Eric Dobberstein, Esq. currently serves as the president of the Nevada State Bar Association. A talented mediator, arbitrator and litigator with over 29 years of experience, he is the founder of the Las Vegas based firm of Dobberstein Law. Mr. Dobberstein recently sat down with Attorney at Law Magazine to discuss the organization and its goals as well as offer his insights into the effect COVID might have on the legal community.
AALM: How would you describe the main goal of the association in your own words? Do you believe the association meets its mission? How can it continue to improve its reach?
ED: The main goal of our bar association is to include diversity and inclusion efforts in the State Bar’s long-term strategic planning. We wish to highlight attorneys who support diverse communities and build pipeline programs that help change the culture moving forward through mentorships, outreach and grant programs. We wish to identify leaders in various sub-committees and sections of the State Bar to proactively involve them in the discussions hoping to obtain goals of building a better understanding and have shared goals to accomplish better relationships within the State Bar of Nevada, the community and the criminal justice system. We wish to also communicate with other law firms the importance of diversity regardless of the size of the firm and how it helps the bottom line. First, we wish to increase the diversity in our membership and bar leadership and work with the law school and businesses to help draw more diversity to our State. Secondly, we wish to continue to build upon the successful implementation of improving the attorney discipline system in order to help protect the public, and to assist our members who are experiencing personal troubles that are leading to ethical violations and poor practice management. We intend to help serve our members by doing such by working and looking towards the well-being and health of our profession to promote the awareness of wellness services available to Nevada lawyers and improve the dialogue among practitioners, the judiciary and the community at large. Finally, we are looking towards expanding our member benefits and enhancing their understanding of those benefits so that they can have a more enjoyable and profitable practice.
AALM: What have you and your team done to advance the mission of the association?
ED: Our mission is to govern the legal profession to serve our members and to protect the public interest. In order to advance that mission, our Board of Governors have worked with the Nevada Supreme Court, Board of Continuing Legal Education, the Board of Board of Bar Examiners, and the Office of Bar Counsel to develop programs, rules and regulations to address a uniform approach to discipline, to review and discipline lawyers who have improperly acted as such. We have also examined and revised court rules to help clarify and assist lawyers from other states, that wish to work in businesses while not practicing law for the general public. We have also addressed concerns for the need to have a legal presence in the rural parts of Nevada and have developed rules to assist and encourage lawyers to work in remote areas of the State in order to bring access to the legal system. We have also looked for and found a number of programs and businesses that have partnered with the State Bar to offer discounts for products, and have developed resources to enhance the practice of law, and make available counseling services for lawyers, judges and families and such who need to have that in order to address the stress of the practice of law. Our Board has also increased the budget to properly staff and maintain the Office of Bar Counsel so that it can maintain a smooth process to investigate and to adjudicate grievances that have been filed against lawyers and have them adjudicated in a timely fashion and presented to the Nevada Supreme Court for final review.
AALM: What are you most proud of accomplishing/enacting during your term thus far?
ED: I am most proud that we have been able to be nimble and flexible with changes that are occurring in our society and world today as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and civil unrest. Over the past two months, we have been able to take our annual meeting to a virtual meeting which provided disclosure of information to all of our members and open forum for them to ask questions and to be heard with respect to any of their concerns. We have been able to modify our bar exam to the extent that allowed us only a two-week delay, and provided strong enough security and testing the knowledge, that all those that wanted to become members of the State Bar of Nevada could take the exam and have that opportunity, and to see those results in the normal course as has been done in other years. We have also been able to shift our focus on our goals to look at and examine the social injustices in our society and the worldwide discussion of race and justice in the legal system.
AALM: What advice can you offer your successor?
ED: The advice that I would provide to my successor is that you have a great Board of Governors, with a vast array of experience and knowledge and with that, and the Professional Executive Director that we can maintain high standards that we have done over the past ten years with a great collaborative effort. I would encourage my successor to tap into all of those resources and listen to them and draw upon that wealth of knowledge and experience.
AALM: What experiences do you bring from your previous positions that will help shape the association?
ED: The experience that I bring from previous positions in the law field, are that I would consider myself a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I have had many jobs outside of the legal profession. During my past 32 years in the legal profession, I have worked for a variety of different types of law firms and sizes as well as practiced in a variety of areas of law. While the fluctuation and changes that I have experienced, limits my ability to become a master or an expert in a narrow area, this wide range of experience has allowed me to develop a large amount of knowledge of how to perform a variety of things in life and to understand and empathize with different people and their perspectives.
AALM: What benefits are there to professionals who become actively involved in the association?
ED: The benefits that one receives from being a part of the Board of Governors is immense. Originally, I started out to become a member of the Board of Governors to learn how the State Bar is run and operated. It has turned out to be one of the greatest places that I have had an opportunity to meet and develop a close friendship with a number of people. Because the board is comprised of members throughout different geographical areas of the State, I have had an opportunity to meet lawyers that I would never have met through my practice and my daily routine in Las Vegas. Because of that opportunity to work together for the common good of the organization, and to be a part of the learning and growing process that Bar leaders become involved in over the years, I have had the opportunity to develop a close relationship with a number of the Board members that will last a lifetime. Not only will one develop personal relationships that are far more important than the practice of law, they will also have an opportunity to lead the legal profession in the State to make it a better organization, and to have their input as to how it grows.
AALM: What advice do you have for a member looking to increase their involvement in the association? For a member hoping to join the leadership?
ED: For those who wish to join or become a part of the Board of Governors, I would suggest that they pay attention and monitor the State Bar website and publications to see where there is a need for volunteers, and then to volunteer for those sub-committees and tasks forces so that they can become aware of the issues in the State of Nevada and legal profession, and begin to serve our members by being a part of the army that makes up the volunteer force that helps us all attain and achieve our goals and follow our mission. Once they have done that and have that foundation of experience, then the next step would be to go out into your district and meet as many lawyers as you can and ask for their vote in the next election.
AALM: What changes in the legal community does the leadership anticipate will affect the association and its members? How are they seeking to overcome these challenges or benefit from the advancements?
ED: Again, with the pandemic and civil unrest, those two factors will definitely affect the Bar Association and its members. With the pandemic we are all going to have to continue to learn how to perform our work, albeit in a courtroom, or in the board room or across a conference table or business desk to draft a contract or other legal documents. We have to be able to perform our work remotely, and when in-person to provide proper safeguards to our staff, our clients and the general public that interact with us. With respect to the civil unrest and the current discussion of equal justice, hopefully, there will be large scale changes and a greater appreciation with people of color in our world, and an expansion of their involvement in all levels of staffing to leadership in all areas of our society. With expansion of diversity and inclusion of every aspect of our society, hopefully that will lead to much more empathy among all our citizens, and help our profession to be more of a representation of our society, rather than one dominant race and sex.
AALM: What are some topics you think the organization will be addressing in events in the coming year?
ED: Topics that our Bar will be addressing in the events in the upcoming years will again deal primarily with diversity, inclusion and education of our members. We have to continue to hold them to high standards of civility, ethics and to help them develop empathy and have good sense of well-being and be healthy, happy, professional attorneys.