California Lawyers Association

New Year’s Statement from Your President and Chair

By Emilio Varanini, President
and Howard “Chip” Wilkins, Chair of the Board of Representatives

We wish the California Lawyers Association, the Board of Representatives, the members and leaders of the Sections, and the excellent staff and senior executive team Happy New Year! As always, we are impressed with your hard work and dedication to CLA. And it is exciting that CLA is now on the threshold of its first full decade of life and beyond.

As our first order of business for the new year, we hope to appoint the members and Chairs of CLA’s first-ever task force on the Future of the Profession. The goal of this task force is for CLA and its members to imagine how CLA’s members and the profession as a whole can better deliver legal services while still enabling attorneys to make a living. The task force may consider such issues as:

  • the reinvention of the partnership model for the 21st century;
  • modern means by which attorneys may collaborate more effectively across individual practices and small firms;
  • the voluntary use of technology for attorneys to better deliver services; and
  • alternate modes of billing that may induce client demand for legal services.

We firmly believe that CLA, as the bar association for all California attorneys, can be a critical voice for the profession to reimagine itself as it heads into the next decade, especially as aided by the California Young Lawyers Association (CYLA), which exemplifies and represents the future of our profession. If you think you may be a good fit for the Task Force on the Future of the Profession, and are interested in serving on it, or know someone who may be a good fit and may be interested in so serving, please contact us.

Stakeholder Outreach and Advocacy

The task force will build on the meetings we held in December with interested stakeholders about CLA in order to advance its work and further its mission. We met with the California Judges Association (CJA), specifically the President of CJA, the Honorable B. Tam Nomoto Schumann, and CJA’s appointed liaison to CLA, the Honorable Rupert A. Byrdsong. With CJA, we plan to engage in joint events of interest to all California attorneys and to the public, focusing specifically in two areas, unjust criticism of judges, where CLA now has a policy, and civic education.

CLA, like CJA, believes that the independence of the judiciary is critical to maintaining the rule of law. Like CJA, CLA believes that it is important that the public be educated as to the importance of an independent judiciary in administering, reviewing, and enforcing our laws. In this way, the public may be as well-informed as possible when attacks on the judiciary occur and about the election, retention, or recall of state judges. To this end, CLA sent a comment letter to the California Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics, supporting the proposed amendments to Canon 3B(9) of the Code of Judicial Ethics, and its commentary, to allow a judge to comment publicly about a pending case that formed the basis of criticism of a judge during an election or recall campaign, provided the comment would not be reasonably expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of that case.

Together, CJA and CLA can also educate the public, including students at all levels, of the importance of the rule of law to our state and nation, and the critical role that the courts and attorneys play in maintaining and furthering the rule of law. We hope to build on the successful 2019 Annual Meeting program in Monterey in which judges and attorneys banded together to spend a day educating fifth graders on the importance of the rule of law and the courts.

Our Commitment to Civic Education

However, CLA will be deepening its commitment to civic education under the Chair of our Civic Education Committee Jerrilyn Malana, who is also on the Chief Justice’s Power of Democracy Steering Committee, that is also dedicated to the goal of Civic Education as to the rule of law and the role of the courts. 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment, preventing the government from denying the right to vote based on gender. CLA will be honoring that anniversary by hosting a special program on the Nineteenth Amendment on Law Day, May 1, and on Constitution Day, September 17. As a guest of the President of the Tournament of Roses Parade, who is the head of the California Delegation to the American Bar House of Delegation, it was truly inspiring for the President of CLA, Emilio, to see and photograph the intricate and awe-inspiring float dedicated to the Nineteenth Amendment and the women dressed in white to honor the suffragettes who fought for enactment of that amendment who marched with that float. You can find some of those photos in this article for your enjoyment.

Our Partnership with the State Bar

We also met with the Chair of the State Bar Board of Trustees, Alan Steinbrecher, to discuss initiatives that the State Bar and CLA may have for the coming year and how we can continue to work with each other in 2020. We are fortunate to enjoy an excellent relationship with the State Bar, from whom we separated in 2018, but we continue to advocate vigorously on behalf of the profession as the bar association for all Californians. Accordingly, spearheaded by our Access to Justice Committee, we submitted comments to the State Bar on its proposed changes to the rules on licensee information.

In the New Year, we will continue to reach out to stakeholders in the Legislature and the courts to advocate on behalf of our members and our profession. We presented the joint CLA-CJA-Judicial Council Aranda Award in 2019 to the Honorable Carol S. Brosnahan for her tireless work and commitment to public service, particularly in the area of mental health and are looking forward to hosting our second-ever Legislative Day on March 4, 2020.

Enhancing Member Benefits

We continue to dedicate ourselves to helping the Sections improve the content and delivery of the already excellent educational services that they provide our members. In December of last year, our Board of Representatives collaborated on ways in which the Sections can work together to address inter-Section issues of great import to our profession and to the public. As an early example of what the Sections can do together, our Privacy Working Group, comprised of members of many different Sections, worked together to submit comments on the Attorney General’s proposed regulations for the California Consumer Privacy Act. Stay tuned for more on this front in 2020 and if you have any ideas for cross-Section collaboration, please let us know.

Besides the Future of the Professions Task Force, and cross-Section initiatives, we are pleased to report that CLA’s initiative is well under way as to how we can enhance our membership within our profession and ensure that our profession benefits from membership in CLA; the need to address this challenge is enhanced by the potential impact of the increase in State Bar dues—an issue that we, the Board of Representatives, and the Senior Executive Team of CLA all continue to closely monitor. This is an opportunity for CLA as we enter our first full decade of life to imagine how we can better deliver services to our members and accommodate those members who do not neatly fit within the subject-matter of a Section. We are fortunate in this respect to have the assistance of individuals who are esteemed members of affinity bars.

We will continue and deepen our initiatives on other fronts such as access to justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and wellness. Already, the California Lawyers Foundation (“CLF”), CLA’s 501(c)(3) arm, met in December—its first meeting since we were elected—and, we are pleased to announce, the Foundation board elected as its new Chair, our immediate Past President Heather L. Rosing. Working together, the Foundation and the Association will be well-positioned to deepen our work on access to justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the educational offerings of our Sections.

Welcoming New Members of the Bar

We wish to leave you with this final note. It was awe-inspiring and an honor for us and the other officers of CLA to have the privilege and honor in late 2019 to speak to the next generation of attorneys who had been admitted to the bar. The diversity of the newly admitted attorneys was extremely impressive as was the presence of CYLA at these ceremonies. We spoke not only of what CLA and CYLA had to offer to them but also of what the local bars and the ABA, as the national bar association, could offer them together in concert with us. It has been and continues to be our belief that we are not in competition with the ABA or with local bar associations but rather enjoy a partnership with them that we will continue to deepen in the New Year. And as we approached the New Year, it was very comforting for us to see the diversity of the new admittees, and the pride of their families and friends who had supported them through what was and is an arduous ordeal to get through law school, pass the bar, and be admitted to what is a noble profession.

Ultimately, we wish all our members, staff, and their families health and success in the New Year!

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