Recently installed as the new president of the State Bar of Nevada, Ann Morgan is a distinguished employment law attorney with Fennemore. Morgan also serves in a general counsel capacity to the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority. Attorney at Law Magazine recently had the opportunity to chat with her about her career and plans for the upcoming year as president.
AALM: As the new president of the Nevada State Bar, what are your goals for the association in the coming year?
AM: The mission of the State Bar of Nevada is to serve our members, administer the profession and protect the public. This year we will continue to focus on wellness initiatives for our members, working to make our profession more diverse and removing barriers to diverse members of our profession. In addition, we will focus on excellent customer service to our members by communicating issues affecting the profession on multiple platforms.
AALM: How do you hope to advance the mission of the association? What steps have you taken toward that end?
AM: The State Bar established a new counselling benefit for our members in 2020. At no charge, members can talk to a mental health professional for three sessions. The sessions are completely confidential. The mental health professional provides the State bar a number and an invoice and the invoice is paid.
In our efforts to make our profession more diverse, we are providing grants to minority bar associations who pay for LSAT prep courses, we are supporting UNLV Boyd Law School’s prelaw fellowship program to engage high school and college students and encourage them to consider the law as a profession and we are working with law firms about the steps necessary to build a diversity pipeline.
On a more practical front, the State Bar has established a startup program to help practitioners who are setting up their own law practice by providing office space, continuing education, mentoring, member benefit support and connections to long time members of the bar and members of the bench. In exchange, those participating in the program agree to provide pro bono services and participate in the Lawyer Referral Service to serve clients of modest means
AALM: What lessons have you learned from your predecessors?
AM: You can’t get everything done that you want to get done but you can get a lot done with persistent, consistent effort and excellent communication.
AALM: What experiences do you bring from your previous positions that will help shape the association?
AM: I have served as an office managing partner of my law firm and on several community and professional boards and committees. The key to every position was to understand the mission of the organization, listen to every proposal to ensure it addressed the mission of the organization and be able to articulate to all of the members of the organization how the organization’s mission was being met.
AALM: Tell us about any current or planned partnerships with other associations. How will these partnerships benefit members?
AM: During the pandemic, the Board of Governors established a Blue Ribbon Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. That committee has met twice with all of the voluntary bar associations in the state to coordinate our efforts in the Diversity arena. As a result of that collaboration, the leadership of all bars joined other bar associations. We created a speaker’s bureau which resulted in diverse panelists on almost every session at the State Bar of Nevada’s Annual meeting. To further that collaboration, we invited the leaders of the volunteer bar associations to attend the Annual Meeting, waiving registration fees and providing a stipend to defray travel and lodging costs. Finally, we held a reception to provide an opportunity for all of these leaders to network with each other in person. In the future, we will be exploring ways to expand this collaboration, through regularly scheduled meetings and creating a leadership institute for all of these associations to build organizational capacity and thereby better assist these specialty associations to serve their members.
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?
AM: The Nevada Bar Association is a mandatory bar association. This means that to practice law in the state of Nevada, you must join the Nevada Bar Association and pay annual dues. We are one of 31 states with a mandatory bar. Mandatory Bar Associations have been sued in recent years by attorneys claiming that such Bar Associations are unconstitutional. The debate centers around the role of state bars and their regulatory function as opposed to positions taken with which the litigants disagree. The Supreme Court has consistently held that such Bar Associations are constitutional and that fees that are spent on matters directly relevant to attorney regulation or the improvement of legal services can be required in exchange for the privilege of practicing law. The Nevada Bar Association works hard to ensure that every dollar of its members’ dues are only spent on matters that advance our mission and are germane to the practice of law.
AALM: In closing, what would your colleagues be most surprised to learn about you?
AM: I went to law school to chase a guy … 42 years of marriage later, it was the best decision, (okay maybe the second-best decision, marrying the “guy” being the first!), I have ever made. I thank him for leading me into a profession that I have loved since the first day I stepped onto the law school campus of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific.