The Journal of The DuPage County Bar Association

President's Page

Leaving a Note Behind for Our Next President
By Ted A. Donner

As I’ve contemplated these last few weeks of my tenure as President of the DuPage County Bar Association, I’ve found myself looking to those who are presiding over other, more substantial institutions for guidance and inspiration. In the course of that exercise, I’ve been impressed with the likes of ISBA President Vince Cornelius and ABA President Linda Klein, but I’ve been most inspired by a tradition maintained by President Barack Obama and his predecessors. This practice of ending your term with a note to your successor seems a good one, it strikes me, and while I may not have a Resolute desk to leave it in, I do have this column. This seems to me as good a place as any in which to leave a note for our next DCBA President, Gerry Cassioppi.

So, Gerry, as you’re reading this, the first, and perhaps most comforting thought I want to offer you is reassurance that the only people reading these columns, besides you, will be a handful of friends (those who will at least say they’re reading what you’re writing) and the past presidents (who get an oddly vicarious thrill out of the exercise). You should of course put some real effort into each and every column you write for the DCBA Brief, I therefore want to emphasize, but you should also be quick to forgive yourself if you get it wrong once or twice along the way. Your gaffes aren’t going to start World War III after all so, once you’ve made one, just move on and try to do better next time. Most typos don’t warrant a second thought.

The occasional slip by staff, other members of the Executive Committee or your chairs, should likewise warrant little if any reproach. There are going to be some tough days to be sure – you can’t avoid them altogether – but you can protect your people, and that makes a “buck stops here” attitude pretty darned important in this gig. Think about who you have working with you. Robert Rupp, Jacki Hamler, Cindy Allston, Cynthia Garcia, Janine Komornick, Ann Martin, Tara Holman, and Barb Mendralla – these are some pretty amazing people who always try to go the extra mile and rarely get the thanks they deserve. Your Board of Directors and the people serving as chairs are also all volunteers doing more than they have to so remember always – you’re about as lucky a president as one could ever hope to be. You’ve got the people and the resources to accomplish just about anything you can imagine. Sure, you’re going to inevitably run into some who want to make themselves known by complaining about others, but all you have to remember is that these are folks who shouldn’t be driving themselves home after the party, let alone association policy.

Watching the numbers can likewise drive you crazy. In the end, however, you’re going to want to pay attention to what it’s all costing along the way. When I saw we would be ending this year with our old debts all retired and ahead of budget, it bears emphasizing, with a growing number of paid and sustaining members, and with most (as in more than half) of our members actually participating in seminars, workshops, programs or events, I couldn’t have been happier. Jay Laraia tried to make sure the DCBA was in great shape when his presidency ended so that improving on the status quo was a challenge for me, coming in as his successor. I’d like to think I’m leaving you a similarly difficult challenge and I know that, if I am, it’s because I had a whole lot of help getting from there to here.

We started this year with a magazine cover that featured over 60 of the people leading this organization, a cover intended to emphasize the idea that, as we’ve grown, it’s become increasingly more important that we recognize how many people are actually involved in association leadership. We’ve had dozens more on the cover since and will be giving out a good 16 Directors Awards at this year’s Presidents’ Ball, more than ever before but still far less than if we recognized all of this year’s award worthy contributions. It’s been just incredible, for me, to be working with all of these creative and industrious men and women on these dozens of different initiatives. Some of us may be more interested in pro bono work than others, and some may see value in Law in Literature while others could care less, but that’s why leadership takes more than just a president these days and why the president has to do more than just lead.

As my term ends and you suit up for yours as President of the DuPage County Bar Association, there is one last idea I want to speak to. Regardless how bittersweet this moment may be for me (and it is), there is something inherently reassuring about this changing of the guard, and it reminds me that there is one thing I’ve been looking forward to saying since I was first sworn in myself. “We all change when you think about it. We’re all different all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good. You’ve got to keep moving. As long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear.”1 I ain’t no Doctor and this ain’t no Doctor Who regeneration. I’ve still got the same law practice in Wheaton, the same classes to teach at Loyola, the same great kids, and the same great partner and wonderful wife I’ve had in Melissa Piwowar. I’m watching my health a lot more closely so I’ll have time to repay all the kindness everyone has shown me and to continue the good work we’ve been involved in, but I will always remember – when the DCBA President was me – and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you.

1. And yes, I’ll also remember that this column wouldn’t read like one of mine without at least one footnote and that I first heard these particular words when Matt Smith used them in his last episode of Doctor Who. I completely lifted his words for this column because, while I’m hardly likely to ever get a gig as cool as his playing the Doctor, I did get to be president of the DCBA this last year. “That’s over now. It’s the end...but the moment has been  prepared for.”

Ted A. Donner is the President of the DuPage County Bar Association. The owner of Donner & Company Law Offices LLC in Wheaton, Illinois, his practice is concentrated in commercial litigation and transactional work for small business. Recognized as DCBA’s Lawyer of the Year in 2011, he has been AV-Rated and recognized by Super Lawyers in each of the last ten years. He is an Adjunct Professor with Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the author of two treatises for Thomson Reuters (West), including Jury Selection: Strategy & Science and Attorneys Practice Guide to Negotiations.

DuPage County Bar Association

Ted A. Donner
Gerald A. Cassioppi
J. Matthew Pfeiffer
2nd Vice President
Stacey A. McCullough
3rd Vice President
James J. Laraia
Immediate Past President
Shawn S. Kasserman
General Counsel
Richard J. Veenstra
Assoc. Gen’ l Counsel
John A. Pleviak
Tricia Buhrfiend
Assist. Treasurer

Gregory P. Adamo
Terrence Benshoof
Mark S. Bishop
Ashley M. Bump
Patrick L. Edgerton
David S. Friedland
James S. Harkness
Wendy M. Musielak
John J. Pcolinski, Jr.
Amalia M. Romano
Arthur W. Rummler

Executive Director
Robert Rupp
ISBA Liaison
Kent A. Gaertner

Legislative Liaison

A. John Pankau, Jr.

Brief Editor

James L. Ryan
DCBA Brief