointing to the talk about the legislature severing the tax on legal services form the budget for separate consideration.

“But it is important to remain vigilant,” he said.

Overall, said Hollingsworth, “the OSBA is alive and well. We are trying hard to remain indispensable to our members.”

A part of that service to members, he said, is the continuing upgrading that the association is making to its electronic communications, including shifting the OBAR weekly publication to a purely electronic format, and establishing an online CLE library.

Several longevity awards were also given to local members. John A. Daily, Michael B. Handler and George P. Tsarnas received recognition as 50-year practitioners. Richard A. Chenoweth received recognition as a 65-year practitioner. All four attorneys are from Akron.

The meeting was preceded by a 2.5 hour CLE on Ethics, Professionalism, and Substance Abuse.