President’s Message – June/July 2015

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PCBA President Nathan Overberg

On May 12, 2015, I was elected to serve as president of your Polk County Bar Association at the annual business meeting. During the Law Day luncheon that followed, Tre Critelli, in full wig and English regalia, artfully explained to the students in attendance how the Magna Carta, among other things, codified the power of community. Shortly thereafter, I presented my “inaugural” speech as president of our talented and dedicated community of lawyers and judges, the Polk County Bar Association. What follows are my brief inaugural remarks:

Like many of you, when I was interviewing for my first legal jobs, I was often asked “Why do you want to be a lawyer?” More recently, I have been asked why I would want to be president of the PCBA.

The answers to both questions are really the same.

I grew up on a family farm south of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. There were no lawyers in my family. In fact, other than a very nice gentleman who lived down the gravel road from me – who unbeknownst to me at the time was Judge Harlan Bainter – I didn’t know any. However, when our long-time mayor was tragically shot at a city council meeting, the community encouraged a young, local lawyer to assume the role. He responded to the call, was promptly elected, and proved to be a pretty fair public servant.

One of Mayor Tom Vilsack’s first initiatives, although probably not his most monumental, was to allow middle school and high school students to participate as non-voting members of city boards and commissions. I was lucky enough to be appointed by him to serve on the Park and Recreation Committee while a freshman or sophomore in high school.

I don’t think that role on Mount Pleasant’s Park and Rec Committee is likely to lead me to become the United States Secretary of Agriculture. However, my interactions with Mayor Vilsack through that impressionable time taught me that being a lawyer in Iowa carries with it an opportunity and an obligation to serve as a leader in our community, and that opportunity and obligation was appealing to me. So here I am, beginning my term as President of the Polk County Bar Association.

Last year, my predecessor, Emily Gould Chafa, asked you all to share your time, talent, and treasure with the Association to better our community, and you responded admirably. Thousands of dollars have been raised for our VLP program and hundreds of you have taken pro bono cases. Our lunches, CLEs, and social events have been extremely well attended, and dozens of you have volunteered to breathe new life into our committees.

During my term as President, I hope to build upon that success and continue to engage more of you in the PCBA activities. In doing so, it is my hope to focus the next year on how this organization can better serve our community and each of you – its members. To do so, our leadership team will strive to find answers to questions, such as:

How can we improve our communication with you and with the community?

How can we make our website and newsletters even more valuable resources?

How can we help the new attorneys feel more welcome, meet more people, and better assist them in the practice of law in Polk County?

How can we encourage the senior attorneys to share their wisdom and experience with the rest of us?

How can we better serve as liaison between the bench and bar?

How can we better collaborate with existing sister and brother organizations in the community?

How can we make it easier for you to meet your pro bono obligations?

How can we better assist you in finding a successful work / life balance?

In sum, how can we help you get even more value out of your membership in the Polk County Bar Association?

If I were one of the politicians currently looking for your support at the caucuses next January, I would profess to have an answer to all of these questions right here and now. But I am not a politician, and I do not profess to have all of the answers. But, I can tell you that your leadership team is committed to working with you to find some of those answers. I am excited to be a part of that journey. I hope you are, too.

Nathan can be reached at: 515-243-7611 or