President’s Corner > Introducing 2021-22 WSBA President Judge Brian Tollefson (Ret.)

I am excited and proud to work for our members as president of the Washington State Bar Association. I believe this is the first time that a retired Washington state superior court judge is leading this noble organization. This fresh challenge gives me the opportunity to use my collected knowledge and experience to guide the WSBA and assist the Board of Governors in achieving a variety of objectives.

My belief in lifelong education has afforded me the ability to accumulate some very helpful talents. One example: my pursuit of a master’s degree in judicial studies (MJS) from the University of Nevada, Reno. By taking courses from both the UNR and the National Judicial College, I gained new insights into our legal profession and a better understanding of the influence the profession has on many different fields of business, government, and society. While pursuing my MJS, I was invited to participate in ASTAR (the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource judge program), a nationally recognized organization focusing on science topics for judges. By following and completing a 120-hour general curriculum at different universities around the nation in case-related scientific method, topics, and issues, I became one of nearly 500 judges nationwide who was certified as an ASTAR fellow—a science and technology resource judge. ASTAR later became the National Courts and Sciences Institute (NCSI). With all that I have learned in these and many other educational pursuits, I now hope to help navigate the best path ahead for our Association. 

Giving Voice to Questions

There are many opportunities for our Bar Association to move forward, but there are some troubling areas out there, too. For example, there is growing polarization among the membership about what direction the Bar Association should take on certain issues. At the same time, volunteer involvement is declining and there is no collective understanding of why this is. I believe that renewed member engagement is vital to the future well-being of the WSBA. One way to assist the WSBA is to seek input directly from the membership on what changes and innovations are needed to become a more effective organization that is both transparent and accountable to our members and the public. The concepts of “common ground” and “common purpose” should help as guiding principles to use when leading any discussion about new or existing programs or requirements. My hope is that different voices can inform us all; let’s pass the microphone around.

Focus on Members and the Public

As president of the Washington State Bar Association I have a voice, but not a vote, when the Board of Governors acts on a Bar program or requirement that the Board has authority over. I hope to help the Board answer questions and focus on the effects of its decisions to adopt, modify, or revise any program or requirement. 

One thing I’d like to keep front and center is the WSBA’s mission statement: “to serve the public and the members of the Bar, to ensure the integrity of the legal profession, and to champion justice.” [Emphasis added.] For me the key phrase is “to serve the public and the members.” Notice the use of the conjunction “and.” “And” does not mean “or.” Using the concepts of “common ground” and “common purpose” may help the Board of Governors focus its discussions around spending member license fees when acting on any program or requirement.

Writing for Bar News

As president of the Bar, I’ll be asked to write a column for every issue of Bar News. When I write about a current or proposed WSBA program or requirement, I hope to guide the discussion using the thoughts I have expressed here. Stay tuned. 

About the author
About the author

Judge Brian Tollefson (Ret.) is a principal at Black Robe Dispute Resolution Services, PLLC. He can be reached at: