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|25th Anniversary Tributes|
Leadership Reflections on NCBA's 25th Anniversary
Over the past twenty-five years, National Creditors Bar Association has been blessed with an amazing cadre of volunteers and volunteer leaders. Whether serving on committees, task forces, the Board or as Board Officers, our volunteers have made National Creditors Bar Association (the former NARCA) a strong presence in the legal community and the creditor ecosystem.
The following are tribute reflections that some of the NCBA Past Presidents have shared on the occasion:
TRIBUTE TO NARCA/NCBA
by Warren S. Rosenfeld, Esq. – President 1995-1997
I was honored to be chosen as the first President-Elect of NARCA, at its inaugural “convention” in Las Vegas 25 years ago. I served as NARCA’s second President, after Don Kramer, its founder, completed his two year term as NARCA’s first President.
NARCA was so instrumental to the development of my law firm and to our practice. NARCA elevated the visibility of this type of the practice of law, instantly gave all of us incredible resources and mentors to learn and develop from, and eventually gave us access to large creditors as potential clients as they too embraced having this resource to improve their credit and collection divisions.
The practice of creditors’ rights and the art of landing the upper crust clients was still very much akin to the wild, wild West in NARCA’s early years. For many years Don Kramer was driving the car, and many of us were just happy to be passengers in that car. As NARCA developed and evolved, other leaders stepped forward, and the organization benefitted even more as a result. With all of that said, I thank Don Kramer for creating NARCA, for asking me to help him in that task, for seeing something in me that said to him that I should succeed him as the organization’s next President, and for helping me and giving me direction during my presidency. The marketing and other things learned from Don have stayed with me even to this day.
I was one of the fortunate members that was able to build a big practice, eventually sell it, and move on to other things in life, some of them in the creditors’ field, and much of it not at all related to the practice of law. It has been more than seven years since I was the CEO of YouveGotClaims, and more than six years since I have been involved in the creditors’ practice of law. However, even now, as a restaurateur and businessman, and in my mid-60s, I still consider myself an attorney first, and a creditors’ bar attorney at that. It is so innately ingrained in me, I cannot shed myself of it, nor do I want to. I’ll forever cherish my work with NARCA, always wear my Presidency as a proud badge, and never forget the role that NARCA played in the success of my law firm, the growth of which fueled all else that I was able to do in life.
A happy 25th to NARCA/NCBA! May you live on for many, many more years. Hello to all whom I may have been fortunate enough to call my friends. I miss the friendships, the conventions, and the social aspect as much as anything. I wish all of you the best, and nothing but success in your practices, and in your lives.
I was there when!
by Stuart R. Blatt – President 1997-1999
As an original NARCA founder, it was an honor and privilege to serve as your third President. Unhesitatingly, I assumed the mandate of leadership for this esteemed association.
It was a great honor to give back my time and effort to NARCA that ingrained in me a foundation of principles and values I believe in and which have taken me to where I am today.
I expanded my network of countless NARCA friends, mentors and colleagues throughout the past 25 years. Their support, encouragement, guidance, and collective wisdom enabled and supported me to enjoy my continued success.
I have had the good fortune to work with the best officers/directors and management teams in association history, teams that are second to none. A leader is only as good as the team is, working as a whole. Our Boards of Directors, management and staff have put in countless hours to shape the vision of NARCA and put into action new opportunities for members. I thank them from the bottom of my heart!
We need to continue to build on the wisdom and contributions of our past boards and leaders. They have steered the Association along the legal highways for 25 years. They have done so in a responsive and measured way, guaranteeing us a continuity of Association affairs.
My ideals are embedded in the belief that, things to be done are achieved by hard work and not by wishing them to get done. I believe the essence of what we do with our association is creating, nurturing and enabling that environment.
The cumulative value we have provided to our members is huge and their dependence on our efforts keeps increasing. All the activities and achievements earned so far by this association speak volumes and we are building an unshakeable base, strong on teamwork and organization.
I am grateful and hope we can all become a continuing force for change as we forge ahead to build upon our accomplishments.
