BY BRYN A. PETERSON
Welcome to spring! In keeping with the season, I am happy to report that the WSBA will avoid the dreaded mid-March pinch because we are squarely in the green, at least when it comes to finances. As we close the books on our first quarter of the fiscal year (which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30), the general fund is showing a better-than-anticipated bottom line as compared with the original FY 22 budget. While we always experience an influx of revenue in the early months of the fiscal year (when license fees are due) and heavier expenses in the final months (as contracts come due), we are seeing a pattern of greater-than-expected revenue that should hold steady in the areas of pro hac vice admissions, royalties, and MCLE fees. It is also good news for our CLE Fund, which is running about $350,000 ahead of budget estimates due to on-demand product revenue and high seminar attendance.
All these indicators bode well as we go through the reforecast process. As I mentioned in previous columns, the reforecast allows us to reconcile initial budget projections with actual revenues and expenditures halfway through the fiscal year. The most important outcome is confidence that we are on track to end the fiscal year with the right-sized balances and reserves. Looking ahead, the Budget and Audit Committee will review and approve the budget reforecast at its March 23 meeting, sending it to the entire Board of Governors for review and, hopefully, approval at the May meeting. Please be on the lookout for more information in this column as we wrap up the reforecast. Meanwhile, you can find financial reports and Budget and Audit Committee meeting dates at www.wsba.org/finances.
A LONG HISTORY OF FINANCIAL EXCELLENCE
To expand on another piece of good news from last month’s column, I want to reiterate that independent accounting firm Clark Nuber has once again issued a “clean” audit report for the previous fiscal year for the WSBA. This annual audit result has become somewhat “business as usual” at the state Bar, which might make it easy to overlook how commendable it is to receive such immaculate audit outcomes, especially when repeated consistently for decades. In 2021, a representative from Clark Nuber told the Board of Governors that the average number of adjustments they identify for nonprofit organizations is three to four per audit; and for the WSBA to consistently have no recommended corrections is a strong indication of high-quality financial systems. In addition, in 2020 we did an additional “deep dive” audit, which confirmed the WSBA’s adherence to and execution of best-in-industry financial policies.
In other words, WSBA members can have confidence that the Bar’s finances are well managed and accurate. Furthermore—and here is what is truly remarkable—Bar records show a history of clean audits for at least 14 years running (and we believe many years in addition to that, when the audit reports were hard-copy only). That is an incredible track record, deserving of kudos to the WSBA’s current and past financial team as well former treasurers. Although excellent audits may seem par for the course for the WSBA at this point, let’s not forget the tremendous amount of diligence and expertise behind each of these results.
MEMBER ENGAGEMENT SURVEY
In addition to being part of the WSBA Board of Governors, I serve as co-chair of the Member Engagement Council. The Council’s goals are to proactively educate members about what’s happening at the Bar, to build relationships with members, and to seek input and involve members in decision-making processes. As you might guess, I see a lot of overlap between my work here and as treasurer because, ultimately, it is the job of WSBA leaders to prioritize and make the best decisions we can, using finite resources to fulfill WSBA’s mission. To do that, we need to understand your priorities, needs, and experiences as part of the legal community.
Toward that end, the Member Engagement Council is overseeing a professionally administered, ongoing member engagement survey. Each quarter, a sample of the WSBA membership—with representation from each congressional district—is invited to take the online survey, which has questions about the Bar’s communication, engagement, and services. If you receive the survey invitation, please take the opportunity to weigh in. The Board of Governors intends to use the information to make decisions about resources and services, and your voice will make a difference. The invitation will be via email from our survey administrators, the National Business Research Institute. Survey-takers’ identities will be kept completely anonymous to encourage candid answers. The survey kicked off last October, and we have the first quarter’s worth of data (go to www.wsba.org/survey). We will receive a larger report from the National Business Research Institute at the close of each fiscal year.
I also want to mention that the Member Engagement Council reserves the first agenda item each meeting for member feedback. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate. Meetings are the first Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. via Zoom. Type “Member Engagement Council” into the search bar at http://www.wsba.org for access details.
APPRECIATION FOR THE MANY PEOPLE HELPING OUT
As I’m sure you are experiencing, the pandemic continues to provide challenges to our operations. Traditional delivery of many services and resources—from Bar examinations to CLE programing to discipline hearings to committee work—have been upended, and it has taken ongoing innovation, flexibility, and, often, dogged determination to continue the work. For this, I offer my sincerest appreciation to our hundreds of volunteers as well as our outstanding staff. Thank you, as well, to all my WSBA colleagues who are on the user-end of these services and resources, who have also shown a tremendous amount of adaptability throughout the entire court system to keep the wheels of justice turning.
Here’s hoping for a rejuvenating spring ahead!