Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Changes to the TLC Listserve Coming Soon?

I wrote yesterday about some of the things Jude Basile said when he spoke to TLC alumni in Dallas in November.

Another thing he promised, or rather simply noted, was that changes would be coming to the listserve. He didn't specify what those changes were, but I cringed, knowing that changes like this rarely work out the way the people who made them anticipated. The Law of Unintended Consequences soon takes effect and the attempt to curtail what is perceived as "objectionable" speech actually serves to amplify it.

But, in my experience, those with the power to change listserve rules rarely realize the effect of their actions until they enact them, and learn the hard way.

So what changes, if any, do you think TLC, Inc., will make to the listserve?

More importantly, will they work out as planned?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Splendid People and Magnificent Warriors" No Longer Staff Members at TLC

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that Carl Bettinger, Fredi Sison and Lynne Bratcher would not be invited back as staff members of Trial Lawyers College. This saddened me as they were three of my favorite staff members at the college in 2005.

Last October, newly named TLC President Jude Basile decided to remove the same three people from the Board of Directors of TLC. That same month, Jude stated the following about his decision and TLC's new direction:

Fellow Warriors:

First of all, and as I commence my service as President of Trial Lawyers College, I want to tell all of you how excited I am about our future. This College is responsible for such magnificent transformations among our Warrior Alumni and for countless quests for justice throughout our country and even beyond our borders. There is scarcely an important case on the American legal landscape that cannot be traced back to TLC in some manner or form. We are doing great things at Thunderhead and at our Regional Programs.

But, before we can commence our future, we must deal with our present and that is the purpose of this communication, which is submitted to the F-Warriors Board in prompt response to their request.

A. My Goal for TLC

My goal for TLC is to take steps now designed to ensure the long-term survival of Trial Lawyers College. In order to do this, my view is that the “STAR” of our College must be its educational product. Our long-term viability cannot be tied to any single personality or person. What we teach and deliver must be so innovative and ably taught that it and it alone is what attracts people to our method.

As I have reflected on what we must do and how we must move evolve, this has served as a guiding star for me.

B. Reasons Behind the Re-Structuring of the TLC “Big Board”

The present Board of Directors for the College has been in place for a very long time when compared to the life of the College. In order for me to institute a program designed to concentrate on our product and achieve TLC’s long-term survival goal, I thought it was important to shape my own governing board. In doing that, I gave my efforts in this regard many weeks of thought and reflection – especially since I was aware that change of the evolving type I needed was going to be BIG. However, I believe we are at a point in the life of this College where we can shoulder BIG changes.

So, as a first step, I considered the need to seek support and guidance from people with whom I share mutual trust and respect.

This is NOT to say I do not have the highest respect for the people who have long served on the TLC Board. On the contrary, I do. Nonetheless, I thought it was important to do what was the absolute hardest thing to do: Reconstitute the Board somewhat to bring in fresh ideas and new thought processes in support of the goals I am required to devise as an incoming President of a respected but evolving institution.
Surely, such a restructuring might bruise feelings – feelings of people I admire and respect. Such a restructuring might also lead to speculation about potential hidden agendas and negative things of that type. I can only say that I mean no injury to any other Warrior. I have no agenda but the agenda I am honestly reciting here. But, in order for me to attempt, initiate and accomplish these things, changes at TLC were needed in my opinion.

So, knowing that to be honestly true, I did not take the easier, softer way. I did what I thought was right.

Over time, my efforts—along with those of the new Board —will have to speak for themselves. If I am given a chance to succeed and the support needed to get a fresh, fair start down this road, I believe we can do grand things together.

C. The Changes to the TLC Board

After deliberate, personal and respectful discussions with the people involved, I requested and received the resignations of Katlin Larimer, Fredi Lynn Sison, Carl Bettinger and Lynne Bratcher– all splendid people and magnificent Warriors. ...

