BY DANIEL D. CLARK
Welcome to the 2022-23 WSBA year. My name is Dan Clark, and I am extremely honored to be the WSBA president during this year. I am truly excited, and at the same time somewhat terrified, at being in this position. I’ll be only the second full-time employed government attorney to serve as WSBA president. (The late Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst is the other.) I believe I’ll be the first ever with a major speech disability to hold this position. I’m a severe stutterer, and I’ve had this disability my entire life. It is something I have to deal with on a daily basis.
I am from Yakima, born and raised. I also have a strong love for and roots in Spokane—I’m a proud Gonzaga University School of Law alumnus and a lifelong Zag! I graduated from A.C. Davis High School in Yakima, Yakima Valley College, and then Central Washington University, where I received a B.A. in political science, magna cum laude, and was honored as a 1999 dean’s scholar. At Gonzaga, I was in the last incoming 1L class to start at the old law school and in only the second class to graduate from the current law school, in 2002, with cum laude honors.
I’m the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college. I was raised by my grandparents, and it was my grandma’s lifelong dream to see at least one of her children attend and graduate from college. She was so incredibly proud of me when I graduated from law school. I came back to Yakima and served as her unpaid care provider while working in non-attorney jobs for Yakima County from 2002 to 2004. I passed the bar exam after studying while working full time in 2004, and I’ve worked for Yakima County since September 2002.
I have been an attorney for 18 years, and roughly the last 16 years as a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the Yakima County Corporate Counsel Division of the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. I provide civil legal representation and advice to various elected officials, department heads, and county departments. When I started on the WSBA Board of Governors, I was the only full-time government-employed attorney on the Board. I’m excited that over the last couple of years, we have had a handful of full-time government attorneys who have served as governors. I’d like to see that trend continue for more diverse representation of government attorneys on the Board.
I have served on the Board of Governors since July 2017. It’s hard to believe that I am currently the longest serving governor in the history of the WSBA. I have had the amazing opportunity to serve as the only two-time treasurer of the organization, and was elected to two full terms as District 4 governor in 2018 and 2021. I look back on the person and attorney I was prior to Board service, and I can honestly say that serving on the Board of Governors has greatly positively impacted my self-confidence, developed my leadership skills, and improved my ability to work collaboratively, respectfully, and successfully with others.
During my five-plus years on the WSBA Board of Governors, I have had the amazing opportunity to talk with members from all over the state who have shared diverse and divergent ideas of what the future of the WSBA should be. Several have had great ideas for how the WSBA can better serve its members and the public. I’m planning on holding Board meetings in Bellingham, Vancouver, Spokane, Olympia, Seattle, Richland, and Yakima in the year ahead. I hope to see and hear from many of you.
For approximately 100 years, Washington has had the APR 6 Law Clerk program under which students can “read for the law” under a practicing attorney rather than attending law school. I’ve had the honor of serving as the Board liaison for this program for the last five years, and I’ve also had the opportunity to serve as a Rule 6 Law Clerk mentor. I’d like to see the WSBA expand this program. I think it offers a smart path to train new legal professionals without the ever-increasing cost of traditional law school. An APR Rule 6 law clerk can complete the program for a total (including application fee and four-year tuition) of $8,100. Unlike the traditional law school student, the law clerk also has the ability to work full time while learning the law. The end result of expanding the program will be, I believe, more new attorneys who have the ability to offer more pro bono and/or lower cost legal services.
The Board is currently reviewing many initiatives and new programs intended to improve the practice of law and better achieve the WSBA mission statement while also benefiting members so they are better able to serve their clients and the public.
The WSBA president is here to serve each of you and your representatives on the Board of Governors. This is a volunteer position that exists to help facilitate and direct the execution of the policy decisions of the Board of Governors. I have the utmost respect for all current and prior governors who have together dedicated thousands of hours a year in volunteer service to our organization. Additionally, the WSBA only can continue to do what we do to carry on its mission because of members who dedicate their talents and donate their time as volunteers! We are currently seeing a reduction in WSBA volunteers, and I hope to help reverse that trend.
I plan to serve as the 2022-23 WSBA president in the same manner that I served as the 2019-20 and 2020-21 WSBA treasurer, and the 2017-22 District 4 governor. I plan to provide timely communication and transparency in what the Board and the WSBA are doing. I sincerely want to hear from you about what you think our Bar needs and how we can work together better to improve the WSBA. Please share any ideas you have for the organization as well as your recommendations of attorneys in your communities who should be recognized by the WSBA for their achievements and public service.