California Lawyers Association

Association and Foundation Initiatives – Status Report

The following is a status report of all CLA and CLF initiative projects.   These projects are being worked on by CLA Committees, the Foundation, the CLA President, the CLF President, and/or by Ellen Miller, Associate Executive Director for Initiatives and External Relations and by our Initiatives Coordinator[1].

California Lawyers Association Initiatives

CLA Access to Justice (A2J) Projects

FreeLegalAnswers Limited Scope Pro Bono Project*

This project provides limited scope pro bono assistance in the areas of housing (evictions), family (changes in spousal support and custody) and employment as a result of COVID-19 and the recent Northern California fires to low income Californians who are 400% below the federal poverty line using the ABA’s Freelegalanswers (www.freelegalanswers.org) platform. Volunteer attorneys sign up, take 6 hours of online training [2] and answer questions posed by those in need. Volunteers can go directly to the FreeLegalAnswers platform anytime of the day or night and select questions they would like to answer from their office or mobile device. All proposed answers will be sent to a subject matter “expert” to review prior to posting to ensure quality. Volunteers from CLA’s Family Law, Labor and Employment, and Real Property Law Sections are acting in the capacity of expert reviewing attorneys; other CLA members have also signed up to volunteer for the project. We will also launch a special recruitment campaign targeted to CYLA (lawyers in their first 8 years of practice) to “cut their teeth” on this simple, limited risk pro bono project. 

Currently, the project is in its soft launch phase and we expect to start fielding questions within the next 2 weeks. This project is a joint effort of CLA, CLF and our partners Legal Access Alameda and Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative. 

Stakeholder Summits, in collaboration with Legal Aid Association of California and the California Access to Justice Commission*

Since 2019, we have planned the three stakeholder coordination meetings for legal services/ legal aid providers and policy makers to do a deep dive into a topic, map out who is working on what and create opportunities for collaboration.  Our first meeting was held September 2019, the second meeting held virtually in July 2020 with follow up meetings scheduled for September 2020 on the anticipated eviction tsunami and challenges delivering services to the elderly and victims of domestic violence.

Collaborating with the California Access to Justice Commission to educate lawyers on the importance of limited scope representation

The California Access to Justice Commission (CAJC) has recently published a comprehensive guide entitled How to Grow Your Business While Representing Moderate Income Clients.  We plan to hold a series of webinars for young lawyers and solo practitioners on how to effectively incorporate limited scope (often referred to as unbundled or segregated) representation into a practice.  This helps address the justice gap and creates a new cadre of lawyers who can effectively further develop their practices while also serving moderate- and low-income Californians.  

In addition, CLA President Emilio Varanini and Ellen Miller have been appointed to the CAJC where we are actively exploring linkages and opportunities between the Commission as a thought leader in this space and CLA as a convenor and implementor.

Navigating COVID-19 Issues Video Project*

In response to the pandemic, we created a video project targeted to the public where CLA volunteers provided basic legal information in a variety of areas impacted by COVID-19 including Bankruptcy, Employee issues, Employer issues, Family (custody, spousal support, DV), Federal stimulus packages/CARES issues, Healthcare/Telehealth, Small Business, Tax and Tenant Rights/Eviction.  Currently, there are over 40 videos in the series, many are available in both English and Spanish:  https://calawyers.org/california-lawyers-association/videos-related-to-covid-19-pandemic/

Supporting Section-Sponsored Pro Bono Projects*    

Several sections are considering section specific pro bono projects. We are working with our insurance provider to provide an insurance policy or rider for members who want to participate in these CLA section specific pro bono projects.  

We are working with the Tax Section on a pro bono coaching program for tax appeals. The Trusts and Estate Section is working with us to make headway on its Elder Law platform, a video in Spanish about guardianships, and on updating the former State Bar public focused consumer brochure on Wills and Trusts.  In addition, the Litigation Section has a standing committee on Access to Justice and Civics and is developing several projects post pandemic. 

Committee Support for Access to Justice Projects

In 2019 and 2020, the CLA President and I took the lead on A2J projects and drafting CLA responses to policy and legislative proposals in the A2J space.   In 2020-2021, a formal Access to Justice Advisory Committee will be convened”. 

