California Lawyers Association

Facing the Challenges That 2020 Has Brought and Forging Ahead With a CLA Community Dedicated to Enhancing the Profession, Better Serving the Public, and Enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By President Emilio Varanini and
Chair Chip Wilkins

The scope of state and county emergency orders for addressing COVID-19 are beginning to change with a gradual, and welcome, reopening of businesses. And under the steady and impressive leadership of our Chief Justice and the Judicial Council, the courts have continued to function and now are beginning the process of reopening fully for business. But we recognize that ongoing challenges to our profession, to the public, and to the courts remain in an era in which changes are underway and the impact of COVID-19 remains uncertain. CLA, as the bar association for all Californians, and as a convener for stakeholders and for other bar associations, has a leading role to play as to these changes and in addressing the continued impact of COVID-19. 

CLA and its members continue to face unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 that will continue to impact our members, the profession, the courts, and the public. To this end, CLA has been working closely with the courts, the Judicial Council, the California Judges Association, and other stakeholders to address these issues, including through our advocacy work. We will continue do so to assist the courts as they fully reopen subject to necessary safety protocols to protect against a resurgence of COVID-19. We have been impressed with how the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches have all handled the issues raised by COVID-19 

Practicing attorneys have been confronted with significant obstacles and have readily adapted to new ways of conducting business. We recognize that our profession has had to adjust so that much of its business is now conducted remotely, and that this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. CLA has thus stepped up to provide online training and resources for its members—as well as to serve as a community by which its members can exchange perspectives, views, and tips through such forums as its coffee breaks. 

This commitment does not only benefit our members but also benefits the public. For example, CLA has set up online communities by which views, feedback, and tips can be exchanged on the issues of the day confronted by our members. Those issues of the day of course include the changing scope of state and local emergency orders and other unique issues arising from COVID-19. These and other topics can be discussed among CLA’s members through our online communities so that better advice can be provided to the public; we are happy to report that a discussion in that online community has already begun and invite our members to join it.

Ultimately, COVID-19 is exacerbating the already enormous access to justice gap that plagues California and is accelerating changes to our profession. These developments have made our planned Future of the Profession Task Force even more important and we are in the process of recruiting members of that task force. COVID-19 is both accelerating changes to the organization and highlighting the need to deliver legal services to the public.

To that end, we will have an exciting development to announce soon on an access to justice program sponsored by CLA and its partners to provide pro bono COVID-19 related advice. In addition, we have and will continue to engage legal aid providers, the State Bar of California, and others on what we can do to address the access to justice gap.

We hope you all stay safe and healthy and ask that we all hang together because it is together that we will get through in an even stronger position to serve the public, ensure fairness in the administration of justice, and ensure the rule of law for our diverse nation-state. If there is more that we can do for you, the profession, the courts, or the public, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Emilio Varanini
President
California Lawyers Association

Howard “Chip” Wilkins
Chair, Board Of Representatives, California Lawyers Association

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