|President's Page||The West Virginia Lawyer||April 2000
by Darrell W. (Dan) Ringer
"One thing we've done"
And now, the end is near.
This is my last regular column as your president. Next month’s column will be the text of my final address given at the Annual Meeting. This is the most difficult column for me to write because there are so many things left to say. I can address only one.
At about the same time you are reading this, your State Bar will be winding up the production of The Law Works, the television series we worked with West Virginia Public Broadcasting to produce and air.
As I write this we have just received word that American Bar Association President William Paul plans to travel to West Virginia in late April for the specific purpose of appearing as a guest on The Law Works. President Paul’s primary project during his presidency has been to recognize, encourage and promote diversity within the legal profession. He has been the leading figure in raising over one million dollars for scholarships for minority law students. His work will endure long after his presidency, and creates a legacy which will benefit not only the hundreds of students who will receive the actual scholarships, but the thousands of citizens who will be represented by the lawyers educated, and the millions who will benefit from the justice that representation achieves. His work on this single project among the many of his term has been intense. I consider his willingness to participate in our project a singular honor. You may be confident that one of the issues we will discuss with him will be diversity.
The opportunity to address the diversity issue on The Law Works is a perfect example of why we have devoted so much effort to the program. Such issues are of concern to our profession, and to the people our profession serves. We have been able to consider many such issues on The Law Works : Trust and Confidence in the Justice System; Lawyer Advertising; Probation and Alternative Sentencing; Marriage in the New Century; The Decision to File a Lawsuit; Frivolous Lawsuits; Defending the Guilty Client; The Functioning of the Federal Grand Jury; Federal Sentencing Guidelines; Grandparents’ Rights and many others. We have produced 26 half hour shows, for a total of 13 hours of not only legal education for our citizens, but also an opportunity for them to see us, and to understand our concerns for the system, its weaknesses, and the people it serves. Viewer response indicates that we have accomplished our goal.
It was not an easy goal to accomplish, and thanks are in order to those who have made it possible. There are, of course, dozens of our own member attorneys who have taken the time from extremely busy schedules to travel to the television studio to tape the programs. Some had to wait for hours for taping to begin. To them, for their work, expertise and patience, many thanks.
The production crew at West Virginia Public Broadcasting from the top to the bottom was supportive and creative. They worked with humor and with great skill. Their suggestions were invaluable. They are artists.
The voluntary bar associations of West Virginia provided expertise in identifying guests and in much needed funding. The Mountain State Bar, Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia, The West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the West Virginia Bar Association all participated. Their monetary contributions were handled by the West Virginia Bar Foundation.
Dianne Callahan of LEXIS Publishing coordinated significant funding for the program, and ALPS insurance made the first commercial funding commitment. Without their participation the program simply would not have happened.
There are 4 people who must be singled out for special mention, among all of those who should be mentioned
Al Prichard, Station Manager of WNPB in Morgantown, was the creative influence who for years championed the idea of a legal issues program. Al laid the groundwork for The Law Works.
Brian Gessner, Producer of The Law Works, committed himself completely to the program. He recognized and solved major problems I wasn’t even aware of. He defines what it means to be a professional.
Bill Acker, Television General Manager for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, is the person who made it work. Bill’s broadcasting experience, support for, and belief in the concept of The Law Works made it possible.
Finally, in any successful project there is someone who sees beyond the obvious. Someone who by his or her encouragement and vision causes an idea to expand beyond apparent limits. For The Law Works that person is Bob Minto, president of ALPS. An early supporter, Bob has encouraged us at every turn and challenged us to think in grander terms. He is a visionary.
Is there a future for the program? Yes. Thus far The Law Works has aired to all of West Virginia, and major parts of the surrounding states, on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Beginning April 3 the schedule is being expanded to include broadcasts twice a week - the initial showing will be at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, with a rebroadcast on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. The Thursday airing of The Law Works will follow West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s popular call-in show Doctors on Call. Current planning is that the first season will end with the airing of the May 25th show.
Public Broadcasting has proposed a third broadcast, of the audio portion of The Law Works on West Virginia Public Radio, on a weekday afternoon, much as the public affairs call-in program Switchboard is currently broadcast. The details of this idea have not been worked out as yet, and would probably not begin before this fall. It will require some relatively minor changes in the way The Law Works is prepared and recorded.
We’ve begun planning for the second season. The Law Works has a proven history of success. The future of the show is bright and includes possible syndication in other states through the Public Broadcasting Service, and/or cable outlets, possibly in cooperation with the state bars of other states. These are exciting prospects.
I have always believed that the appearance of our West Virginia attorneys in positions of authority at the state and national level promotes the image of our State Bar, our state, and our profession. Our program provides such an opportunity. I sincerely hope that, as my term as your president comes to an end, the State Bar will be able to continue to put our members in front of the public, so they can see and understand us. So they can understand the issues, and the justice system. So they can learn a bit about how The Law Works.