California Lawyers Association

Strong Leadership Through Change in 2021

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By President Emilio Varanini and 
Chair of the Board of Representatives Betty Williams

If 2020 taught us anything, it is how quickly we can adapt to new ways to provide service. Here at CLA, we are spearheading two important efforts to explore changes that will shape the legal profession in 2021 and beyond, as well as engaging in new programs and initiatives. 

With these new task forces—along with other good work conducted by volunteers throughout the organization—we as a profession can evolve to become stronger and more effective. This benefits our members, those in need of legal services, and the judicial branch.

Shaping the Future of the Profession

The Future of the Profession Task Force will explore the changes that are needed in the way the legal profession provides opportunities for newly minted attorneys, grows practices, provides services, uses technology, and addresses the access to justice gap in communities throughout the state. This task force will help the profession analyze the lessons learned from the pandemic and disseminate best practices. It will also help the profession adapt to changes as the cost of a legal education soars, the profession becomes more diverse, and the pressures on traditional modes of organizing and delivering legal services evolve.  

The task force will enable the profession to develop strategies for addressing the very real access to justice gap. The task force, chaired by Doris Cheng of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco, will look deeply and thoughtfully into the issues with the help of a talented team of lawyers from all over the state. They are Claire Johnson of Farella Braun + Martel in San Francisco; Heather Benton of the State Compensation Insurance Fund in Glendale; Lisa Cappelluti of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani in San Francisco; Cynthia Chandler of Bay Area Legal Incubator in Oakland; Joseph J. Doerr of Sullivan McGregor & Doerr in Fresno; Maria Hall of Los Angeles Incubator Consortium; John Hernandez of the Law Offices of John Hernandez in Covina; Toni Jaramilla of Toni Jaramilla APC in Los Angeles; Kevin Johnson, dean of UC Davis School of Law; Erin Joyce of Erin Joyce Law in Pasadena; Rinat Klier-Erlich of Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester in Los Angeles; David Lederman of The Law Offices of David M. Lederman in Moraga; David Majchrzak of Klinedinst in San Diego; Nikki Miliband of Good Wildman Attorneys at Law in Irvine; Michael Hunter Schwartz, dean of the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law; and George Straggas of Straggas Law Group in Irvine.

Encouraging the Norm of Civility

Second, CLA’s Civility Task Force will assess our conduct as officers of the court in encouraging the key norm of civility on the part of attorneys. Civility is critical to the smooth functioning of our court system, to the fostering of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to the best representation of the public. This initiative began with the judiciary and business trial lawyers and landed at CLA through the joint efforts of the State Bar of California, the California Judges Association, and CLA — a sterling example of the cooperation of the bench and bar. 

The task force is being chaired by Justice Brian Currey of the state appellate court in Los Angeles (and a member of the Executive Committee of the California Judges Association) with former CLA President Heather Rosing and State Bar Trustee Brandon Stallings. CLA will have the following additional representatives on the Task Force: Jeremy Evans, Neil Wertlieb and Skyler Gray.

And the task force already includes other eminent practitioners and judges from around the state, including members of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, Los Angeles County Bar Association, California Judges Association, Bar Association of San Francisco, California Chapters of American Board of Trial Advocates and Mexican American Bar Association, with more appointees to come. The task force will address whether civility should be an MCLE requirement and MCLE offerings expanded, whether the requirement of an attorney oath that includes adhering to civility should be expanded, and whether civility rules and sanctions for the violation of those rules should be strengthened.

Both task forces will conduct their work over roughly one year. We will keep you apprised on the progress, just as we are here to help attorneys adapt to any changes in our profession. 

Working on Mission Critical Activities 

The work of both task forces will supplement the other important activities our sections and committees are doing to advance CLA’s mission of promoting excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law. Here are a few examples:

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee is working on outreach to improve diversity both internally and externally, including sponsoring a Diversity Stakeholder Convening on February 5, 2021. The summit is held once every five years to set the committee’s strategic agenda. 

The Access to Justice Committee provided input to the Judicial Council last month on new and revised unlawful detainer forms in response to the statewide moratorium on evictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The Civics Engagement and Outreach Committee has been active in educating the public during a pivotal year of change.

CLA has also created a new Privacy Law Section to keep members updated on this fast-moving area of the law that spans multiple practice areas. Take advantage of a free membership now, which is good through 2021. Join today.

With education programs being delivered remotely, CLA’s helpful content is more accessible now than ever. If you are missing community, CLA Zoom coffee breaks and information from the Health and Wellness Committee provides support and the opportunity to connect during this stressful time. 

Thank You for Your Involvement

The pandemic-related public health orders forced us to make rapid changes in our daily lives and our law practices. Our work, and the work of the civility and future of the profession task forces, will take place over the course of the year, giving us the benefit of thoughtful and careful consideration. 

As we know, change is inevitable. We appreciate this opportunity to shape the future for the benefit of the public and the profession. We thank our CLA community for the wonderful events and programs on which we will embark together in 2021.

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