ALA Conference Recap: Ken Sockolov

The ALA Annual Conference and Expo may have taken place last month but the lessons and inspiration continue to rejuvenate our local administrators!

Last week, Karen Wilhelmi shared her first-time attendee experience and Cindy Snook shared a few tips she learned from her favorite sessions.

Today, Ken Sockolov, Chief Operating Officer for Boutin Jones, shares his perspective of the recent conference:

Snow in April!

It’s always good to get away from the daily task of putting out fires and checking chores off the list, giving me time to put some thought to those items that aren’t at the top of current priorities.  Additionally, the annual conference gives one perspective on which topics are currently hot in the legal industry and lets you discuss those topics with others outside of your own organization.  The ALA Annual Conference assists in that with Idea Exchanges between firms of like-size, as well as having educational sessions on various topics.  I really like that.  If nothing else, it’s wonderful to hear that others have the same problems with trying to go paperless, addressing succession planning, and keeping up with constant technology changes. The breadth of educational topics is one of the most appealing aspects of these conferences.

My favorite session of the conference was one of the talks which accompany open sessions that include all attendees.  A professor for the University of Virginia, Mary Gentile PhD, gave us her insights on addressing ethics in the work place.  Her take on trying to “teach” ethical behavior lies somewhere between “that’s a good idea” and “most people recognize an ethical question when they see it.”

Photo by Ken Sockolov

Dr. Gentile tells a story about a business school graduate who, while interviewing for a job, was asked if they taught ethics at his school.  He replied, “Yes.”  The follow-up question was about what he learned in the class.  He (the student) replied that there were various theories of ethics (think, Aristotle, Plato, et al), and that you need to know them in order for you to choose the one to apply in a given situation . . . That is, know which one to use as an excuse for not doing the right thing!

So, if learning about ethics isn’t necessary or very useful, what can you teach?  Dr. Gentile has put together a program that helps people move past awareness and analysis to action when they run into ethical issues in the workplace, training them to think about how to put forward their objections when they occur.  Without going into detail, Giving Voice to Values gives you a map of who to talk to, how much to push, or what to expect.

Rather than teaching you about ethics, she wants people to know how to advance ethical behavior.

Aside from the educational aspects, I was only slightly disappointed that there was no live music at this conference.  While we expect to spend hours (days) in sessions educating ourselves, the wind down after a day of speeches and classes is really welcome.  At least the wine and food were plentiful.

Many thanks to Ken for sharing not only his conference experience with us but another snow picture!

Information about future conferences can be found here and, while there are no conferences planned for Hawaii in the near future (sigh), the 2018 Conference will be held in National Harbor, Maryland. (Check out the photos from the resort and convention center website – the location looks fantastic!)  

Also, if you were not able to attend the Annual Conference this year but don’t want to miss out on some of the sessions, please visit the link to the Virtual Conference Sessions. What a great way to keep current on what our fellow administrators have been learning!



Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: DeeAnn MacLaughlin

When we first added the blog feature to our SVALA website I thought it would be fun to learn a little bit about the board members so presented the Board Member Spotlight idea to the board. The overwhelming response was positive but everyone assured me they were very, very boring.

Ha! We haven’t seen one boring spotlight yet! (If you need to catch up on the spotlight interviews, click on the “Meet the Board: 2016-2017” tab at the top of the page and then click on a board member’s name. You will be directed to that person’s spotlight feature.)

Adventures in the air

Speaking of not boring! I am happy DeeAnn sent pictures along with her interview or I would not have believed she had such an adventurous spirit!

While serving on the Board of Directors with DeeAnn I knew she was friendly, diligent and hard-working with a delightful laugh but I had no idea how much her heart was truly an outdoorsman. The only time she sits must be when she is taking the minutes at a board meeting. Just reading about everything she finds time to do makes me want to get outside and go hiking (hey, it could happen).

Tell me you don’t feel the same once you read about DeeAnn!

DeeAnn MacLaughlin
Accounting Manager
Boutin Jones Inc.
SVALA Board Position: Secretary

Adventures with family

Tell us about your professional life. I am the accounting manager at Boutin Jones Inc. and have happily worked here for 15 years. When I first started at Boutin, back in 2002, we were a third of the size we are today.

Prior to that, I worked for two CPA firms. My first professional job was for a CPA that did tax returns for NFL football players. It was so exciting to receive those size 14 shoe boxes full of bizarre receipts; it was like an accountant’s Christmas! I was undecided if I wanted to become a CPA which lead me to give the private industry a try. Working on one set of books vs. thirty was very appealing.

I love my job and the people I work with so, unless I strike it rich, I can see myself working here for many years to come.

Adventures in the snow

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? Truth be told, I was a victim of peer pressure. I was initially asked to be a part of the “nominating committee” for the upcoming board for 2015/16. I was a little confused by the invitation but flattered to be asked (really, all I remember hearing was there will be wine … I was like, OK!).

Joelle Stone and Jessica Miller eventually confessed (strategically after my second glass of wine) that they had an opening on the board for the Law Firm Leadership Luncheon and Holiday Event Chair.  I was thinking….you want me to do WHAT!? ME!? The extent of my event planning experience was limited to my kids’ birthday parties.  I hesitantly decided to step out of my comfort zone and agreed to take on the challenge.  I am now serving my second term as secretary.

Adventures on the water

Tell us something about your personal life/passion. I am married and have two children; my daughter is 20 and my son is 13.

Outside of work, I lead a pretty active and adventurous lifestyle. Depending on the season I do a little of this and a lot of that.

Right now I’m totally enjoying the epic snow and getting my money’s worth from my season pass and snowboarding every week (except for Super Bowl weekend when my Patriot’s won an unbelievable comeback…and no I’m not a bandwagon fan). Fun fact: I was actually at Tom Brady’s very first game against Peyton Manning and the Colts back in 2001 (when I was visiting my husband’s family in Boston).

Adventures on land

Besides snowboarding, I enjoy riding motorcycles. Nowadays, we do more dirt bike riding than street riding and I’ve had my motorcycle license for about 17 years. We do a lot of boating – we have a fishing boat, sail boat and a smaller aluminum boat plus four kayaks. We enjoy camping which we’ve graduated from a tent to a trailer. We camp in the Sierras and go forest dirt bike riding, or camp on the coast and go ocean fishing on kayaks.

Our newest love is our cabin that we just bought right outside of Tahoe. It’s a two story, 4 bed, 2 bath on a half-acre with the American River flowing behind us and the Pacific Crest trail along the side of us…overlooking our ski resort (no, I’m not bragging…these are just the facts people.)!!

Adventures in the new cabin

The history of the property and family that owned it is quite interesting. It was a fifth- generation owned home with the family going back to the early 1800’s. The town we live in is named after the family (which is pretty cool). Every year the annual snow pack is measured in my backyard.

I also love to travel. My most recent big trip was three weeks in Spain to visit one of my oldest childhood friends. No kids, no husbands…this was a well-deserved girls-only trip. Me and two other childhood friends traveled together and, boy, was it a trip of a lifetime! Included here are some pictures of my last few vacations to Spain, Maui, Kauai and Cabo.

Adventures around the world

All in all, finding the balance between work, play and happiness has been quite the journey. I’ve been blessed in so many ways and even through my struggles I’ve found contentment in learning valuable lessons. My struggles are my testimony!

I don’t know about you but I am exhausted just reading about all that activity! From the photos, it sure looks like DeeAnn has found the key to her happiness which makes her a delight to be around.

DeeAnn won’t be on the 2017 – 2018 Board of Directors (I mean, how would she even have time?!) but I am hoping she will consider serving again in the future (there will be wine!). Our chapter has definitely benefited from this energetic woman.

Thanks to DeeAnn for sharing her photos and her story with us. It was about as far from boring as you can get!


Board Member Spotlight

Getting to Know Your President

No, not that President. We are spotlighting our very own SVALA President, Cheri Blethen!

Cheri and her husband, Mark
Cheri and her husband, Mark

I didn’t know Cheri very well when she first joined the Board of Directors as the Website Chair several years ago. I have been very fortunate, however, to have served with her for many years and to now be able to call her a friend and trusted colleague.

My first impression of Cheri was that she was fiercely dedicated. She worked diligently on the SVALA website and took personal pride in making it look the best for our members. I soon came to realize Cheri was not only dedicated to the SVALA and her firm, Boutin Jones, as the IT and Office Services Manager, but to her family.

Cheri and her daughter, Megan
Cheri and her daughter, Megan

Cheri has a huge heart and is an amazing mom, wife and grandmother and clearly lives life to the fullest! Just check out some of her pictures – she’s everywhere!

Cheri tells us more about her experience and how she came to be involved with the SVALA:

I am the IT and Office Services Manager at Boutin Jones Inc. I have also worked as a paralegal in corporate, tax, estate planning, and real estate. I got my start in the legal field by working at my sister’s law firm in Redding each summer. I worked at McDonough Holland & Allen for a few attorneys in the corporate/tax/estate planning practice group. Three of the attorneys I worked with left MH&A to start their own firm, Dentino, Powell & Di Giusto, and I joined them and pretty much did every job necessary from legal secretary to paralegal to bookkeeper to office manager. The Dentino Di Giusto firm later joined forces with Boutin Gibson to become Boutin Dentino Gibson Di Giusto and Hodell, and now Boutin Jones. I am very lucky to work for a great firm and work with an excellent group of co-workers.

Cheri and Mark at the Paul McCartney concert!
Cheri and Mark at the Paul McCartney concert!

Shauna Manner asked if I would serve on the SVALA board about five years ago and I held the position of Website Chair for four years and am currently serving as President.

I love music – any type of music. My husband and I have a few favorite local bands and we try to go to their gigs as often as possible. I love going to concerts of all types. We had the extreme fortune of seeing Paul McCartney at the Golden One Center recently. In my spare time (what is that?), I like to sew for myself and others and have done a few weddings for co-workers and friends. My husband and I have shared a love for Harley Davidsons and taking long and short rides as time and weather permits. We are also huge Giants fans!

Jason and Haley
Jason and Haley

I come from a very large family of six brothers and two sisters and their extended families. I have a fantastic husband and we have one daughter, Meagan. She is the apple of my eye. My husband has a son from a prior marriage, Bryan, and I love him like he is my own. He has blessed us with three wonderful grandchildren – Steven, Jason, and Haley – and a wonderful daughter-in-law, Jesse.

I enjoy being a part of SVALA. The networking benefits are immeasurable and the friends I have made are priceless.

Cheri's son, Bryan and grandson, Steven
Cheri’s son, Bryan and grandson, Steven

Thank you, Cheri. I never would have guessed Cheri rode a Harley! I told you she was fierce!

I have also learned over the years that she is a strong leader who is committed to doing her best for all SVALA members and is able to roll up her sleeves to do the tough work when necessary.

It is a pleasure to know Cheri and I am proud to serve as a Board Member under her sound leadership.