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In a special board meeting Monday night, Bar Association of San Francisco leaders voted to remove the word “interim” from interim Executive Director Daniel Burkhardt’s title. When Burkhardt arrived at BASF in 2003 as deputy director and chief operating officer, he joined a staff led by Martha Whetstone who, like Burkhardt, had earlier worked in Washington, D.C., as part of the Clinton administration. After Whetstone resigned abruptly from BASF last April, Burkhardt was named to fill the position temporarily while the bar association conducted what it described at the time as a national search for a permanent replacement. BASF President Nanci Clarence touted Burkhardt as the first openly gay man to head a major metropolitan bar association. His hiring, Clarence said, “furthers our commitment to ensuring that the legal profession is led by people of all backgrounds and looks like the population it serves.” Burkhardt is the third director to fill the post since 2001, when Drucilla Ramey � who many bar leaders still talk about fondly � stepped down after more than 15 years in the position. When Whetstone, who came to BASF with close ties to prominent national Democrats, left after slightly more than three years with the organization, it had a membership of roughly 8,000, a staff of nearly 100, and a budget of almost $10 million. Burkhardt “came in at a time when there was a great deal of concern among the staff for the way things had been going, and frankly, not just the staff but people in the legal community,” said James Seff, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman who previously had served as BASF president and is a former member of the executive search committee. “And he brought a calming, steady hand to the operation and has helped it prosper in the way that it should. He’s done a bang-up job.” In some ways, Burkhardt may have inherited a better situation than either of the two directors who followed Ramey. Some board members pointed out, for instance, that BASF now has a chief financial officer and a development director in place, positions that had long been left unfilled. “Am I committed to being here a really long time? Absolutely yes,” Burkhardt said. He already appears to have won at least some staff over. When Burkhardt addressed them for the first time as executive director Tuesday morning, longtime BASF employee Barbara Fanning said there was a “spontaneous burst of applause.” “We know Dan. We wanted him, and everyone was just really excited,” said Fanning, director of continuing legal education and a 31-year veteran of the bar association. All told, Clarence said the committee had contact with about 70 potential candidates. Thirty submitted resumes and six were called in for interviews. Three candidates came back for a final round of interviews before the job was offered to Burkhardt. Some board members called the executive search BASF’s most thorough in recent memory. “After two disappointing arrangements, I think we felt compelled to make sure we got it absolutely right this time,” said Seff.
‘There’s no mystery about the organization with [Daniel Burkhardt] and vice versa. This is not a situation of anyone rolling the dice.’

JAMES DONATO BASF president-elect

“And it was helpful to see the very wide range of diverse candidates that we saw. He is a diversity candidate himself, although a lot of us didn’t know that,” Seff added. “In my mind that’s not relevant, but it’s going to be relevant in some people’s mind.” Without identifying any candidates by name Tuesday, Clarence said the people under consideration included political figures, deans of professional schools, leaders of national law firms and heads of nonprofits. Of those called in for interviews, Clarence said, three were women of color. “I would say that the search was national, but the talent we drew from tended to be regional,” she said. BASF was still negotiating a contract with Burkhardt as of Tuesday, Clarence said, adding that his compensation would be on par with directors at other major metropolitan bar organizations. Clarence said Burkhardt’s work as interim director � most notably the way he weaved diversity into all aspects of his work, and his negotiation for a lease of new office space � moved his name to the top of the pile. His accomplishments aside, it was also to his advantage that Burkhardt was a known commodity. “There’s no mystery about the organization with him and vice versa,” said President-Elect James Donato, a partner at Cooley Godward Kronish. “This is not a situation of anyone rolling the dice.” Though Burkhardt worked closely with Whetstone, he stressed that he would not simply follow in her footsteps. “Martha brought good things to the organization, but I’m a different person.” Due to a reporting error in a Jan. 31 story about the Bar Association of San Francisco’s new executive director, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s James Seff was misidentified as a member of the BASF board of directors. Seff is a former BASF president and he was a member of the executive search committee. We regret the error.

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