In closing, our association is also honored to have so many wonderful members who devote their time and talent to our association goals and aspirations.
Times are tough, we are faced with unprecedented challenges. There is rising economic anxiety due to the financial instability that pervades us. Our industry is being perceived to be part of the risk rather than part of the management of the risk.
A clear goal for NARCA’s future is to reduce or influence the volatility and change it from a defensive approach to an offensive philosophy that will accelerate reform in this constantly changing environment. We must take control and not let others dictate the future of our endeavors.
I believe the future is going to be in our moments and years ahead. NARCA can provide the vision and the leadership to move time forward. There is going to be an enormous future opportunity for our association.
Be a part of it!
The NARCA Journey
by Mike Buckles – President 1999-2001
The NARCA journey of Buckles & Buckles PLC began when Don Kramer called out of the blue and invited me to attend the first NARCA convention in Las Vegas, June 1993. I was already committed to a white-water rafting weekend with Boy Scout Troop 1024, of which I was Scoutmaster. However, in September of ’93, I attended the next convention in Chicago. It was an eye opener to meet and socialize with collection attorney colleagues from around the country.
In February 1994, my wife and law partner, Geraldine, and I journeyed to the next NARCA convention in Nashville. It was there that I joined the Board as parliamentarian and began my service as a volunteer leader. Don Kramer’s vision of inviting creditor clients to our conventions was working. And, the educational presentations by members from around the nation enhanced our learning and attracted more attendees.
Inspired by Don and NARCA members at the September 1994 convention in Las Vegas, the Buckles firm and our fellow Michigan collection lawyers founded the Michigan Creditors Bar Association. MCBA has actively lobbied our state legislature and Supreme Court, while also providing members with networking, legal learning, an executive director and a lobbyist, just like NARCA.
In 1999, NARCA benefited from the leadership and expertise of Diane Darrow, who served as our Executive Director during my term as President from 1999- 2001. Diane encouraged and inspired our Board to transform NARCA into a professional “knowledge-based” association supported by a committee structure and guided by a mission statement and strategic plan. This model exists today in our current National Creditors Bar Association. Thank you, Diane, Mark Dobosz, and all of our talented leaders and staff that make NARCA work!
Since the beginning of my role as an active member of the NARCA leadership, I have long advocated “best practices” in our profession as legal debt collectors. The ethical collection of debt by lawyers can be effective and compliant, but our governing body and every member can and should support this goal in word and deed. Ethical, legal debt collection rules should be codified by the NCBA so that all of us abide by the same rules, practices, and procedures. If not, regulators will fill that void.
Working together, NCBA members can improve the practice of legal debt collection in three ways;
The fate of the National Creditors Bar Association for the next 25 years is in your hands. If we want our journey to continue down the road of success and well-being, members need to volunteer to “make things happen.” If not, many of us may be asking “What happened?”
Lastly, if you ever have to decide between family and work, just remember that no one on their death bed wished they had spent more time at the office. Family first!
25th Anniversary Tribute
by Adam Olshan – President 2001-2003
During my term as the 5th NARCA president (2001-03) I phone called every single member. I recall making those 800+ phone calls and speaking with so many of you about my question, “How is NARCA doing and what would you like to see the association do that it’s not doing presently?” Through these conversations I was also able to promote the new NARCA committee structure that my predecessor, Mike Buckles, had worked so diligently to roll out. The result was an expanded community of active volunteers who worked hard to launch very expanded association benefits for our membership. NARCA’s advocacy program in Washington, DC and at national creditor trade shows was expanded. The NARCA listserv was launched to tie our community together every day through intelligent conversation on topics that engaged so many members. Members reached to their creditor clients and creditor-attorney meetings at our conferences exploded with popularity as did vendor attendance as exhibitors in our conference exhibit hall. With such an expanded community of member volunteers, our professional trade association continued to strengthen its lock hold on being the only national community dedicated to the needs of the consumer creditor rights attorney. I believe those two years were important and my successor, Chuck Pona, took that momentum and achieved great things which have led to our present day NCBA community being such an important part of our professional lives.
