President’s Message

Dear Fellows:

A record number of College Fellows gathered May 8-10 at the Chicago Athletic Association for our Seventh Annual Meeting and what a meeting it was! Outstanding CLE, great food, a rooftop bar with amazing views of Lake Michigan, and hotel rooms equipped with pommel horses (would I make this up?). A special thanks to our sponsors and all the Fellows who spoke at the conference together with a warm kudos to Linda Bondi Morrison, Jim Cooper, Angela Elbert, and Rob Kole together with Executive Director Carol Montoya and her staff, for making this event such a fun and fantastic event. We look forward to returning to the CAA for our Eighth Annual Meeting on May 6-8, 2020. 

Annual Meetings are also a time or welcomes and farewells. We bade farewell to Clyde & Co’s Bruce Celebrezze, who stepped down as Immediate Past President after service as an Officer and Board member dating back to the original creation of the College in 2012. We also honored the service of Mary McCutcheon, who has led our College for the past year with grace, vision, and a sly sense of humor. At the same time, we elected Wayne Taylor to serve as our new Secretary-Treasurer. Wayne led the Membership Committee for years, has been honored in the past with the Thomas F. Segalla Award and is an outstanding addition to our College’ leadership.

We also welcomed the newest class of College Fellows at our meeting. We have more than 300 Fellows and will continue to grow as the result of the diligent efforts of our Membership Committee. We really depend on our Fellows to be talent scouts for the College, however. As always, we are looking for highly-regarded Fellows who meet our membership criteria, particularly women and ethnically diverse attorneys, and policyholder attorneys. If you know of coverage or bad faith lawyers in your community who meet out standards of excellence, please drop me a note or communicate directly with our Membership chairs: Lisa Pake and Koorosh Talieh ([email protected]).

As your new President, I stand on the shoulders of those who have served this College so well since its creation in 2012: Tom Segalla, Lorie Masters, Ned Currie, Mary Craig Calkins, Bruce Celebrezze and Mary McCutcheon. The seven of us gathered for dinner on Friday following the Annual Meeting and celebrated how far the College has come in such a short time and what hopes we have for the years to come.

Over the next few months, I hope to build on their hard work to raise the public profile of the College, transform the College in a true center of thought leadership in the fields of insurance coverage and bad faith and give you all more reasons to value the honor that was bestowed on you when you were elected to be a Fellow of this College.

A key element of the Strategic Plan that the College Board adopted in 2016 was the goal of raising the profile of the College and emphasizing its brand. Towards this end, we have hired Liberty Square Group (LSG), a Boston-based consultancy that specializes in media and public relations for non-profit organizations, to help us hone our message, improve our social media efforts and create opportunities for a dialogue with the business media. Judy Rakowsky of LSG attended our Board meeting on May 8 and has since conferred with various Fellows about high profile insurance issues where our Fellows might be a resource to the press.

During our May 8 meeting, several Board members suggested that we explore means by which our Fellows can talk together and take advantage of the remarkable body of experience and insight that we have collectively. For our 2020 meeting, we plan to build breakout sessions into the programming, allowing more opportunities for a spirited give and take among our Fellows.

We also hope to start organizing monthly calls where one or two Fellows would discuss a new case or legal development for 15-20 minutes and then open it up for a conversation among all attendees. It has been observed by our members are not particularly shy about voicing their opinions and we hope that some sparks will fly and new insights emerge from these calls. If you have an issue or idea for a call, please contact me.

Other aspects of Strategic Planning are moving forward under the leadership of our new President-Elect, Sheri Pastor.

We are also working with our substantive law committees to add membership and develop projects and content that will encourage our Fellows to get more involved in their work. If you are not already active in a committee, please visit the College web site and click on the Committees page, where you’ll find information about each of our committees and contact information for committee chairs. These are excellent opportunities for raising your profile within the College and finding opportunities to create projects in cooperation with other lawyers who share your interests but may or may not agree with your view of the law.

We are also hard at work on Outreach. Hugh Lumpkin and Doug McIntosh are finalizing plans for an annual law school symposium in Florida on November 1. This year’s symposium, which will be held at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, will have bad faith law as its principal focus. Additionally, Troy Froderman, Mike Huddleston, and Neil Rambin have been working for months with a team from the American College of Environmental Lawyers (AECOL) on a joint program address the legal and insurance implications of climate change, an issue of vital importance in Florida and one that will have a profound impact on our personal and professional lives in the years to come. The symposium will feature a luncheon address by a Florida judge as well as a networking reception for attendees and a special Halloween party the night before for the faculty and visiting Fellows.

In the Fall, we will be mailing out invitations to insurance law professors across the country, inviting their law students to participate in our annual essay contest. The contest, which was pioneered by Bruce Celebrezze during this term as President, is intended to encourage insurance scholarship and build ties between our College and the pool of insurance faculty around the country. This year’s contest is entitled “The Trials of Father Lawrence” and explores the unwritten epilogue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in which the hapless monk who advises Juliet to take a sleeping potion that results in the death of both lovers is sued for malpractice by the Estates of Romeo and Juliet. Are the claims one or two “occurrences”? Is coverage excluded as involving “illegal acts” or the dispensation of a “controlled substance.” More to follow.

Michael F. Aylward