John G. Simon
BAMSL President, 2018-19
Managing Partner, The Simon Law Firm, P.C.
I am using this month's President's Column to give some much-deserved attention to The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) Executive Director Zoe Linza. Presidents come and go but Linza has served BAMSL admirably for 12 years and offers a much-needed historical perspective. Although she has been the name and face we have most often associated with BAMSL over the years, we have rarely had the opportunity to read her own words in either of BAMSL's publications. For these reasons, we sat down with Linza a few weeks ago and "cross-examined" her.
How did you come to be part of BAMSL?
Like the rest of my life, serendipity. I spent 20 years working at the Missouri Capitol, first for the Missouri Senate, then lobbying, mostly for health care issues, and working in the association business. I wanted to move to St. Louis and Judge Duane Benton, a longtime family friend, referred me to a wonderful opportunity as Assistant Circuit Executive at the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. Courts. It was a great group of outstanding judges and administrators to work with, but I missed the association business. In 2006, I noticed that the BAMSL Executive Director job was open and thought, "This job is for me," allowing me to combine my newfound legal experience with my association experience. I was excited about the opportunity to grow the association, work with great projects and be a part of an organization that was in the process of changing to fit the current culture of associations.
What is the favorite part of your job?
Meeting people and connecting relationships. It is not merely a job. It is a lifestyle, and I have met so many tremendous people through the years who I call colleagues but also can call my friends. Through BAMSL, I have met the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues; worked with Supreme Court Judges and state and local elected officials; met solo practitioners and managing partners of big firms; and connected BAMSL leadership and members of various community initiatives for a successful outcome, for the community as well as our bar. For example, I met John "Mo" Mozeliak, President of Baseball Operations for the Cardinals, through a lawyer friend and we became friends. Mo spoke recently at our Corporate Counsel Institute that we co-sponsor with the Association of Corporate Counsel and is a frequent guest at our Night at the Ballpark. I also enjoy connecting lawyers with the community. Our Motion for Kids Holiday Party that serves 2,500 children impacted by the justice system is great for the community but also for our members to have the opportunity to share in the project. Through our work with the former St. Louis Rams, I became acquainted with Delaware North, the food provider at the Dome, which provided more than 5,000 hot dogs, sodas and chips for our Motion for Kids guests free of charge. When the Rams left St. Louis and we found a new home at Chaifetz Arena, the food provider there was also Delaware North and they graciously continued their very generous support.
What is it like to work with thousands of attorneys?
I find attorneys' approaches to be different than doctors and health care providers. The analytical nature of the legal business spills over into the association. My first board meeting was educational, to say the least. I was not accustomed to having the group analyzing all aspects of an issue. Now, 12 years later, I anticipate that response and think it is very healthy for the organization to have the ability to review and consider all sides of an issue so that it reflects our mission and the needs and wants of our entire membership. I'm also continually amazed at the goodness of attorneys. Truly, most attorneys choose this profession to help others. Although the lawyer jokes are abundant, when people have legal problems or they need an issue solved, they turn to an attorney. The continual giving nature of most of our members never ceases to amaze me.
Could you state a few ways in which BAMSL has changed?
BAMSL has been impacted by technology like everyone else. Online webinars have changed our CLE offerings. Our data management system is more sophisticated. Social media has changed our methods of communication. Our staff has been reduced from 20 to 10 just in my short tenure here, but I hope we are more efficient, more responsive and great representatives to our members and community. Closing the Lawyers' Club in 2012 was a hard decision but members were not eating there. In fact, members were not eating lunch out anymore. We had to be responsible financially and responsive to the current culture.
Could you offer a few anecdotes from past decades regarding the work and personalities of BAMSL?
Many people don't know that BAMSL has a great national reputation. We have always been an association on the cutting edge of legal associations. We try new things and welcome the wide variety of ideas from our members and staff for discussion and implementation. Sometimes what we try works, sometimes it doesn't, but we have always been the innovators of the bar world. Small projects like what was formerly known as Angel Tree and now the Motion for Kids Holiday Party started at a kitchen table. Now, a sophisticated computer matching program pairs attorneys with specific children to purchase gifts for the holidays. BAMSL is constantly winning national awards. Last year, BAMSL was honored by Lexis Nexis for our Pro Bono project of the Richard B. Teitelman Pro Bono Challenge in which law firms agreed to provide 10 hours of pro bono service per year for every attorney in the firm. This year, BAMSL was honored with another Lexis Nexis award for the St. Louis Attorneys Against Hunger project. We have hosted four U.S. Supreme Court Judges: Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas.
State a couple important ways in which BAMSL is good for the St. Louis region?
BAMSL supports so many community projects and our members are so giving of their time and expertise. We recently supported the City of St. Louis with its Gun Buy-Back program. We help local charities such as Operation Food Search, Meals on Wheels and St. Patrick Center with financial contributions as well as hands-on food-wrapping events. We have numerous volunteer efforts such as the Call-A-Lawyer program and Read Across America on Dr. Seuss' Birthday in our schools, and of course, our Motion for Kids holiday party. These all are examples of how the bar is giving so much to our community; we are good citizens in supporting community and government efforts.
Why is it important for lawyers who are not yet members of BAMSL to join BAMSL?
BAMSL is the largest legal organization in the metropolitan St. Louis area. With 12 Sections and more than 60 committees, there is an area of interest for everyone to become involved. BAMSL strives daily to improve the image of the legal professional in the St. Louis community. The work that BAMSL does is inspiring. Every legal professional in the region should want to be part of the greater good BAMSL provides to our citizens, whether it be through Attorneys Against Hunger, Motion for Kids, Mock Trial, or all the countless hours of Pro Bono work contributed to our community through Lawyers for City Neighborhoods, the Bankruptcy Court Pro Bono Program, the Pro Bono Challenge or many other pro bono projects. We also have a tremendous schedule of networking opportunities, like Law Day, Bench and Bar, the Judicial Retirement Dinner, the Member Holiday Party and many more opportunities to connect with colleagues. Our unique relationship with members of the area's judiciary is an extra incentive for lawyers to be a part of BAMSL, not to mention our outstanding offerings of Continuing Legal Education. Why wouldn't you become a BAMSL member is a better question.
What are a couple of BAMSL's proudest moments over the past few years?
The best moments are when BAMSL shines. To be recognized nationally by Lexis Nexis the past two years for our community involvement is awesome. When you see the faces of the children at Motion for Kids getting a hot dog or a coloring book or having someone from the legal profession give them a pat on the back and a smile, those are the best moments and make one proud to be a part of an organization that is giving back to our community. I'm just grateful that the St. Louis legal community has given me so many wonderful opportunities to be part of such a giving organization.