By CLA President Jeremy M. Evans
The 2022 Annual Meeting and first-ever Gala last month were a massive success. Attendance, content, networking, legal icons, and charitable giving sum up an amazing week in beautiful San Diego, California. The 2023 Annual Meeting and Gala will be back in San Diego next September at the same hotel, the Hilton Bayfront.
When I first conceived of the Gala in early 2021, I mentioned it to California Judges Association (CJA) President Rupert Byrdsong, and thankfully he was fully supportive of forming a partnership. Soon after, we met with our executive leadership, moved forward with our wonderful teams, and added it as the capstone event to the Annual Meeting. From the beginning, I had one purpose in mind: to connect lawyers, judges, and the community in one room to celebrate the legal profession for a charitable purpose and then watch the magic unfold. Now we are hearing that folks cannot wait to come back next year, and the Gala will be the premier legal event every year for the California Lawyers Association (CLA) and the legal profession. In addition to California attorneys, we want to attract and did attract bar association representatives from Mexico, the Czech Republic, and Japan, among other countries. The California Lawyers Association is continuing its mission of being the bar association for all of California. As one of the largest bar associations in the world, in a state with the world’s fifth largest economy, it makes sense for CLA to also bring in lawyers from other states and countries.
The 2022 Annual Meeting included keynote speakers Leigh Steinberg, Heather Brooks Karatz, and Jonathan Turley, covering amazing topics including NFTs (non-fungible tokens created using blockchain technology) and the metaverse. We awarded and highlighted the best in the legal profession and on the bench. Outgoing Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye gave a wonderful speech. Gala master of ceremonies comedian/actor Andy Buckley (David Wallace from The Office) provided for a great evening that ended with some wonderful dancing and networking from law students to retired judges and attorneys. The Gala benefited not only those attending through networking and being together again but also the respective charitable foundations of CLA and CJA, the California Lawyers Foundation (CLF), and the California Judges Foundation (CJF).
The Annual Meeting also marked the halfway point of my two-year term as President of the California Lawyers Association, the highlight of which was getting sworn in by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye. As well, the Chief Justice handled the swearing-in of the CLA, CJA, State Bar of California (Board of Trustees Chair and Vice Chair), board representatives, and officers, including CJA President Hon. David Rosenberg of Yolo County Superior Court, whom I am looking forward to serving with this year. Judge Byrdsong of Los Angeles County Superior Court was amazing to serve with and I am sure our friendship with continue. Our last act together was advocating for California Governor Gavin Newsom to sign judicial pension reform legislation that CJA informed me was 25 to 30 years in the making. Huge congratulations to Judge Byrdsong and his team for making it happen! Teamwork is a beautiful thing.
As we embark on the next year together, I want to highlight what we have accomplished, but also what needs to be accomplished before I leave office. We have hired an amazing CEO and Executive Director in Oyango Snell, who is a great executive with the added benefit that he has become a dear friend. We launched the first in-person Annual Meeting in two-plus years and put together the first-ever statewide gala highlighting the legal profession for all the terrific work that lawyers and judges accomplish for their clients and the community. The Gala had 500+ attendees in its first year and we will look forward to doubling that figure in 2023.
I have and will continue to travel around the state, country, and the world meeting bar leaders and attorneys building relationships and ties that bind. I will travel to London, Edinburgh, Miami, Denver, and New Orleans this October and in the coming months to continue to build relationships with attorneys, judges, bar associations, and the community to do my part to help form a more perfect union. In my second year, I will look to explore a bar friendship program to broker membership deals, continue our terrific and long history of legislative efforts along with our wonderful and wise Associate Executive Director, Governmental Affairs Saul Bercovitch, and protect the public and profession while looking for ways to move closer to testing true attorney skills through the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar Exam and American Bar Association House of Delegates with a specific highlight of Resolution 402. I will continue to serve with honor on the Executive Council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP) and report back to our Board and membership on wisdom and knowledge gained from the distinguished group.
Lastly, I want to make my second year a priority to reach the youth in our society to encourage their involvement in the law in a positive manner. As lawyers and judges, we need to set an example and show the way as leaders. If we can teach the importance of civility, ethics, responsibility, economics, and the law early in their lives, we can encourage a lot of our youth to pursue legal careers and justice. To that end, I will be working with CLA staff, attorneys, judges, and members of our community to implement an Annual Golf Tournament in the spring for charity that highlights mentorship with our youth to encourage civics, engagement, and an introduction to the legal profession. Judges and lawyers will be paired with junior high school, high school, college, and law students to encourage mentorship, networking, and fun. In the end, mentorship works both ways—the mentee and mentor can learn equally from each other. Hopefully, the sport can encourage that growth. Ultimately, we need to make the pathway easier to see by providing great examples in practice and leadership and encouraging discipline and competence in the process of becoming an attorney.
CLF will also continue its wonderful efforts under President Jim Holmes with outgoing President Heather Rosing finishing her honorable service. Outgoing CLA Chair of the Board Ryan Baron served honorably and will continue as the Public Law Section Board Representative. Big thanks also go to ongoing CLA Vice President Betty Williams, outgoing Treasurer Herb Stroh, and outgoing Board of Representatives members Heather Benton and Paul Riehle for their distinguished service.
I look forward to serving with the wonderful new CLA Board officers: Chair Sabrina Green, Vice Chair Tara Burd, Secretary Tina Cannon Leahy, Treasurer Mike Shaikh, and the rest of our terrific board and member leaders, who give so much as volunteers. Enough credit cannot be given to Associate Executive Director, Chief Operations Officer Tricia Horan and the wonderful CLA staff for their professionalism, delightful personalities, and class.
This means CLA will continue the great programming of our wonderful eighteen sections along with the Annual Meeting and Gala next fall (September 21-23, 2023), Leadership Orientation this winter (January), Annual Golf Tournament in the spring, and the Solo & Small Firm Summit in the summer (June). I promise to continue to serve with honor and integrity and to help build the next generation of leaders while guiding the profession toward the best principles of civility, ethics, and competency. In closing, look for additional announcements of some experiential events (networking + MCLE + watching some entertainment) this spring.
As always, thank you for being a member. With love and sincerity,
Jeremy M. Evans
President, California Lawyers Association