By President Emilio Varanini and
Chairman of the Board of Representatives Howard “Chip” Wilkins
This past month has been an extraordinary one for all of us. Since our last CLA-wide update, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life and forced us to rethink the way we operate as the bar association for all California lawyers. Most importantly, we hope our members are staying safe and healthy.
With the statewide shelter-in-place order designed to slow the spread of the disease, CLA has canceled all of its meetings, events and activities through at least April. While that is disappointing, it also gave us an unprecedented opportunity to refocus on helping each other and our communities pull through these difficult times. We may be separated physically, but when it comes to our shared values and knowledge we’re knitted closely together.
Here at CLA we’ve been busy on a number of fronts. Our efforts generally fall into these five categories, which we’ll go into in more detail:
- Building community
- Offering CLE
- Aggregating resources for lawyers
- Providing information to the public
- Keeping the justice system strong
We started offering weekly CLA Coffee Breaks via Zoom. The weekly come-as-you-are events provide an informal opportunity to video chat with fellow attorneys from around the state. We offer light-hearted topics for discussion, but there’s no agenda. Just community. The sessions are scheduled every Wednesday .
We’re also offering articles and courses designed to ensure the well-being of our members, such as mindfulness meditation .
Since we don’t have the pleasure of seeing you in person, we recorded video messages to let you know we’re here for you.
At this unprecedented time, we also wanted to make sure we do everything possible to support our members, who may be fielding new inquiries from clients, setting up remote work arrangements and feeling anxiety or stress. To that end, we’re offering free COVID-19 continuing legal education. We’ve hosted free webinars on the pandemic’s effect on healthcare organizations and providers, families with shared custody arrangements as well as employers and employees. A number of programs are in the works, including one on securing the remote workplace (cyber-security). Visit our COVID-19 resource page to learn more.
Are you interested in providing a helpful and topical webinar to California attorneys as a public service during this extraordinary period? If interested, please fill out our feedback form.
Aggregating Resources for Lawyers
Our goal here is to be a one-stop-shop for attorneys looking for the latest COVID-19 information to assist clients, run their businesses remotely, and keep up-to-date on the latest changes in court schedules and procedures.
We recognize that many of our members belong to solo and small firms. Our collection of resources for attorneys can help you understand the federal stimulus package and how to benefit from new tax provisions and forgivable loan opportunities.
We’re able to draw on the practice-area-specific knowledge of our Sections to answer your questions, from how the crisis impacts contracting and evictions to how to use technology to your benefit.
We’re also keeping tabs on what’s going on in the courts, collecting that information on our Court Updates web page.
What kind of information, resources, and support can California Lawyers Association provide to you during this time? You’re welcome to fill out our feedback form.
Providing Information to the Public
In keeping with our mission of expanding access to justice, our lawyers are creating videos on many of the legal questions being faced by the public, including employment and bankruptcy issues.
So far, we’ve created videos addressing small business concerns as an employer as well as employee health and safety issues and employee leave issues. If you’d like to contribute to this project, please reach out via our feedback form.
Keeping the Justice System Strong
One of the CLA’s greatest opportunities lies in our ability to advocate for causes that advance our mission: promoting excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law.
We at CLA have been doing everything we can to help the courts continue their vital function in our society. The Judicial Council adopted emergency measures last month to address court access in light of the shelter-in-place orders.
Depending on the issue, CLA has been seeking guidance around issues as diverse as whether lawyers can use cell phones for conferences with judges (many courts had rules against it) to how to handle such sticky family law issues as what to do about the visitation of a child when a parent or caregiver is diagnosed with COVID-19.
CLA has also been advocating with governmental authorities to help respond to the crisis. See the latest updates on CLA’s advocacy page. For example, we wrote a letter to the California Judicial Council in support of emergency relief in seven areas such as tolling of statutes of limitations, electronic service on represented parties, rescheduling of trials and encouraging case progress during the current crisis. Also Michele Brown, CLA Board Representative from the Family Law Section, sent a letter to state officials seeking guidance or relief on visitation orders, modification of child or spousal support and temporary restraining orders in light of the statewide shelter-in-place order.
Stay Safe and Be Healthy
This crisis has shown how we are stronger together. More than ever, we truly value your participation in CLA.
While it’s difficult to predict what may come next, we will continue to respond.
Stay safe, hang in there, and be healthy. We will get through this together.