After having handled these painful changes with as much kindness as possible under admittedly difficult circumstances, I then asked three (3) Warriors to come onto The TLC Board, subject to ultimate Board approval: John Sloan, Ann Valentine (who accepted my request on the morning after your Conference Call), and James R. “J.R.” Clary, Jr. I know that a potential fourth slot was mentioned during your conference, but—after reflecting on it further—we are going to keep the new additions at 3.

The 3 new Board members (Sloan, Valentine and Clary) will join the 5 people currently serving on the Board at Gerry’s home in Santa Barbara, California on an early weekend in November. At that point, the reconstituted Board will be approved, after any discussion required. (I realize that some of this is slightly different from that which was reported last evening, but I ask all of you to please understand this is a “work in progress” and there are some changes which have occurred today. However, I truly want all of you to know what is happening as best I can accurately report it and as quickly as I could get it to you.)

An Executive Board Committee will also be submitted for approval consisting of the Officers of the Board: Gerry Spence, Chairman of the Board; Jude Basile, President; Cyndy Short, Secretary; Milton Grimes, Vice-President; and Jim Nugent, Treasurer. Thereafter, we can begin moving forward.

In addition to this restructuring of persons, we will also institute term limits for TLC Board Members so that fresh ideas and people can continue to be infused into the TLC Board. Although still evolving, I believe that term limits are an important component to the reconstitution of this Board. However, as I hope all of you can understand, we need to make certain that those limits occur with some type of orderly, staggered regularity. Thus, nothing is yet final on this score but I am committed to these limits. We just need to devise them properly and I ask for your support and patience there.

The Executive Committee will not be subject to term limits, although the members of the Executive Committee and their service on that Committee are always subject to Board approval. The F-Warrior Board President will continue to sit on the governing board and will not be subject to any term limits imposed by the Big Board.

D. Other Changes

I also feel it is important to have all of the finances and all of the contractual relationships relating to Trial Lawyers College fully evaluated. Thus, we will employ an independent auditing firm and independent counsel to accomplish these inquiries.

E. Gender and Cultural Diversity Issues

In your October 6, 2009 Conference, I know there were concerns expressed about the number of women and minorities serving on the governing board for TLC. Frankly, I understand, respect and share those concerns. We have will have two (2) women on the Board (Cyndy Short and Ann Valentine), along with Betsy Greene as F-Warrior Board President and Laurie Goodman as our Executive Director. We will have Milton Grimes as a Board Member and as part of our Executive Committee.

However, I am acutely aware that the majority of resignations from the old governing board were women – a reality deeply impacting the hearts of the F-Warriors, which means it also will be deeply felt by our Alumni.

Although there were reasons for the resignation selections made (and I simply must ask for your trust in that regard)
, I do not wish to see any marginalization of women or other culturally diverse people continue as a trend at TLC. Thus, I would ask for the assistance of the F-Warriors Board in suggesting appropriate and qualified Warriors, respected by the Alumni, to be nominated for Big Board service as the term limits of the current Board Members expire.

I understand there are some discussions about the formation of an Alumni-supported or FWB-Sponsored Committee in this regard which could serve this purpose AND as a support mechanism for women and minorities
and for all of the diverse portions of our Warrior base. Personally, I think this is a magnificent idea and I would wholly support such an effort. Moreover, once the nominations were made, I would make certain the suggested additions were put before the Board during the appropriate election cycles for a Board vote. I would also work to ensure that the nominated parties were given fair and meaningful candidacies.

Because any nominated party or any party seeking re-election would be subject to Board vote, the suggestions made by the FWB or the Alumni would have to be non-binding, but I welcome the opportunity to work with the F-Warriors in making such a voice in the Board nominating and voting process a reality.

F. November 14, 2009 Alumni Retreat in Dallas

I am honored to be invited to attend the TLC Alumni Retreat in Dallas on the weekend of the 14th and to have the opportunity to address our Warriors. I am looking forward to that opportunity.

In addition, I understand that there may be questions about all of these developments and hopes and goals. I will submit myself to the Alumni for whatever questions are percolating out there among our folks and will do my level best to answer them directly and honestly.

