California Lawyers Association

Engaging With Lawyers Around the World

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September 2020

By Ona Alston Dosunmu

Earlier this year, the section formerly known as the International Law Section officially changed its name to the “International Law and Immigration Section.” Recently I, along with the Section’s Chair, Josh Surowitz, invited foreign bars with whom CLA has Friendship Agreements to attend our Annual Meeting. These bar-to-bar “treaties” between CLA and overseas bars include agreements with bars ranging from Japan to Mexico to Europe. These events, among others, have caused me to reflect on the tremendous potential the California Lawyers Association has to attract immigration practitioners and lawyers who live, work and practice law in various locales around the world. 

CLA’s international engagement is not limited to the activities of the International Law and Immigration Section. One of our most popular and successful programs is “A Week in Legal London,” which, while open to participation from all members, was initiated long ago by the Litigation Section. “A Week in Legal London” happens on alternating years. Participants attend sessions in the Supreme Court, the Royal Courts of Justice, and Old Bailey and engage in colloquia with their British counterparts. They are granted access to venues and experiences generally only available to members of the British legal community. The last Week in Legal London program included a Gala Dinner at the House of Lords. For those interested, the next Week in Legal London is planned for March 2022.

One of the first successful advocacy efforts CLA engaged in was to support a bill that authorized out-of-state attorneys and attorneys from foreign jurisdictions to represent parties in international commercial arbitrations and related proceedings in California. One reason CLA supported the bill, which ultimately became law, is to encourage the selection of California as a venue for international commercial arbitration. We are currently following up to assess whether selection of California as a venue has increased since the passage of the law and we will be exploring further steps to promote California as an international arbitration venue when travel resumes. 

By virtue of the sheer size and diversity of California’s economy, California’s Pacific rim and Mexican border geography and its importance as a U.S. shipping hub, the state is a natural center of transnational commerce. And whether it is Hollywood’s desire for an acting phenom from London or Sidney or Silicon Valley’s almost endless appetite for tech workers, the state imports talent and human capital and moves people around the world in a major way. All of that movement requires legal expertise to acquire both inbound and outbound work visas, “O” visas (reserved for individuals deemed to have “extraordinary talent”) not to mention the needs of students, universities, agricultural workers and farmers. CLA has tremendous potential to become a significantly more international association and the statewide home to immigration lawyers. If you or someone you know fits that bill, please invite them to join us!

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