By OSBA Executive Director Mary Amos Augsburger, Esq.
Congratulations! Service on the OSBA Board of Governors is satisfying, challenging and fun. Many potential board members have questions about what it means to be on the board. Staff and I have written this article to answer as many questions as possible, but if you have questions that are not answered after reading it, please call me at (614) 487-4405 or toll free (866) 657-4405.
How does a member get elected to the Board?
There are 18 OSBA districts in Ohio and each is entitled to one member on the OSBA Board. Board members are elected via mail ballot in Cleveland (District 12) and Columbus (District 7) but all other districts elect their Board representative at the annual district meeting held somewhere within the district boundaries. The process of running for election is determined district-by-district so it is a good idea to check with your current Board representative on the procedures that are applicable for your district.
Are there at-large seats on the OSBA Board?
There are three at-large appointees on the Board and they serve three-year terms, which are staggered. The seats were created to achieve diversity on the Board. Each January, the OSBA president-elect recommends to the Board the name of a member to begin an at-large term the following July 1.
How long is a term on the Board?
All OSBA Board terms are for three years and all begin July 1 following the district election or appointment. The terms are staggered such that one third of the 21 representatives' terms expire each year.
I've heard about the changeover meeting—what's that?
Held each June in a resort setting, the changeover meeting is a four-day event. The purposes of the meeting are to welcome new members into the group and to say goodbye to those whose terms expire on June 30. The changeover meeting also builds camaraderie among the members of the Board and executive staff.
How many times per year does the Board usually meet and how long are the meetings?
In a typical year, the Board will meet in February, April, June (at the changeover), August (at the All-Ohio Legal Forum), October and December. The meetings usually involve a two-day commitment, although, at times, meetings can be reduced to a single day.
Does the Board have committees?
The Board has four committees:
- Budget and Headquarters;
- Membership, Public and Media Relations and Publications;
- Government Affairs; and
Each Board member is assigned to one of the committees—usually two people from each "class" (known by the year in which one's term begins) are assigned to each committee. The Board member serves on the committee for three years. Members of the Audit Committee are also on other Board committees.
The committees meet either the night before or the morning of the full Board meeting. Typically the Audit Committee meets only two or three times each year.
What is the schedule for a typical Board meeting?
More often than not, Board members arrive at the meeting site on Thursday night. Committees meet at 4 p.m., followed by dinner and a discussion on a topic of the president’s choice. Following the discussion, a hospitality room is typically available.
On Friday morning, Board members enjoy a breakfast together and meet sometime during the day. Sometimes recreational activities are planned for Friday afternoon.
Following the meeting adjournment on Friday, Board members depart for home.
There are variations on this theme. For example, the committee meetings may be held at 8:30 a.m. on Friday and the Board may convene following lunch that day. Also, Board meetings during the May convention and June changeover have entirely different schedules.
Where are the Board meetings held?
Most Board meetings are held in the Columbus area either at OSBA headquarters or at a hotel. There are occasions when the meetings are held in other cities. For example, the convention meeting of the Board is held in the convention city and the changeover is usually held outside of Ohio.
Are spouses welcome to attend Board events?
Spouses are welcome to accompany Board members and are welcome to attend hospitality rooms, dinners and other social functions. However, spouses are spared attendance at the Board's business meeting.
Would any of my expenses for service on the OSBA Board be reimbursed?
The OSBA reimburses Board members on the following schedule:
For Board members and spouses/significant others or guests:
- Travel—at the IRS rate.
- Parking—actual cost.
- Meals—breakfast at $12 per meal.
- Lunch at $20.00 per meal.
- Dinner at $30.00 per meal.
- Hotel—actual cost, including tax and parking.
- Actual cost of meals at the convention and changeover meeting.
What sort of issues does the Board discuss?
Here are some typical agenda topics:
- Professional issues, such as court rules and unauthorized practice of law matters.
- Government affairs, such as positions the OSBA should take on legislation pending in the Ohio General Assembly.
- Membership benefits, such as how to improve the programs OSBA offers to their members, e.g., Casemaker, OBAR, CLE, etc.
- The business of the association, such as budget and financial issues.
- Appointments to bar-related positions, such as seats in the American Bar Association's House of Delegates.
Additionally, the Board has always exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit and has not been afraid to take some calculated risks in order to accomplish good things for the Association and its members. For instance, Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Company, Online Professional Electronic Network and Casemaker were all born and incubated in the OSBA Board of Governors. There are many other such success stories.
Once elected, is there an orientation program for new Board members?
The orientation meeting is usually held on a Friday in late May and lasts for 2-3 hours. At the meeting, all new Board members receive a Board Handbook.
Is there anything else Board members are expected to do?
Members of the Board of Governors are fiduciaries, ambassadors, and responsible for establishing the direction of the Association by developing policies, establishing strategic goals/operational initiatives, and providing resources for success.
Board members are expected to help OSBA establish a local presence in their districts by attending local bar events, updating OSBA members about OSBA activities and to be involved in the planning of their annual district meeting. This is done in connection with an OSBA staff member. Usually, the Board member also acts as the master of ceremonies at the meeting.
Board members are frequently asked to recommend members from their districts to serve on committees and section boards and to participate in various events.
Occasionally, other unforeseen events occur that require some time from Board members.
Many members of the OSBA Board of Governors have commented that their tenure was one of the highlights of their personal and professional lives. Board service requires sacrifices (mainly in terms of time) but is rewarding.