I have so many fond memories of Don Kramer - I think my favorite is him presenting his “Don’s Tips” to first-time conference attendees at so many NARCA conferences. “Wear your name badge high and proud”, “a knock of a competitor is a boost”, “ask questions of speakers but only if they’re good questions” etc. are all embedded in my memory as rules to live by.
Today’s NCBA is here due to Don. He’ll be missed and never forgotten.
HAPPY 25TH ANNIVERSARY NARCA-THE NATIONAL CREDITORS BAR ASSOCIATION!
by Chuck Pona – President 2003-2005
First and foremost, I would like to thank each and every member of NARCA for your dedication and loyalty to our Association. Without your active participation and financial support NARCA is merely a name.
My firm has been a member of NARCA since its inception. What drew me to the Association and what has attracted firms over the last 25 years is NARCA’S commitment to education, networking, and advocacy. It is still very comforting to know that my firm has a trade association which has our back. NARCA is an association made up of peers in my industry who share the same goals for our individual firms and industry and who share in our commitment to provide the highest quality of ethical and professional service to various creditors. The education and networking which NARCA provides helps to ensure that all of us are in-the-know with regard to the latest regulations and case law affecting our industry. In terms of advocacy, NARCA has always worked effectively at getting our members’ message of fair and equitable governance of our members and industry to our legislators. As the saying goes, “strength in numbers!”
I’ll never forget my first NARCA conference at which I met our founding father, Don Kramer. I asked Don how I could get the most benefit from my membership. His answer holds true today. GET INVOLVED. He recommended that I learn the organization and get to know its members from the ground level. There are ample opportunities for members to get involved in committee work or to present at a NARCA conference. It is very rewarding to know that you are helping to contribute to the success of an organization. Today’s committee members and speakers are often tomorrow’s leaders. Get involved. I promise you won’t regret it.
I am convinced that NARCA will celebrate 25 more years of success because of its dedicated members and staff. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY NARCA! Thank you for the fondest of memories and for the life-long friendships you helped cultivate.
Congratulations to the National Creditors Bar Association on its auspicious 25th Anniversary!
by Bob Markoff – President 2007-2009
Having joined the association at its second ever conference which was held in Chicago, the NCBA has played an essential role in both my professional and personal life. On its 25th Anniversary, it has given me occasion to reflect on some fond memories, and on how the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys, NARCA, developed and matured into today’s NCBA.
As I entered the practice of law over 40 years ago, the granting of consumer credit was in the midst of profound changes which were little understood by most collection attorneys at that time. Large numbers of corner retail stores and small department stores were going out of business due to competition from larger national stores. At the same time, the granting of credit was changing from the individual local stores to national credit card banks. These changes were hurting the legal collection practice as we knew it by decreasing the number of accounts to collect.
Enter Don Kramer, our revered and visionary founder, who recognized that the legal collection industry was missing incredible opportunities to assist national credit grantors, financial institutions, and other local businesses in recovering consumer receivables. While legal associations at the time assisting with the referral of accounts on a national basis were resistant to new methods of doing business, Don would not be deterred. In essence, NARCA was founded to enhance the practice for all collection attorneys and it has worked. Therefore its motto: NARCA WORKS!
In the beginning there was chaos! I remember seeing Don with a large seating chart for the conference luncheon. He was assigning attendees to tables and seeding each table with a representative of a credit grantor. He was doing his best to ensure that every attorney would have an equal opportunity to acquire more business. There were no set rules of conduct or guidelines beyond an understanding that everyone should act professionally.
Over the next several conferences things settled down and a true organization developed. The Association eventually moved out of our Founder’s back office into a national office of its own. Leaders of the Association recognized that in addition to business opportunities, the organization was needed to address other concerns facing creditors’ rights and collection attorneys. From the developing Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to the creation of the CFPB, the NBCA has been there to provide a voice for its membership for 25 years!
