President’s Corner > The State of Your Bar and a Sincere Thank You From Your Outgoing WSBA President 



Robert Collier once said that “success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” I think that accurately describes the outstanding hard work and dedication from the WSBA’s FY 23 Board of Governors. It’s my strong opinion that your Bar Association, the Board of Governors, and WSBA operations have all achieved successes this fiscal year.

I’m coming to the end of my term as FY 23 WSBA president. I’ve had the unique and amazing privilege of writing articles for Bar News for the past year as president and for the two previous years as WSBA treasurer. 

Since this is my final President’s Corner article, this is my last opportunity to encourage each of you to volunteer at the WSBA—YOUR Bar Association—to get involved in pro bono legal services, to serve on the Board of Governors, and to vote in WSBA elections. It’s my hope that I have encouraged at least some of you to consider volunteering at the WSBA. For those of you I haven’t reached, it’s not too late, and I encourage you to consider getting involved in the future. The late WSBA President (FY 2001) Jan Peterson urged members to be proud to be an attorney. I echo that statement. I am not only proud to be an attorney, I am also proud of our Bar and proud to be an active WSBA member who participates in volunteer engagement with our Bar Association! 

As I leave service on the Board as WSBA president, I want to recognize the amazing opportunity I have had to serve with five former WSBA presidents, and will have with two incoming ones after me. I have learned a tremendous amount from the dozens upon dozens of dedicated and selfless attorneys who have volunteered as past and current governors. 

I am leaving the presidency with the knowledge and good faith belief that the WSBA and the Board of Governors are both in a much better position financially, have increased transparency, and are heading in a much more member-oriented direction than when my service on the Board began in July 2017. The FY 23 Board has set strategic goals and implemented processes that should help future boards govern more effectively, work more collaboratively with WSBA staff, and continue to make prudent financial decisions that maximize the use of member license fees. I anticipate that the FY 24 and future boards will continue to refine these newly implemented guardrails and processes to further our goal of improving and providing excellence in governance. I strongly encourage you to thank all the governors and officers that served on your Board of Governors for FY 23. They’ve all worked very hard and without any financial compensation in volunteering their time in service to our Bar. 

I have always had the firm belief that the WSBA and the Board of Governors exist to serve the members of the WSBA. It is the members of the WSBA who serve the public and who help to champion justice. As I enter the role of immediate past president, I will continue to advocate for each of you, as you are the primary reason the WSBA exists, and should exist, in my opinion.

FY 23 was a year of firsts for WSBA governance. It has been a tremendous honor to serve as the first WSBA president employed as a full-time county government attorney. It is astonishing to me that our WSBA has only had one prior government-employed attorney serve as WSBA president. That was the late Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, who served as the 1997-98 WSBA president. I’m really in elite company, and it is my sincere hope that many future government-employed attorneys will answer the call and serve in WSBA leadership. 

I am also extremely proud of the fact that I am not only our organization’s first president with a major speech disability, but I believe, the first state bar president nationally with a major speech disability to serve in that role. During my career as an attorney, I have suffered more than my fair share of microaggressions and discriminatory and negative reactions to my speech disability. Imagine going to court, and the in-court clerk, opposing counsel, and sometimes even the judicial officer snickering or flat out laughing at you when you try to say your name and get into a major stuttering block. Imagine having opposing counsel think you’re goofing around instead of having an actual lifelong speech disability. Some have questioned why I chose to go into the law, and some have even said I “should have known better.” I mention this as I think it really highlights why the WSBA’s efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion exist, and note that we have a long way to go to reduce and eliminate actual and implicit bias, prejudice, and barriers for all WSBA members to succeed and have enjoyable and meaningful legal careers. 

In 2017, at the suggestion of former WSBA General Counsel Sean Davis, I requested a reasonable accommodation from the WSBA regarding the Board of Governors candidate interview process. I simply asked to be able to type out my answers in real time on Zoom versus having to answer them with a traditional verbal response. I figured it would be a long shot with my stuttering disability that I’d be selected for the position, and that this would be the only way I could potentially reasonably compete against the other highly talented candidates who didn’t have a speech disability. Even with that accommodation, I didn’t think I had any chance to be selected. 

I often think it must have been fate or divine intervention, as I’ve never had a job interview in my life go as well as this one did. I had tried hard to prepare for the interview by watching previous Board meetings and interviews for the 2017 at-large governor position. Ultimately, I must have done something right, because I will never forget the phone call I received from then WSBA President Brad Furlong telling me that I had been selected. I was then sworn in immediately over the phone as the new District 4 governor. Governors and members in attendance said I really “knocked it out of the park” with my answers to the interview questions. 

I often wonder if the WSBA as an organization hadn’t been so committed to offering a reasonable accommodation to someone like me, whether I would have been able to serve 62 months as District 4 governor, two successful terms as WSBA treasurer, and the FY 23 term as WSBA president. As I write this column I have just passed 11,000 hours of volunteer service to our Bar and am starting my seventh year of service. That really shows me that the WSBA’s DEI efforts have worked, at least in my case, to bring a traditionally underrepresented and marginalized group representative to the table of leadership. It’s my sincere hope that many other members from marginalized segments of our membership who haven’t had a seat at the table of governance are able to take a seat in the future. 

I also sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had let my fear of failure stop me from pursuing my legal career or the life-changing experience of serving on the Board of Governors and as WSBA president. As an attorney with a disability, when you’re told you can’t do something by others, it’s really easy to just accept that as your reality and to self-impose those limitations rather than try to break down barriers to achieve your dreams. If any of you who are reading this have a disability, or come from marginalized communities or see some other barrier preventing you from trying something new, I highly encourage you not to let what others think or the fear of failure stop you from trying to achieve your dreams! 

On my journey to serve as WSBA president, I had help from other governors on the Board and also from the late Chief Justice Fairhurst, who repeatedly encouraged me and challenged me not to let my disability be an excuse to stay within my comfort zone. I’ve tried hard this year to honor Mary’s legacy and her dedication to our Bar Association. 

In closing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank both President-Elect Hunter Abell and WSBA Executive Director Terra Nevitt for being so gracious this year and working with me on a few minor adjustments to ensure we can run successful Board meetings notwithstanding my stuttering disability. I appreciate both of them for their willingness to read various written reports or statements from me from time to time during this year. 

I’d also like to thank Sarah Matheny, Carla Higginson, Kim Hunter, Chris Meserve, and Kyle Sciuchetti for their friendships, strong encouragement, and support. There are countless others as well; each of you know who you are and that I greatly appreciate you! 

Finally, I’d like to thank Bar News Editor Kirsten Lacko, WSBA Chief Communications and Outreach Officer Sara Niegowski, and Bar News Graphic Designer Jessica Randklev, and all of the hard-working WSBA employees for helping me to provide what I hope have been entertaining and informational Treasurer’s Reports and President’s Corner columns over the last several years. 

As I sign off for the last time as your WSBA president, I am very proud of and excited about the many accomplishments of your FY 23 Board of Governors. I truly believe we have come a long way toward improving the Board culture and collaborative working relationship with WSBA staff and are pointed in a positive direction for future years. The FY 24 Board will continue to tackle very important topics that likely will impact all of us and the practice of law in our state. I’m extremely excited to pass the gavel to incoming WSBA President Hunter Abell on Sept. 9. Hunter and I are friends and fellow Gonzaga Law alumni. He’s an amazing attorney, and I believe the WSBA and the Board of Governors are going to continue to do great things in FY 24. Also, because this is my last Bar News Column, I’d like to say as a proud Gonzaga Law alumni, “Go Zags!!!” 

About the author

Dan Clark is a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He can be reached at: