Ethics for Good Founders to receive the KBF Robert K. Weary Award
Monday, May 20, 2019
Posted by: Meg Wickham
Ethics for Good Founders to receive the Kansas Bar Foundation’s Robert K. Weary Award
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 20, 2019)—
The Kansas Bar Foundation (KBF) Board of Trustees selected the Hon. Steve Leben, Mark Hinderks and Stan Davis, founders of Ethics for Good, to receive the foundation’s most prestigious award, the Robert K. “Weary” Award. The award recognizes lawyers or law firms for exemplary service and commitment to the goals of the KBF.
“The Ethics for Good CLE (Continuing Legal Education) program has been one of the Kansas Bar Foundation’s most lasting and fruitful partnerships. It was an easy decision to honor a program that does so much good, both professionally and philanthropically, with this year’s award,” stated Amy F. Cline, KBF President.
In its twentieth year, Ethics for Good is a program developed by Judge Leben, Hinderks and Davis. Each year in June, (the last month in the continuing legal education reporting period), attorneys are looking for ways to meet their ethics education requirements.
"This all began one day when two casual lunch conversation threads intersected: we bemoaned how mind-numbingly boring most professional responsibility CLEs had become, and then drifted into a separate discussion about what project we could do as lawyers that might create some good, both objectively and for the community perception of lawyers. All of a sudden, we realized these things could be put together — if we could be funny and interesting while still providing real content, we could get lawyers to contribute the CLE money they were spending anyway to a group of good local charitable and educational organizations. We challenged ourselves to actually launch — and it worked," stated co-founder, Mark Hinderks.
Twenty years later, the program is still one of the most well attended events for obtaining two of the required twelve continuing legal education credits required for Kansas attorneys each year. Numerous nonprofits in Kansas and Missouri have received a total of $711,000 generated by the proceeds from the program.
How exactly does this all come together? Davis describes the process.
“Largely non-linear until about the first of May. Right after each year’s programs, we begin exchanging ideas for the next year. We typically meet first on April 1 (not an accident) to begin the process of identifying the program segments. The meetings of the entire cast are always a treat - we collaborate well, laugh a lot, but also have the chance to have serious discussions about ethics and professionalism issues. Our goal is the be sure our programs contain real substance, presented with humor as appropriate. We end up with a script (thanks to Mark) and great slides (thanks to Steve). And every program seems to have some improv, no matter what the script says, so we surprise each other while on stage with regularity.”
In addition to Davis, Hinderks and Leben, several other Kansas attorneys or judges have been co-presenters. The production this year features attorneys Jim Griffin, Todd LaSala, Jacy Hurst, Todd Ruskamp and the Hon. Melissa Standridge. Ethics for Good will be on June 26th at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and on June 28th at the Polsky Theatre at Johnson County Community College. This program has been approved for 2.0 CLE credit hours, including 2.0 Ethics & Professionalism credit hours in Kansas and Missouri.
When asked if there was a favorite year, each founder had a unique response.
“The most memorable for me was the 10th anniversary program. We had a show-closing dance with Mark, Stan, and me in tuxes and top hats—though the top hats were made out of colored styrofoam. My wife was in the audience for that one and, as she can tell you, I can’t dance. So that was quite a show,” shared Judge Leben.
“I always think the last program was the most fun, because they are all so much fun,” stated Davis. “The total silliness of our Wizard of Oz send-up ten years ago (and the absurdity of being able to play Dorothy) was quite a highlight for me. It’s been a joy to see the newer members of the cast, who are the future of Ethics for Good, come into their own in the last several years.”
“My favorite year was the first year, when we finally took the step to launch this concept of combining CLE, fun and charity. It's too easy to talk about things like this without making the effort to do them. Once we did that, we were off! Of course, then there was the year we all dressed in costumes from the Wizard of Oz and did a full-blown theatrical skit around it,” stated Hinderks.
Two decades is a long time to keep a program fresh and well-attended. Judge Leben credits two things with this success.
“I think two things have kept this going for 20 years. The first is that we came up with the idea so that we could do something to give back. The program has far exceeded our expectations on that. But the other thing is that we’re good friends and we enjoy getting a chance to do this together each year.”
The foundation awarded the first Weary award in 2000 to Robert K. Weary, despite his objection to receiving it. Mr. Weary was a member of the KBF Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2000 and served on the KBF Investment Committee. In 1997, Mr. Weary donated the lead gift for the Kansas Law Center building campaign. Mr. Weary passed away in 2001. In 2017, the Kansas Law Center (home to the Kansas Bar Association and the Kansas Bar Foundation) was rededicated and renamed the Gernon Law Center to honor the memory of the late Robert L. Gernon, former Kansas Supreme Court Justice.
The Weary Award will be presented during a ceremony on June 20th in Topeka. To see bios and photos of the recipients, visit https://www.ksbar.org/kbf-awards. To view a list of past award recipients, visit https://www.ksbar.org/award-robert-k-weary.
About the Kansas Bar Foundation
For over 60 years, the Kansas Bar Foundation has funded opportunities for the citizens of Kansas for charitable and educational projects that foster the welfare, honor and integrity of the legal system by improving its accessibility, equality and uniformity, and by enhancing the public opinion of the role of lawyers in our society. Since 1984, with funding from Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, the Foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants to provide legal services to those who cannot afford them and for educational programs in our schools for our children.