California Lawyers Association
Charting a Strong and Vibrant Future for CLA
By President Emilio Varanini
and Board of Representatives Chair Betty Williams
The year 2020 brought manifest challenges to our membership, our profession, and the nation. Those challenges continue in 2021. However, at CLA, we did not lose sight of our goal of enhancing and deepening the value our organization and its Sections offer to our membership and to the profession and so are poised to enter 2022 and beyond as a stronger and more vibrant bar association. Over the next several months we will elect new CLA leadership, develop and publish the organization’s first formal strategic plan, and unveil new and different ways to take advantage of CLA’s offerings through more membership options.
One hallmark of a thriving organization like ours is leadership renewal. Toward that end, CLA will once again elect new volunteer officers to partner with the professional team in advancing the association and supporting the practice of law. The first step in this process is the creation of a Nominations Committee. At its February meeting, the CLA Board of Representatives adopted an Elections Procedures document instructing the board to form a robust Nominations Committee. This committee will be tasked with helping to identify and assess potential candidates for president and vice president of CLA; each officer serves a two-year term. Two of the five “at-large” members of the Nominations Committee need not be board representatives; any member of the association in good standing may apply. The deadline to do so is Friday, March 5, and the application may be found here.
Another hallmark of organizational strength is clear strategic direction. While CLA has made strategic decisions, we have not had a formal strategic plan to guide the organization. Last year, the board created a Strategic and Long-Range Planning Committee comprised of at-large members drawn from Section Executive Committees as well as current and former CLA leaders. We also engaged the consulting firm McKinley Advisors as partners to assist us in this undertaking. The strategic planning committee and board have met with the McKinley team and over the next few weeks, McKinley Advisors will be conducting interviews to elicit a diversity of views about CLA’s future direction and priorities. They will also survey volunteer leaders from CLA committees and Section Executive Committees. This research will lay the groundwork for virtual strategic planning retreats in the April/May timeframe. After that, a draft plan will be produced, widely circulated, and discussed. Feedback on the draft will be incorporated with the goal of having the board approve a plan before new volunteer leadership takes the helm at the end of September 2021.
Stay tuned in the coming months for updates on our new membership structure. Since 2019, the board has been discussing a membership structure for the organization that would be more appropriate for a stand-alone professional association (as opposed to the structure inherited from the State Bar, which worked when the Sections were sub-units of a governmental regulatory agency). We hired a nationally recognized consultant and, to get member input into this process, we formed an advisory group. Last summer the board approved the general framework and direction recommended by the consultants and advisory group. One of the biggest takeaways from the process is that CLA has tremendous value to offer its members but needs to showcase and raise awareness of that value, to structure the organization in a manner that facilitates members’ ability to access that value, and to further deepen the community that it created among its members as a result of the pandemic.
In broad strokes, all members will receive certain basics like access to an online publication showcasing all section content along with access to Solo and Small Firm and Law Practice Management and Technology content. Further, we expect to give people the option to choose among three different membership levels at three different price points, to best fit their needs. The CLA professional team has been working assiduously to lay the groundwork to implement the new structure. We anticipate taking the final details of the proposed new membership structure to the board in March and beginning to share the details with members shortly thereafter.