CLA Civics Engagement and Outreach (CEO) projects

Toolkits for Lawyers in the Classroom*

The CEO Committee developed a new toolkit for use in the classroom in time for Law Day/Law Week (May 2020), Constitution Day (September 2020) or to accompany any discussion around the U.S. Constitution, the right to vote generally, or women’s right to vote.   This toolkit focuses on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment (providing women with the right to vote), is intended for the 5th Grade audience and includes:  

  • A 30-minute PowerPoint presentation with Speakers Notes
  • Activity to accompany an Ice Breaker Exercise
  • Additional information that addresses how the Spanish Flu of 1918 may have contributed to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

CLA volunteers are able to provide this training in the classroom (virtually by Zoom or other online platform) through the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year or in person for the 2020-2021 academic year, provided the State of California’s Shelter in Place orders have been lifted.  Volunteers are also available to consult with teachers if they have questions.    

Did You Know Campaign*

In July, the CEO Committee launched the Did You Know Campaign that develops a topical fact regarding civics for social media.    July focused on what civics means to you; August will focus on Sojourner Truth, the abolitionist and suffragette critical to the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote; September will focus on the history and role of Labor Day; and October will address voting rights.  The campaign is focused on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram under the hashtag #CLACivics.  Board members are encouraged to forward, reshare, and interact with these postings to your networks.

Statewide No Animals Allowed Program for 5th Grade Students*

The CEO Committee is working on a virtual afternoon experience that mirrors last year’s civics program at the Annual Meeting.  Using the No Animals Allowed curriculum, the Chief Justice and Justice Judith McConnel will be asked to provide welcoming remarks and a plenary presentation.  In lieu of tabletop breakouts, we will use Zoom break out rooms to pair judges and lawyers from around the state with eight to ten 5th grade students; judges and lawyers will use the curriculum to facilitate a discussion about how rules and the rule of law impact our world.  While the committee’s preference is to do this live, we are able to assist more schools, especially schools in the Central Valley, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and the Imperial Valley using a virtual platform. 

Voters Rights Program with the Beverly Hills Bar Association*

CLA was invited to co-produce a program for the public on voters’ rights with the Beverly Hills Bar Association.  The CEO Committee is taking the lead on this project. 

Train the Teachers Professional Development Program

The CEO Committee plans to develop a professional development program for teachers, using a virtual platform for 2021.  While several counties have been successful reintroducing civics into the curriculum at the school district level, there are very few professional development trainings to support this work.   The Committee plans to pilot in 2021 a virtual training modeled from a former Judicial Council’s program called On My Honor.  This project is a joint project with the CLF. 

Related, CLA is also the funder of the Power of Democracy’s Civics Awards that showcase schools that have developed outstanding civics initiatives and programs. 

Committee Support 

The CEO Committee, under the leadership of Jerrilyn Malana, has taken the lead on the above listed projects.   The Committee includes members of several Section Executive Committees who are passionate about civics outreach work and new members will also join for the 2020-21 bar year.

In addition to CEO sponsored projects, the following civics projects are also in development: 

Criminal Law Section Diverse Video Project*

The Criminal Law Section established a CEO subcommittee that plans to do a diversity video project to highlight diverse criminal law practitioners, judges, and possibly law students across the state of California using low cost tools such as iPhone or Zoom. Each speaker would be provided a brief script with four questions to answer with some general instruction:

  • Who are you?  A brief biography focusing on who you are and your diversity profile;
  • What’s your why?  Why did you become a lawyer and were there any obstacles you had to overcome (i.e. did you know any lawyers?)
  • What fueled or inspired you to become a prosecutor or defense lawyer?  (i.e. Social Justice, Desire to make the world a safer place? Desire to make a difference)
  • How has the combination of your diverse background and experience positively contributed to your practice?  What did this lead to? 

Each video is intended to be brief, roughly 5 minutes each. The “self-interviews” would be edited and made available on CLA’s YouTube channel and could be used for various CLA diversity outreach and civics engagement efforts.  

Policymaker and Statewide Summits

CLA is exploring how we can best partner with the Chief Justice’s Power of Democracy steering committee on the next Stakeholder Summit and help raise awareness and support various youth alternative and restorative courts i.e. collaborative and teen courts around the state or how we could partner with the California Association of Youth Courts. Both these efforts would also be in conjunction with CLF. 

