California Lawyers Association

Key Takeaways from CLA’s Leadership Conference

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By Oyango A. Snell

As I reflect on the 2022 CLA Leadership Conference, a few themes emerge to the forefront of my mind that made the event a huge success.

First, as an association, we collectively rose to the occasion to meet the challenge of safely reconnecting in person while also providing virtual access to participate in the scheduled events. While the decision to move forward with a hybrid event was not easy, it showed that we have a dedicated, talented professional team and passionate, committed member leaders who share a One CLA mindset, and are working to ensure that CLA is the premier voluntary bar association of choice for California attorneys.

Second, the Leadership Conference platform promoted collaboration amongst Section leaders, Committee leaders, and CLA—and it delivered. Leader-to-leader discussions regarding best practices were shared from corner-to-corner of the in-person meeting room and on the virtual platform. Subjects ranging from engaging new lawyers, expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and increasing membership to enhancing educational content and social media and marketing improvements were just a few of the topics that member leaders and speakers discussed at the event. There was no shortage of collaborative ideas from participants, which were highlighted during the Steal This Idea panel featuring opportunities to engage members, highlight pro bono services, start a book club, and enhance access to justice work, just to name a few. Collaboration was the central theme of the panel led by Tara Burd, Chair of the new Membership Engagement Committee (MEC), where Section leaders highlighted opportunities to collaborate with each other on creating and cross-promoting content that is not traditionally housed under one Section.

The third theme that emerges as I reflect on the Leadership Conference centers on our path forward as an association. I had an opportunity to visit with each Section’s Executive Committee during the Leadership Conference. While we all acknowledged that there is work to be done to become the premier voluntary bar association, we also acknowledged that we have come a long way over the past four years. The history and educational content development of our Sections are stellar. The passion and commitment of our member leaders are exceptional. Our focus going forward rests on how we leverage the strengths of our association while adding to our value proposition to serve the lawyers of today and tomorrow. We can only achieve this by locking arms and working together.

Lastly, the synergy that was promoted during the Leadership Conference around diversity, equity, and inclusion is a remarkable step in a positive direction. We acknowledged that we can—and must—do more to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in the legal profession and throughout our association. We should also take time to celebrate our commitment to this work. During the Leadership Conference, member leaders from multiple Sections highlighted initiatives that are helping to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the legal profession and within CLA. Our Sections have taken a leadership role in developing fellowships and scholarships and invested in pathway programs for people of color. CLA is working to adopt a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy. Sections are mindful of diversity considerations when planning and hosting webinars and speaking events. We have a long way to go as an industry and association when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. But our commitment is strengthening and our work in this space is increasing. As the author and activist, James Baldwin once wrote, “not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” To that end, below are links to a few resources CLA is using to help jumpstart our diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

Collaboration Toolkit: Working Collaboratively with Internal and External Groups

Section Diversity Plan Toolkit

Directory of California Bar Associations and Related Organizations

Toolkit: Access to Justice/Pro Bono Program Development

CLA Model Diversity in Education Policy

Report Card on the Diversity of California’s Legal Profession, by The State Bar of California (2020)

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