Darrel A. Clay: An Interview with CMBA President

Darrel A. Clay
2024 Feature Nominations

Attorney at Law Magazine Cleveland Publisher Jim Schultz sat down with Darrel A. Clay to discuss his goals as President of CMBA.

AALM: As the new president, what are your goals for the association in the coming year?


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Clay: During my presidency 2017- 2018, CMBA will continue implementing the strategic plan our board adopted in May 2016. This means a continued focus on tangible deliverables to our members, so they will realize full value for their membership dollars. In addition, we are committed to our work as a community convener, ensuring that when law and justice issues arise, we are there to inform citizens and spark meaningful dialogue on remedying inequities.

AALM: Tell us about some upcoming events the association has planned for members.

Clay: Each month, we hold a “Hot Talk” on a new issue that is ripped from the headlines. Recent sessions have touched on executive branch power, sanctuary cities, and federal budgetary priorities. We are also continuing to hold programs in the community on the subject of bail reform. In spring 2018, we are planning our first-ever Spring Training CLE in Arizona, in partnership with the Indians. And we will convene a summit commemorating the 50 year anniversary of enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 April 11, 2018.


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AALM: What benefits are there to attorneys who become actively involved in the association?

Clay: CMBA’s broad range of offerings means that we have something for everyone. Whether it’s continuing education to help deepen one’s understanding of complicated or cutting-edge legal issues, joining the Lawyer Referral Service to help grow your practice, serving the broader community through volunteering with one of our Justice for All Initiatives, to attending yoga or Movie Night, our association can accommodate anyone’s needs, regardless of practice setting. In addition, getting involved in our sections and committees helps you develop leadership skills that aren’t necessarily available inside law firms and corporate legal departments.

AALM: How has your involvement in the association benefited you and your career? How do you think it could benefit others like yourself?

Clay: I’ve told anyone who’d listen that by getting involved in CMBA, I’ve become a better lawyer and a better leader. I’ve learned about managing people when you have no real power to compel someone to do something. I’ve learned about how to juggle multiple competing priorities, a skill essential to all of us who are practicing law in the 21st century. I’ve broadened my professional network well beyond just the lawyers who are my opposing counsel in cases. I even got the chance to argue a case before the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of CMBA, which was a career highlight. Similar opportunities are available for the asking. I would encourage anyone who has questions or wants to get involved to call or email me, or get in touch with CMBA’s Executive Director Becky McMahon.


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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?

Clay: There are huge demographic shifts ongoing in the legal profession right now. Among other things, the shrinking size of law school classes means there are fewer and fewer people graduating from law school. That means fewer people taking the bar and joining bar associations. At the same time, large numbers of Baby Boomers lawyers are retiring and transitioning out of active practice (and association membership).

We’ve seen the trend coming, and have been working aggressively to not let it have devastating effects on CMBA. For example, by moving to our new office space in One Cleveland Center in 2015, we were able to develop a non-dues based source of income in the form of a facilities rental business. We offer great space at rates that can’t be beat.

Likewise, we are continuing to diversify our program offerings, with the understanding that one size doesn’t fit all. We’ve embraced technology, including a complete overhaul of our website (with more coming in the near future).

AALM: How would you describe the main goal of the association in your own words?

Clay: CMBA’s main goal is to be an indispensable resource to its members. We’re a voluntary association, so we exist solely to serve our members and meet their needs. We can’t achieve that goal if members don’t tell us what they want. To that end, we are always willing to listen. We want and need input from our members, so don’t be shy about sharing it with any of our officers or board members.
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