Some of you may be familiar with a small book that was very popular in corporate circles ten years or so ago called Who Moved My Cheese, written by Spencer Johnson. The thesis of the book is that change is inevitable and constant. As soon as we get things the way we are comfortable with them, they change. We must therefore spend our lifetimes making changes to accommodate the changes in our lives and circumstances.
TCDLA’s cheese, and indeed the cheese of the defense bar and criminal justice system, is moving. For several years we have been one of the beneficiaries of a large grant of state funds that we have used to educate criminal defense lawyers. We have been very conscientious about getting the most out of these dollars and trying to educate as many lawyers as possible. Several aspects of that grant are in the process of changing.
First, it looks likely that the funding for the grant, which has previously been held separate from the general fund, is going to be moved into the general fund. That means the money (generated by court fees) will be available for uses other than educating the participants in the criminal justice system. Second, the Court of Criminal Appeals, which administers the grant, has changed some of the rules governing how the funds are allowed to be used. Third, these are hard economic times.
TCDLA is effected by these times just as everyone is. We are endeavoring to find ways to make our budget leaner and more efficient without sacrificing our goals of promoting justice and educating the criminal defense bar toward that end. This will inevitably mean that some things our members have been used to for many years may need to be done differently. We will be looking to do more for our members via the Internet and related electronic technology that is more efficient and substantially cheaper than paper publications. I believe this will allow us to maintain—even improve—the quality of our services while cutting the costs.
On a larger scope, I suspect that when the legislature adjourns we will all find that our cheese has been moved in a myriad of ways. Funding for indigent defense, a necessity but never a popular expenditure with the public, is bound to be effected. I do not think the effect will be positive. Private clients will expect more for less money from their attorneys and, as we have already seen, become willing to accept the cheaper lawyer as better than no lawyer or a lawyer they do not perceive they can afford.
Please be open minded as we try to make changes at TCDLA to accommodate the economics of this new day. Please support the officers and the board with constructive criticism as we look to find our moving cheese. While you are at it, remember that your personal professional cheese has probably also been moved.