The Bar in Brief > Be an Influencer: What is the Future for the State Bar?

COLUMN > A Note From the WSBA Executive Director

BY TERRA NEVITT

My column this month is about decision-making. Side note: Did anyone read that article in The Atlantic a few years ago, “There’s No Such Thing as Free Will”?11 www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-will/480750/. The upshot is that scientific discovery is leading to the conclusion that behavior is entirely predictable and a product of cause and effect more than free will. I found the concept so disturbing that it’s never really left me. Sometimes when I have a hard decision I wryly tell myself, “Whatever decision you’re going to make, you’ve already made it.” The article also highlights the darkness that can follow when folks let go of their belief in free will. It’s an interesting read! 

Existential questions aside, we are all constantly engaged in decision-making. Organizations like the WSBA thrive or struggle by the sum of their decisions and those decisions are made all the more complex by all of the people involved and potentially impacted. 

We at the WSBA have dealt with the consequences of forging ahead with an initiative built on a shaky decision-making foundation. I bet you have, too. Those consequences include blind spots when people with key pieces of expertise are not consulted, lack of support when stakeholders are not included, repeated work or arbitration when it is not clear who has final decision authority, and loss of time and confidence as logistics swirl. Improving our approach to decision-making has been a priority of the leadership team at the WSBA this past year. I’d like to offer a peek at a decision-making model we have put into use here at the WSBA that has so far yielded improved efficiency and results. I also want to tell you about how that model is helping us work through a critical decision about the future of the state Bar. (Spoiler alert—it’s this month’s cover feature, and YOU have a major role in the process.)

RAPID® model explained

The decision model is called RAPID®22 RAPID® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc. , and the acronym is not ironic. The model is meant to streamline an organization’s decision-making process through role clarity and accountability. It calls for agreement ahead of time on the who (which drives the how) of a decision and its implementation: the Recommenders, the Agreers, the Performers, the Inputters, and the Deciders. When a decision needs to be made, the recommenders are responsible for making a proposal or offering solutions. The agreers are intended to sign off on any recommendation before it moves forward to the decision maker, and if they veto a solution, they work with the recommenders on an alternative. Inputters are those who must be consulted in developing the recommendation, and they are usually stakeholders and/or experts in the topic at hand. While the recommenders do not have to act on the input, they must take the input into account. Ultimately, there is the decider—the single point of accountability with authority to make the decision. Finally, the performers are the people who will implement the decision. 

This review is definitely a simplification, but the beauty of the model is its simplicity. The model has helped us to make decisions more quickly and to shed light on the multitude of mismatched assumptions we all carry. Left unvoiced and unresolved, these assumptions are killers of the decision/initiative itself as well as overall organizational culture. If you think any of the RAPID® model could be of use, please research online; there are many related trainings and templates. 

RAPID® in action: The future of the WSBA

For a look at the RAPID® model in action, let’s consider a big (BIG!) decision with potentially profound impacts on the state Bar, its members, and the legal profession: Should we change the structure or scope of work of the WSBA? We are currently in the midst of an eight-month process to answer that question. One impetus of this structure study is a national flurry of constitutional legal challenges to the mandatory-bar structure. Another is the potential to think more expansively about different structures that could better support our state Bar’s mission, including access-to-justice and law-improvement efforts. For more information, read this article.

The issues at hand are complex enough. Layer on any confusion about the decision-making roles and authority and process—and this has the potential to be a quagmire! Thankfully, RAPID® provides a good framework for understanding. Here’s how it shakes out:

Recommenders: The WSBA Board of Governors. The Washington Supreme Court and the Board of Governors have tracked this issue closely for several years, and the court in December 2021 asked the Board to devise a process to make a recommendation back to the court about whether and how the state Bar ought to change its mandatory structure. 

Agreers: The WSBA staff is working in close partnership with the Board to confirm the (financial, legal, and logistical) feasibility of any recommendation they might consider. 

Performers: Under the authority of the Washington Supreme Court, the WSBA staff will carry out implementation of any decision to change structure. 

Inputters: There are many, including other mandatory bars, that have changed or are considering structural changes. However, the most important input in the process will come from YOU, the members. 

Deciders: The Washington Supreme Court will receive the Board of Governor’s recommendation and make the final decision. 

I want to emphasize that we are at a point where the Inputters—YOU—carry an incredible amount of influence. We are at an ideation phase, and your input will be, perhaps, the most important determination of whether the Board of Governors even begins to move into the next phase, which could include springboard proposals for change. 

You do not have to be deeply embedded in the bar-structure case law or WSBA history to make a difference. We are asking for your perspective, as a colleague in the legal community, about what programs, resources, and supports you consider to be critical for the profession, and how the state Bar might change—or not change—to do those things best. 

An example often pointed to is legislative work. Our sections find strength in number and name-association under the WSBA umbrella as they advocate to improve laws, but sometimes the accompanying restrictions—imposed on the WSBA by court rules and the First Amendment—can be limiting. Is there a way to reimagine the provenance of sections and their affiliation with the state Bar to get the best of both? Or can we live with the balance that we must strike in a mandatory bar association? 

The time is ripe

If nothing else, please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with what is happening and what is at stake in the structure-study process. You are as qualified as any and all other legal practitioners to have an opinion about the future of your state Bar, and the time is ripe, now, to be heard. It will make a difference to the recommenders and the deciders. And as you approach your next big decision, I encourage you to take the time to invest in role clarity and expectations as the first step. Maybe the RAPID approach can work for you, too. 


SIDEBAR

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Your input is critical as the WSBA Board of Governors decides whether to recommend a structural change to the Washington Supreme Court. To provide feedback, you can attend an upcoming meeting (live or remotely) or email boardfeedback@wsba.org. Two important questions for all members are: 

  • What programs, services, benefits, and supports does the WSBA provide that are important for you, your practice, and the legal profession?
  • What challenges does the current bar structure present, if any? 

Want to learn more about the bar-structure study process and what’s at stake? Check out this month’s cover story here for several points of view, and for more information visit www.wsba.org/ETHOS

About the author

Terra Nevitt is the WSBA Executive Director and she can be reached at 206-727-8282 or:

NOTES

1. www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-will/480750/.

2. RAPID® is a registered trademark of Bain & Company, Inc. 

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