The NCBA has proved to be an ideal organization to address the concerns of the legal collection practice. In addition to business opportunities, it has and continues to provide continuing legal education, professional forums to share information, symposiums on legal collections, outreach to Congress, regulators, and support for the same on the state level, all while maintaining a culture of professional and personal collegiality.
There is no doubt that the National Creditors Bar Association has matured over the last quarter century. It continues to be flexible and change to meet the current challenges of its membership while staying true to its Founder’s guiding ideas. I am proud to be a part of such a fine organization. NCBA WORKS!
Happy Anniversary to the National Creditors Bar Association and its members! Here’s to another 25 years!!
22 Years of Involvement
by Fred Blitt – President 2009-2011
When I look back over the 22 years of my involvement in our trade association, I’m easily reminded of the relationships I have made throughout the country. Whether it’s a vendor, competitor or college, I have established some truly great relationships that will last my entire life. My involvement on the Board and as the President of the trade association has had a profound impact on my life both personally and professionally. From public speaking to leadership training, the time spent on Capitol Hill, and simply being around a lot of really smart people, NCBA has provided some great experiences.
I also urge the present and future NCBA membership to learn from our history! I have been around long enough to have a front row seat for see our industry be attacked in print, media, federally, from AGs and states, and even local and county rules. Organizations like NCBA cannot let our respective guards down. Members need to get involved with their wallets and their actions if they want to see a vibrant legal debt collections industry for another 25 years!
Congratulations to NCBA and thanks to everyone who put together this 25th anniversary event.
Congratulations to The National Creditors Bar Association on their 25th Anniversary!
By Lou Freedman – President 2011-2013
Not surprisingly, I remember when I first received information about this new idea for an association of law firms that would finally give a voice and visibility to this fast growing legal industry. Don Kramer, our founder and Chairman Emeritus, wanted a forum where clients and attorneys could meet to discuss the issues that were affecting legal collections, as well as to provide a path to new business opportunities for all firms, large and small. I was at the first NARCA conference at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas and, while I was one of the younger attendees at the time, I took the dive head first into building business and personal relationships that would last through my entire career. I have missed only two conferences since the first in 1993, to attend my son Daniel’s graduations.
25 years ago, the total staff count at what was then Kamerman, Freedman, Anselmo and Lindberg was at about 35, gradually growing into statewide coverage in Illinois. By the time I was sworn in as your President in 2011, the firm numbers had swelled to over 300. How did that happen? NARCA. And while I was competing with Fred Blitt at the time, I really didn’t know him, and NARCA meetings allowed me the chance to build a relationship that would eventually lead me to my current partnership position at Blitt and Gaines. Go figure.
I made it my business at conferences to inject myself into conversations, attended all the social events, and even collaborated with my competitors. Heck, I met Michelle Gagnon for the first time at a mini-conference in Memphis, as she had rented a car and some of us needed a ride to Graceland! NARCA provided the platform, in so many ways. I knew I had to spread my brand, and when Ira Leibsker asked me if I was interested in the Board Parliamentarian appointment and promised very little work in the job, I accepted. Coming from a family where hospitality is the common denominator, with customer interaction running through my veins, I jumped at the chance to build the NARCA message in Washington since shaking hands and raising a glass many times got the job done.
Most importantly, NARCA has brought me life relationships that I will always cherish. I have attended weddings of NARCA members and their children, held their babies and grandchildren, and traveled the world, laughing and crying together. As I enter the later phase of my legal career, it will be these relationships that endure well past the last time I turn out the lights in my office for the last time.
As for the NCBA of the future, the View From My Window is bright, as long as our members show commitment, with their time AND their dollars. We need to cultivate a more diverse practice group as the association can provide leadership, education and government outreach to related areas of the law that until now haven’t had our wisdom and expertise. I hope for a sustainable and rational board that will guide our members through whatever winds come blowing from Washington and our state capitals, and I wish for a continued landscape of Excellence that our clients, our policymakers, and team members in our offices have come to Expect.
Nice job NARCA. It doesn’t get any better than this.
