On January 28th, the Branch held its Annual General Meeting, with more than 80 members dialing in to participate.  The AGM provided an opportunity review with Branch membership 2019 efforts and financials; to preview 2020 strategies, programs, and challenges; and to solicit input from members.

Branch Chair David Huebner opened the meeting with a review of structural and process work by the board of directors in 2019, including creating an Executive Committee, new vice chair portfolios, standing committees of members, and annual planning, budgeting, and calendaring systems.  He reported on the board’s aggressive, and successful, inclusiveness and diversity efforts.  He emphasized that such governance work had been the board’s top 2019 priority because building a stronger, more durable institutional foundation for the Branch was necessary in order to make progress on other goals, including expanding programming and increasing member benefits.

Secretary Orlando Cabrera reported on the full-board and Executive Committee meetings held in 2019 and invited any members wishing to receive copies the minutes to contact him directly.  Treasurer Peter Rosen provided a financial report and discussed the budgeting process, with special note of the new accounts and systems established to facilitate Branch administration.  Various members asked questions about the London budget process, funding mechanisms, and current data points.

Chair Huebner noted that future funding will pose challenges, given London’s approach to budgeting.  He explained that a top priority for the board in 2020 is launching a corporate membership program that would provide an array of benefits to law firms, corporations, and other entities that join the Branch at a corporate membership level.  The work on that project is only now beginning, and the Chair urged interested members to volunteer to assist.

Vice Chairs Sandy Jeskie, Katherine Smith Dedrick, Jim Reiman, and Denise Peterson reported on developments, strategies, and planning in their portfolios (Communications, Programs, Training, and Membership, respectively).  Topics discussed included the new website member directory, relaunch of the Branch’s annual conference, London-directed changes in training protocols, and student and early-career recruiting.  Members were invited to contact directly the relevant vice chair to volunteer for a committee, to make a suggestion, or to seek help on a CIArb-related problem.

Vice Chair Jeskie made a special note of urging members to join and participate in the Branch’s new social media platforms, including LinkedIn discussion group, Facebook page, and Twitter feed, which are designed to stimulate discussion and raise members’ visibility.  Vice Chair Dedrick made special note of the Branch’s cross-cultural capacity sharing project, which will be returning to Samoa in June and then collaborating with the Brazil Branch on picking a new situs for 2021.  She thanked the University of Houston Law Center for becoming an ongoing partner with the Branch in that program.  Vice Chair Peterson noted her team’s focus on recruiting early-career members, supporting expansion of programs and networking within chapters, and considering new chapters where there are sufficient concentrations of members.

Young Members Group (YMG) Chair Imad Khan reported on the newly established Branch YMG and the packed calendar of events scheduled for 2020.  Imad explained that the YMG is an Institute-wide program intended for practitioners under age 40, that the Branch’s YMG is very geographically diverse, and that the Branch YMG is already working well with the global YMG steering committee.  Imad asked that members recruit YMG-eligible contacts within their professional circles to join the Branch and the YMG.

The presenting officers responded to member comments and questions throughout the meeting.

Upon competition of the agenda, the Chair commended current officers, directors, chapter chairs, and project managers for their effective, diligent service to the Branch, noting that there are dozens of different people’s handprints on the positive 2019 record.  He again urged members to consider getting involved – whether on a Branch standing committee, in their local chapters, or on specific projects teams.  He urged members to visit www.CIArbNAB.com regularly for news, events, features, networking, and other opportunities.

It is the intention of the board to continue to make the AGM a meaningful convening of members going forward.  Please consider participating next year.