California Lawyers Association

Our Fabulous Sections: History to the Present

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By Heather L. Rosing, CLA President 
and Jim Hill, CLA chair

Image of Heather Rosing and Jim Hill
Heather Rosing and Jim Hill

As CLA wraps up its first full calendar year of existence and continues to lay the groundwork for a dynamic future as THE bar association for all California lawyers – including our first Winter Leadership Retreat February 1-2 in San Francisco – it seems appropriate to pause for a moment to reflect on the proud history of the Sections, which comprise the solid base of the organization. Before they united under the umbrella of CLA, the Sections and the California Young Lawyers Association were component parts of the State Bar of California. The State Bar, created in 1927, had no sections for the first half of its existence. During this time the State Bar had several standing committees devoted to various subject matter areas. For example, it had a Corporations Standing Committee, the members of which were appointed by the then-Board of Governors to become one of the first sections. This occurred in 1977, more than 40 years ago. The board directed the leadership of its Corporations Standing Committee to establish a Business Law Section and suggested that such an organization be modeled after the ABA’s then-Section of Corporation Banking and Business Law.

From 1997 through January 1, 2018, the section structure continued to grow and flourish. The Taxation Section was founded in 1975, with the Trusts and Estates Section and the Intellectual Property Law Section created shortly thereafter in 1976. The newest section – Environmental Law – launched in 1992. For over 40 years, the top attorneys in these practice areas have dedicated an incredible amount of volunteer hours to develop unparalleled educational programming to help their colleagues provide the highest quality legal services.

Then, on January 1, 2018, the CLA was formed, with the 16 Sections and the California Young Lawyers Association as its solid base. Through the CLA, the sections have continued sophisticated programming, publications and conferences, as well as initiatives to enhance access to justice, increase diversity in the profession and assist our communities.

As one shining example, in 2018, the Environmental Law Section hosted several community-focused programs, known as “Your Voice” conferences. These programs focused on environmental issues of concern to the public and drew large audiences comprised largely of non-lawyers. In addition to presenting a conference on private enforcement in Oakland and a conference about rising sea levels in San Francisco, it also organized its annual student negotiations competition in Los Angeles, where teams of students from more than 15 California law schools participated in a mock environmental negotiation judged by California judges and lawyers. In September, the section presented an educational program in Los Angeles addressing diversity, equality, and inclusion in environmental decision-making. And in October, the section put on its annual flagship event, the Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, which is the largest and most prestigious gathering in California of leaders in environmental, land use and natural resources law. This conference is typically attended by nearly 700 lawyers, judges, representatives of government and non-governmental organizations, members of academia, law students, environmental professionals, and others.

The Solo & Small Firm Section has continued to tirelessly provide resources to attorneys across the state. The section creates and distributes unparalleled content through its quarterly printed publication, The Practitioner, and through its monthly digital newsletter e-Practitioner. The section, its leaders and its members are closely involved in planning the CLA Solo & Small Firm Summit, coming up in June in Huntington Beach. The CLA Law Practice Management and Technology Section has also been sponsoring programs to assist attorneys in their everyday practice. In January 2018, the LPMT Section put on its first in-person Legal Technology Summit in San Diego. In April, the section co-sponsored legal technology conferences with the Orange County Bar Association and Golden Gate University School of Law.

The International Law Section continues to flourish, with an active program of outreach to bar associations around the globe in the form of bilateral “friendship agreements.” Those international relationships have garnered California lawyers and foreign lawyers access to legal systems, treaties, laws and regulations that affect the practice of law for the benefit of the public at home and abroad. International Law Section leaders serve as unofficial ambassadors abroad for California’s educational model for attorneys, as well as for substantive developments in California’s globally recognized technology industries. At the CLA Annual Meeting in September 2018, the section gathered representatives from foreign bar associations across the world to develop relationships and share our incredible accomplishments in California

The Business Law Section has excelled in furthering the CLA’s mission of diversity and inclusion through outreach and collaboration with other legal organizations in California through its BLS Diversity Initiative. For example, the section participated as a Silver Sponsor for the past two years of the California Minority Counsel Program’s Annual Business Conference, attended by over 500 diverse attorneys and general counsel. Through its presence there, the section has provided opportunities to minority and other diverse lawyers. This year, the BLS also co-hosted a successful Networking at Nite mixer with the California Minority Counsel Program Ambassadors Council, aimed at reaching younger attorneys and business lawyers of color. Most recently, the section has organized well-attended Law School Roadshows, at which volunteer panels of BLS lawyers discuss their practices and recruit lawyers-to-be to get involved in the section. The most recent BLS Law School Roadshow took place at Santa Clara University Law School and drew over 60 law students. The list of section accomplishments continues, with more information on our website,

This brings us up to today, with the CLA Sections as the dynamic drivers of CLA’s progress. We are proud of the accomplishments of our sections and urge all CLA members to take advantage of their world-class offerings.

The authors thank CLA leader Roland Brandel for the historical background used in this article.

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