When I think of the National Creditors Bar Association (NCBA) the first word that comes to mind is family.
by Joann Needleman – President 2013-2015
My family history began in 1997 when I attended my first NCBA conference in Chicago. There were three things I remember about that conference. One, the first two people I met are still my dearest friends today; two, I learned more in two days about the practice of collection law than I had learned at any time after law school; and three, I picked up a client and was soon referred business. Other than the birth of my son and a few skips in later years, I have never missed an NCBA conference. Why would I?
Family relationships are not perfect and often times can be dysfunctional. NCBA is no different. Yet for every holiday, birthday, anniversary or special event you manage to show up, send a card or make a phone call even though the time before you said, “I’m never going to be with these people again”. NCBA is no different. We look forward to every conference, rather every reunion, because it’s time to reconnect with those pesky relatives that, for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to stay away from.
One of the greatest achievements in my life was being the first woman President of NCBA. Much like supportive and non-judgmental parents, NCBA afforded me that opportunity. The association continues to provide a judgment-free environment encouraging its members to grow and succeed.
The NCBA family began with a patriarch and no tribute to NCBA would be complete without recognizing Don Kramer and the vision of an organization he wrote on a cocktail napkin in a New York City bar back 1993. Much like the founding fathers, the foundation of NCBA has remained unchanged for 25 years which is a testament to his foresight. I never appreciated his wisdom in continuing to have the past Presidents remain involved in NCBA until I became one. Past Presidents have more to offer than interfering with the day to day operations and decisions. We are the “elders” (not by age, mind you) who have walked in the shoes of the organization. Our collective experiences provide perspective, history and possibly the folklore of NCBA. Past Presidents provide the text for the next generation of NCBA members who want to see the association move into the next quarter century.
So, cheers to NCBA. George Burns once said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family... in another city”. Mr. Burns must have attended a NCBA conference, probably in Las Vegas!!
by Harvey Moore – President 2015-2017
In 2000, I was just starting out in the sphere of retail collection law. Prior to that I had spent 20 years as a business and business litigation attorney and was tangentially involved in this area of the law through my firm’s defense practice.
My friend and mentor Steve Wilansky told me that if I was going to be successful as a collection lawyer, I had to be active in NARCA (now the National Creditors Bar Association). Don’t sit on the sidelines, he advised. Speak at conferences, get on a Committee or two. Actively participate on the listserv. Don’t blend in, be an innovator, an educator, a leader. Let people know who you are and what you bring to the table.
Better words could not have been said to me. I took Steve’s advice and started speaking at Conferences. How many of you remember Eric Berman (may he rest in peace) and I sharing the stage together with our presentations on Debtor and Consolidator Scams?
I continued to take Steve’s advice to heart but it was not only about what I could gain through my involvement but what I could give back, and, as a result, I spent 13 years as a Board Member of this wonderful organization including 2 as its President.
Why? Because the organization is important to the survival of the legal collections profession. How often do we hear clients say that they will only retain attorneys that are members of NARCA? This is because NARCA Attorneys are Professional, Ethical and Responsible. NARCA Attorneys are also the best educated attorneys regarding the issues related to legal debt collections. NARCA Attorneys attend Conferences, Attorney Workshops and Webinars. NARCA Attorney share ideas on the listserv. NARCA attorneys keep up to date. NARCA Attorneys are competitors but they are friendly competitors who at the end of the day are not afraid to share best practices that help strengthen the legal collection industry as a whole. And NARCA and its Attorneys are recognized by the Courts, Federal and State Legislators, Judges and Government Regulators as subject matter experts on legal collections.
I cannot say that it is only because of my active involvement in the National Creditors Bar Association that my firm's collection practice has grown. But I have to believe that it helped and for that I am thankful.
Don Kramer coined a phrase that reverberates today: NARCA WORKS. It has worked for our industry for 25 years and just because we have changed the name of our organization, this does not mean that the message that Don gave us does not remain true today or that it will not remain true 25 years ago. We all must continue Don’s credo and make sure that 25 years from now our successors will be able to say with pride, as I say today: The National Creditors Bar Association Works.
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