California Lawyers Association

A Farewell Message from Your President and Board Chair

By President Emilio Varanini and
Chair of the Board of Representatives Betty Williams 

Thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and the availability of vaccines, the CLA Board was able to gather in person last month in Sacramento. Words can’t express how wonderful it felt to be able to reconnect face-to-face with our colleagues for the first time in 18 months.    

The meeting was bittersweet, as it was our penultimate meeting as your leaders. This is our final joint message since Betty’s one-year term as board chair is ending and Emilio finishes up the second and final year of his two-year presidency.   

We thank you for the opportunity to be part of your CLA experience, and share some highlights of our time in office. We’ve worked hard to ensure that CLA fulfills its mission of promoting excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law. We’ve also endeavored to see that CLA adds value to you and your practice, especially during these trying times.

The ever-shifting nature of the global pandemic required us to frequently change our priorities and procedures accordingly. Most of our meetings and events – including the upcoming Annual Meeting – continue to be held remotely. The silver lining to this virtual environment is that it allows people to join who might otherwise not be able to travel to an in-person event. It also allows for meetings where some people are in person and others dial in remotely. We learned that we could make these and other changes necessary to serve you.

Here are some other highlights of the past year, thanks in large part to your generous leadership efforts:

  • Within the organization and our Sections, we have enhanced and deepened the value we offer to our membership and the profession. To this end, we have rolled out several new member benefits and developed the organization’s first strategic plan. To learn more about the plan and to share your perspectives, join us at one of two upcoming Town Halls on September 14 and September 17.
  • On the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment last year, our Civics Engagement and Outreach Committee created a toolkit that teachers and lawyers can use to educate fifth graders on the history and significance of the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. The toolkit is still available for download
  • We continue to work on the commitment we made on behalf of our members, the profession, and the public, to collectively address structural racism and discrimination in the 21st century and to ensure justice for all. Our Racial Justice Committee has taken the lead in our public education, member education, member engagement, and legislative/other advocacy efforts.
  • Recognizing that the past year has been stressful for many of us, our Health and Wellness Committee has provided resources to help boost your mental and physical well-being. 
  • We have strengthened our ties with the judiciary, including co-sponsoring the upcoming Judicial Diversity Summit on September 14, 21, and 28, and our other work with the California Judges Association such as the joint remote proceedings task force and the civility task force.
  • We have used our collective voice as the largest statewide bar association to advocate for our members, the legal profession, and the public in keeping with our mission. Whether it’s meeting with lawmakers in Sacramento on our annual Legislative Day, supporting various items of legislation as CLA, taking a stand against hate and in favor of the rule of law in public comments from CLA throughout our term, or collaborating on resolutions at the ABA House of Delegates, we’re using our voice to improve our profession, the laws, and our system of justice. ABA resolutions from CLA included one on Title IX that was just passed at the Annual Meeting of the ABA House in August as well as prior resolutions on racial justice issues such as CLA’s anti-lynching resolution. We encourage CLA and its members to continue to be engaged and involved in these efforts!

The next few months are a time of transition for CLA, as your new leaders are sworn in at the Annual Meeting on September 24th, and CLA recruits a new executive director. Going forward, you can expect regular updates from incoming President Jeremy Evans and Chair of the Board of Representatives Ryan Barron. Betty will continue her leadership for CLA as its newly elected Vice President!

We are immensely grateful for the support we’ve received from CLA members, leadership, and staff during our time in leadership. Whether it’s online or in person, we hope to see you soon. 

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