California Lawyers Association

The Door of Opportunity

October 2023

By Betty Williams
President, CLA

What is your goal, and how can I help? You will hear me ask this frequently as your new CLA President. You will also observe me encouraging members to get more involved in leadership with CLA.

I will share opportunities for growth and enrichment with you because others did the same for me over the years.

I didn’t aspire to be a tax attorney, much less to become President of CLA. I simply said yes. Repeatedly. Over the past 20 years, I have walked through most of the doors that were opened to me, seizing opportunities to serve local, state, and national legal organizations, as well as participating on numerous boards and commissions unaffiliated with the law in my community.

As a single mother with two young children when I first started practicing law, I didn’t think I had time to volunteer for a legal association. However, my first boss “strongly suggested” I do so. I resented the prod at the time, but it didn’t take long for me to recognize and appreciate the numerous benefits of being involved with associations of my peers. I have continued to volunteer for legal organizations every year I have been in practice and applied for every leadership opportunity available related to my practice area or for the overall organization. One door after another opened, and with it, the opportunity to serve, learn, and gratefully reach aspirations, personally and professionally.

Over the past year, I have talked with a myriad of lawyers about their involvement with local and state bar associations. As I listened to the reasons many of them joined legal associations, I was reminded of the honor we probably all felt when we were first sworn in as lawyers, considering the seriousness of the profession ahead of us, and later, the solemnity we experienced at our first appearance in court or successful advocacy for a client. The comments I heard commonly evoked the sense that to be an active member of one’s professional association is an esteemed opportunity. We should never lose that sentiment or take for granted what it means to be a lawyer in California; nor should our behavior exhibit anything less.

As lawyers, we have the unique opportunity to help others in crucial areas of their lives. Some attorneys shape laws, others defend the innocent or prosecute the guilty, and many more attorneys help clients in a personal or business matter in their area of expertise.

As CLA members and leaders, we have countless ideas on how CLA can serve our membership, which in turn helps our members better serve their clients and their communities. The job is never done, nor should it be, as we continue to achieve goals and set new, higher ideals for ourselves and our organization.

The positive results are limitless when we combine our roles as lawyers with the opportunities offered through our affiliation with CLA.

Two of my objectives as President of CLA involve leadership: increasing leadership opportunities for our interested CLA Section leaders and expanding our leadership’s diversity by engaging interested leaders in activities with local law schools and professional groups to share the value and vision of membership with CLA.

Another goal is to increase programming with law schools to help new lawyers transition into the roles they most desire in their careers, and to engage them in a career-long relationship with CLA. I have spoken with dozens of law students about their hopes for the future and their needs to achieve those objectives. We can help meet their needs.

Working with law schools and solidifying an affiliation with law students doesn’t only benefit the students. All lawyers and lawyer candidates have something to offer CLA. No individual lawyer or single voice can provide all the answers, advocate for all the necessary causes or communities, or reach our entire audience. It takes the collective group of us as One CLA to deliver the opportunities and mission of CLA.

These goals align with CLA’s strategic plan, specifically one of the six strategic pillars to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the California legal community through training, advocacy, affinity bar partnerships, and education to positively impact the profession’s future.

I am honored to serve as your President. I encourage you to say yes to opportunities. Walk through that door the next time one is opened to you, and be mindful of the esteem bestowed upon you as an attorney.

What is your goal, and how can I help?

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