CLA Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Projects

CLA is working on a variety of internally focused and external pipeline projects to increase diversity in the profession.

Internally focused projects include policy development and efforts to support CLA wide opportunities: 

Diversity in Education Policy*

A model diversity in educational program policy for CLA wide events was approved last fall and has been rolled out for CLA wide events (including Annual Meeting and the Solo and Small Firm Summit).  We are now working with sections to discuss whether sections will adopt this policy, develop their own or refine and/or codify their current practice into a section-wide policy.  Part of creating an inclusive environment at the section and committee level is to be transparent in our commitment to diversity by posting our policies and diversity plans on the CLA website (if available). 

Diversity in Publications*

In lieu of a model CLA-wide policy, our CLA-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee has opted for a support approach to encourage diverse author participation and to encourage Sections to devote all or part of a publication edition to racial justice or diversity issues.   The Committee is currently preparing a master calendar of all CLA publications that includes detailed information about each publication, deadlines and editor contact information and is planning a webinar on the benefits of publication for professional and business development.   Once finalized, both resources will be shared with CYLA and affinity and identity bars statewide. 

Appointments Policy

The DEI Committee will be proposing revisions to the CLA-wide appointments policy in the 2020-2021 bar year. 

Survey of Contacts/Outreach to Identity and Affinity Bars*

In addition to internal policy development, the DEI committee has just launched a survey for all CLA leaders to identify who has linkages with identity and affinity bars.  Many of our leaders wear multiple leadership hats in CLA and other bars.  This will help the committee work with our dual leadership to help reach out to external identity and affinity bars to build a bridge to CLA participation and collaboration.  The DEI committee is also an available resource for CLA sections and committees interested in diversifying their recruitment efforts and those looking for diverse speakers and authors. 

Section Specific Diversity Plan and Fellowship Programs (DFPs)

Several presentations have been made to sections on the State Bar’s demographic/diversity data and/or am working with several sections to help develop section diversity plans, diversity fellowship programs or more comprehensive projects to diversify the practice area and address pipeline issues.   These sections include the Antitrust, UCL, and Privacy, Criminal Law, Environmental Law, Real Property Law, Tax, and Worker’s Compensation.   Both the Environmental Law Section and the Labor and Employment Law Section (ELS) have active Diversity Fellowship Programs or Diversity Scholarship Programs.  ELS’ DFP program is co-sponsored by CLF.

CLA Wide Diversity Report*

We plan to issue our first CLA Annual Diversity Report by the end of the year. The report will provide baseline data on our internal diversity efforts.  To support this work, we have modified the Section Executive Committee and Committee application form and the CLA-wide educational submission forms to collect demographic data. 

Externally focused/pipeline projects include:

Diverse Lawyers Video Project*

Similar to the Criminal Law Section project discussed above, the CLA-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Outreach Council (DOC) is working on a diverse video project to capture pathways of diverse attorneys into practice.    This project is a joint project of the CLF. 

Judicial Diversity Summit

The DOC is taking the lead planning the next Judicial Diversity Summit in conjunction with the Judicial Council.  This event takes place every 4-5 years and creates the strategic agenda of issues to address to increase judicial diversity. A final report from the 2016 Judicial Summit was just finalized and accepted by the State Bar (the Summit host in 2016) and identifies six goals that have been in the works.  CLF is a co-sponsor of this important event.  

Speakers Bureau Supporting CaliforniaLAW High School Academies and Community College Pathway to Law Programs

The DOC is working on curating a speakers bureau for members to support the 22 Law Academies and 27 Community Colleges that are participating in the pathway to law program.  Volunteers can also perform a variety of roles beyond lawyers in the classroom presentations including mentoring and supporting LSAT preparation. 

Diversity Leadership Summit

CLA is planning leadership summits as part of both the bar relations function and diversity work.  The first summit will take place in 2021.  This project is a joint project of the CLF. 

Racial Justice Work*

CLA’s new Racial Justice Committee is engaged in a variety of work that bolsters our diversity and access to justice efforts.   The Committee has been highly focused on both public and member education/engagement and advocacy.  Their weekly Town Hall meetings for members of CLA and the broader legal community discuss macro issues i.e. how racial inequities impact lawyering and access to law school, civil rights, access to justice, access to healthcare and also specific issues i.e. how to be a lawyer observer at a protest, how to file Section 1983 cases, access police disciplinary records, how to handle microaggressions in the courtroom and the nuts and bolts of police disciplinary actions.  Many of the Town Halls have been co-hosted by CLA Sections and external bar associations.  The group is also actively tracking legislation and recently introduced three resolutions to the ABA House of Delegates on police decertification, anti-lynching and forcibly removing peaceful citizens from vehicles.  

