By Ona Alston Dosunmu
In October of this year, our association will celebrate its first Board-level leadership transition. Both our first President, Heather Rosing, and our first Chair, Jim Hill, will be stepping down and giving new leadership an opportunity to step up. While we don’t yet know who will take the reins of our nascent organization, we do know that the California Lawyers Association and, whether they know it or not, every lawyer in the state, owes Heather, Jim and the other inaugural Board Officers a tremendous debt of gratitude. In addition to Heather and Jim, the Board Officers are: Emilio Varanini, Vice President; Chip Wilkins, Vice Chair; Betty Williams, Treasurer; and Jeremy Evans, Secretary. The list of accomplishments our inaugural slate of leaders achieved in a mere two years—for both the profession and the association—are too numerous to enumerate. Suffice it to say, they’ve laid the groundwork for future generations of CLA leaders to continue to make our organization extraordinary.
On behalf of the profession, they have established CLA as a powerhouse bar association by winning some advocacy victories from which all California lawyers will benefit. Whether it’s ensuring that attorneys are included in the exemptions set forth in AB 5, which codifies the Dynamex test for who’s an “independent contractor” absent a statutory exemption from that test, or whether its letting the world know that California is open for international arbitration business, under Heather and Jim’s leadership CLA has worked both publicly and behind the scenes on numerous issues that matter to lawyers in California and forged critical relationships that will allow our association to flourish. They have established collegial, collaborative relationships with key stakeholders, including the judiciary, the legislature and legal organizations ranging from ChangeLawyers (formerly the California Bar Foundation) to access to justice and diversity advocates across the state. Under their leadership, CLA has become a leader among bar associations—hosting a monthly call for all bar leaders and, in October, a Bar Leaders Conference in conjunction with our Annual Meeting.
Looking inward, they have laid the foundation and begun building the infrastructure for our organization to flourish for the foreseeable future. Under their leadership, CLA has attracted a top-notch professional executive team, developed new branding along with a new website that is consistent with a 21st century bar association and found a home on Capital Mall in Sacramento. We have re-launched a number of efforts that languished prior to separation from the State Bar, including the Solo & Small Firm Summit, which was held this year June 13-15 in Huntington Beach, and the Annual Meeting—the first of which was held in San Diego last year and the second of which is being held in Monterey in October of this year. And we will celebrate the profession by making a number of awards both at the Annual Meeting and on other occasions throughout the year.
Our association’s status as one of the largest and most important bar associations in the largest and most important state in the union was on full display at the American Bar Association and related meetings held recently in San Francisco. CLA has three delegates to the ABA House of Delegates and Heather Rosing addressed the full House assembly at its opening event. CLA’s executive team also played key roles at a number of pre-ABA gatherings: Director of Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives Ellen Miller and yours truly had a number of speaking roles at the National Association of Bar Executives and the National Conference of Bar Presidents. Related, a number of international and other state delegations wanted to meet with CLA to learn about our journey and success—all signs of the impact we have made in a very short time.
Because of the tireless and selfless hard work put in by Heather, Jim and the Board Officers who served for 2018 and most of 2019, our association’s new leadership team, whoever they are, will have a rock-solid foundation upon which to continue to build. For that, I thank them.