Reflecting on Three Years as Chapter President

R. Michael Flynn
Outgoing Chapter President

I was never really one to believe in presidents, but, when I was asked by former NLG San Francisco Bay Area President Teague Briscoe Gonzalez to run as Vice President, and later to run to succeed her as President, I was honored and excited. I felt confident that I could continue the participatory leadership style of Teague, and facilitate a collective leadership process among Executive Board members, Executive Committee members, and other committees of our chapter. Continuing the work of making our organization more anti-racist, and promoting leadership by people from groups traditionally underrepresented in our chapter, NLG, and beyond, were priorities of leadership before me, and during my time on the Executive Committee (the elected officers).

After three years as President of the NLG San Francisco Bay Area, I am proud to have been a part of an exciting period of growth and development in our chapter. Even though we are all still living through a time period of one of the most severe economic crises, that affected our organization and many members, we are still continuing to add new members and renew current members, developing other revenue sources, and closing projected budget deficits in the process.

Mostly, serving as President has not been that difficult. Many hours of meetings and phone conferences are time consuming, but essential to positive communication. It has been an honor to be invited to speak on law school campuses, to talk to media, to speak to college student activists, and to speak to other activists. The most difficult times have been when we have had strong disagreements in our Executive Board and/or in the Chapter in general. Consistently though, effective resolution has only come through the process of hearing each other out. I often remember the Zapatista saying, mandar obedeciendo, lead by obeying. To me that means a good leader listens to everybody, and develops a shared solution based on what people are seeking. With any issue we address on the Executive Board, or any group within NLG, we are not engaging in healthy decision making unless we listen to each other first.

I am excited to support the new leadership of our chapter. Rachel Lederman as President, Sharon Adams as Vice President, Nina Farnia as Treasurer, Ming Wong as Secretary, and the Law Student Vice Presidents, Stephanie Platenkamp and Kristina Dolgin. I look forward to continuing to serve our NLG as an At Large Member of the Executive Board, serving in a lead coordinating position in our newly reformed Bay Area Labor & Employment Committee, and serving as Co-chair of the national NLG Anti-Racism Committee.

As NLG, we should look to grow our organization and its effectiveness in achieving social justice movement goals by ensuring a vibrant, diverse, and active membership, reflective of the SF Bay Area. We should continue promoting anti-racism, challenging patriarchy, and promoting leadership by NLG members from communities of color and nonlawyer legal workers. Ultimately, the path I see for sustainability and strength in our future involves having a broader based membership, recruiting more members, and instituting more affordable membership dues. Part of that should be expanding the proportion of nonlawyer legal worker members, and working to change the unhealthy lawyer-nonlawyer power hierarchies that too often hinder our ability to work together effectively. We all want to see our organization be successful, along with the movements for social, racial, economic, and gender justice we support. Justice is a constant struggle, and making our organization successful is a constant process of adaptation and growth.