G. Conclusion

I hope this statement is of some benefit to the members of the F-Warriors Board – a Board I admire, representing—as it does—the very soul of our College: The Alumni. I have done my best to be direct and responsive. I have no plan or agenda that will ever be hidden from any of you.

You have requested a statement of my intentions and actions and I have complied just as swiftly as I reasonably could. My preference is that all of you utilize this information to craft your own uniform, accurate report to the Alumni about all that has occurred. On the other hand, I impose no conditions or restrictions on the use of this statement. Consequently, all of my friends and Fellow Warriors on the F-Warriors Board may use this statement as the FWB may think best and proper.

I trust you.


Jude Basile

Jude states that "there were reasons for the resignation selections made" and that he "simply must ask for our trust in that regard." Fair enough.

But, when he came to Dallas and spoke to alumni attending the F Warrior Annual retreat, he told us, in response to a concerned questioner, that Carl, Fredi and Lynne's removal from the TLC Board did not mean they would not be invited back as staff. In other words, Jude told us, in November, that "off the board" didn't mean "out as staff." People, some of whom had just met Carl, Fredi and Lynne (and Kaitlyn too) seemed relieved.

But that's not how it worked out, as Carl, Fredi and Lynne recently learned.

Three question arise:

1. When actions don't comport with promises, how long should trust continue?
2. How long will TLC alumni believe their ears when their eyes reveal broken promises?
3. Will anyone, from the TLC Board, or among the staff, ever dare to voice an honest opinion again, if it contradicts with those in power and thus risks removal and, later, exclusion?

Monday, February 8, 2010

More TLC Shakeups

I haven't blogged much lately- feel crazy busy with work- but found this comment on a past post "Seeking TLC Feedback:"

I hear that earlier this week (February 2010), the TLC Board of Directors officially fired Fredi Sison from staff. Since you are on the F Warriors Board, would you please check on this? I hope it is not true or, if it is true, I hope it is a decision that can be reconsidered.

Fredi is simply one of the best. That's why she was chosen to be on the Board of Directors of Spence's Trial Lawyers College. When Jude Basile took over as President of TLC last year, he removed Fredi, Carl Bettinger, Kaitlyn Larimer, and Lynne Bratcher from the Board.

When we gathered in Dallas in November, for the F Warrior retreat, someone asked Jude if these former Board members would return as staff members. He said they would, and went on to say that he wanted to open up the process by which staff are chosen.

So why no openness around this new development? I don't know, but I found another comment, which further intrigued me:

So, when are you or someone going to write about Fredi Sisson, Mary Pekam and Carl Bettinger being taken off staff by Jude Basile? What the hell is wrong with TLC and why are the alumni letting the new leadership get away with throwing the best teachers off the staff? The silence is deafening!

Here's your answer: Because of the silence, only a few people even know! And because no one knows the facts, the few that know about these "firings" (they're volunteers who pay their own way to TLC events!) can only speculate, like this commenter:

I have heard that Fredi Sison, Mary Peckham and Carl Bettinger are all off staff because they are friends with the former Executive Director. Can you please write about this? Who else has been taken off staff and why? If this is true, it is bogus and bullshit! What makes me the most sick is how no one speaks up, complains about or protests the very unTLC like actions of the new president and of Spence himself.

I agree that the "silence is deafening" and that someone needs to check on this so the alumni know the facts. I haven't heard anything from any other FWB members, so assume that this will be news to them too. But, in an effort to answer these questions and separate fact from speculation, I sent this email to the FWB:

"I've heard from several sources that the Board removed Fredi Sison, Carl Bettinger and Mary Peckham from TLC staff, but have heard nothing about this on the listserve or from other FWB members. I've also been asked by several people to find out more information about this. Isn't this in direct contradiction to what Jude promised in Dallas in response to a question about whether former Board members would return as staff? Isn't is also in contradiction to Jude's promise to strive for more openness about such matters?"

Will we hear more silence or are we entitled to the facts, and maybe an explanation if it turns out Fredi, Mary and Carl are no longer on staff?