Annual Stakeholder Convening*

Given the various stakeholders in the DEI space, CLA will again convene an annual meeting of key diversity stakeholders to discuss projects and explore opportunities for collaboration.

Companion Piece for Bar Associations to the Judicial Council’s Diversity Toolkit for Courts*

In 2019, the Judicial Council created a new toolkit called Pathways to Judicial Diversity.  The toolkit is designed to help judges and courts encourage diverse attorneys and students to pursue judicial careers.  CLA is developing a companion piece for bar associations to successfully partner with courts as part of its bar relations and diversity work.

California Lawyers Foundation Initiatives

The California Lawyers Foundation mission is to carry on charitable and educational activities, including the making of grants for charitable and educational purposes, the provision of educational programs and resources, and activities that promote excellence, diversity, and inclusion in the legal profession, fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law, access to justice, and greater civic engagement and understanding. 

As noted above, the Foundation is actively co-sponsoring several CLA initiative projects:

  • FreeLegalAnswers Program
  • Navigating COVID-19 Issues Video Series
  • Civics Professional Development training
  • Policymaker and Statewide Summits
  • Judicial Diversity Summit
  • Diverse Lawyers Video Project 
  • CLA’s Environmental Law Section’s Diversity Fellowship Program. 

The following are initiative projects of the Foundation that are not co-sponsored by CLA: 

CLF Access to Justice efforts

Rural Justice Project

We continue to explore how best to support rural access to justice efforts. The pandemic has paved the way for virtual clinics which have historically been viewed as less optimal vehicle for delivery of legal services. OneJustice is working on a variety of projects, including virtual clinics, of which CLF could partially fund, which focus on increasing rural access to justice. 

Statewide Pro Bono Database  

We are in conversations with the Legal Services Corporation funded legal aid programs in California who are discussing criteria for any statewide database should include.  CLF would like to support a statewide volunteer portal, making it easier for lawyers across the state to volunteer for projects. 

CLF Civics Projects

What Lawyers and Judges Do Comic Book*

Using the narrative from a coloring book initially developed by the Missouri State Bar, we have retained a comic book artist who is creating comic book characters highlighting what lawyers and judges do.  The Comic Book will showcase diverse lawyers and judges and be presented in both English and Spanish.  This tool will assist a variety of K-8 outreach efforts.

Updating When you Turn 18* and the Kids and the Law brochures

Initially developed by the State Bar in 2003, these consumer brochures are used by judges and lawyers in classroom presentations but are extremely out of date.  A group of CYLA and CLA volunteers is updating the content for the When you Turn 18 Brochure and the resource is also getting a graphic facelift.   Once this resource is finalized by the end of the year, a new committee will be convened to update the Kids and the Law resource. 

CLF Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Projects

Diversity Fellowship Programs (DFPs)

In addition to partnering with CLA section-specific diversity fellowship programs, one of the priorities of the new CLF Fundraising Committee will be to fundraise around CLF DFP’s. Areas will still need to be defined, but there could also be options to place diverse law students at rural legal aid projects (NCLS, CRLA), create DPF’s for latinx students or fund a fellowship at ChangeLawyers with a specific defined purpose. 

Mentoring Database or App

Currently, most bar associations have standalone and/or duplicative mentoring programs. CLF is exploring whether to develop a statewide database or app that mentors and mentees join that could eliminate duplication and create greater efficiencies for all participating bar associations.   

Please contact Ellen Miller if you have any questions about these efforts or future projects.   She can be reached directly at 916-516-1703 or at Ellen.Miller@calawyers.org.  In addition, CLA President Emilio Varanini, CLF President Heather Rosing and/or any of our committee chairs or project leads would be happy to talk with you further about any of their efforts. 


[1] Projects with an asterisk have been completed or will be delivered by the end of the year.

[2] Any CFLS or attorney with more than 10 years of practice can request to waive the training requirements. 

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