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Workers' Compensation

Message from the Chair

By Maria Sager

My one-year position as the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association (CLA) comes to an end at the conclusion of the CLA Annual Meeting in Monterey on Saturday, October 12. Although I am sad this chapter of my life is ending, I am grateful I was given the chance to serve in this capacity. Congratulations to our incoming officers: Chair: Jack Goodchild; Vice Chair: Tiffany Boyland; Treasurer: John Parente; and Secretary: Hon. Sharon Velzy-Lenington.   You four will do a fabulous job, and I look forward to serving under your leadership in the coming year.

Serving as Chair of this group has been one of the most fulfilling professional experiences I have had in 20 years as a lawyer, which I celebrated this year. What made this year as good as it was were the other members of the Executive Committee I had the honor of serving alongside. They are truly some of the hardest working, most dedicated, and kindest people I have ever met. I realized this year that in general, anyone can succeed at any endeavor so long as they: (1) have the passion and drive to do so; and (2) more importantly, are surrounded by people who support and believe in them. The main reason I made it through this year as Chair was because my committee members supported me every step of the way. Thank you to each of you for allowing me to serve as your Chair. Thank you also, John Boxberger, our Section Coordinator, for all you do day after day to help make our Executive Committee run as smoothly as it does.  It has been a pleasure working with you. Special thanks to my friend David Skaggs, the Immediate Past Chair of the Executive Committee of the Workers’ Compensation Section, for being an amazing mentor to me.

I spent my year as Chair accomplishing three goals and learning one very important lesson. I will discuss each four in turn.  

My first goal was to assign Chairs to our nine subcommittees so that our Executive Committee continued to run as efficiently as possible to best serve the approximately 3,000 Workers’ Compensation Section members we are responsible to. As a result, by the time I assumed the Chair position, each of my subcommittee Chairs had been selected as follows:  Hon. Velzy-Leningon: Education; Practice and Ethics: John Parente; Legislation and Unpublished Cases: Hon. Kenneth Peterson (Ret.); Awards and Recognition: Erin Wintersteen; Publications: Jack Goodchild; Membership: Hon. William Carero; Technology/Website/Social Media: Elizabeth Furlow; and Community Outreach: Tiffany Boyland. My year as Chair was in large part as enjoyable as it was due to the efforts of all eight of you. Thank you for helping me as you did, and for your commitment to the Executive Committee.  

My second goal was met in that I highlighted, with the help of each subcommittee Chair, all nine subcommittees in my monthly eNews articles. I did this in order to help all of you better understand what each one does. I started with Education in January and ended with Unpublished Cases in September.  Below are one sentence goals of each subcommittee prepared by the Chairs:

Education: To provide high quality and affordable education to the workers’ compensation community.

Practice and Ethics: To concentrate on improving levels of professionalism and competence for all practicing before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) through education and guidelines.

Legislation: To complete comprehensive review of workers’ compensation Labor Code sections to recommend legislative changes that eliminate conflicts, obsolete or inaccurate provisions, achieve harmony among conflicting sections, and minimize gender specificity.

Awards and Recognition: To recognize and show appreciation to the excellent and notable players in the field of workers’ compensation.

Publications: To make and keep the Workers’ Compensation Quarterly the source our entire community looks forward to and relies upon for insight and enlightenment regarding the latest cases, issues, and controversies in our area of law.

Membership: To promote and encourage a sense of community among practitioners serving California’s backbone: the worker.

Technology/Website/Social Media: To recognize the activities of the Workers’ Compensation Section and Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee and to continue bridging the identify gap between the former State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section and CLA Workers’ Compensation Section.

Community Outreach: To educate the general public and legal community about what the workers’ compensation system means.

Unpublished Cases: To evaluate Court of Appeal decisions originally designated as unpublished to determine if a publication request should be made so they become citable authority.  

The nine subcommittees cited above are the heart of our Executive Committee and we spend much of our time together doing all we can to accomplish goals related to each one.     

My third and final goal was to preside over our Executive Committee meetings taking place in November, January, April, July, and October. I will complete that goal when I preside over my last meeting on October 12.      

The November meeting was our two-day long range, in which we focused on our goals for the upcoming year. The January, April, and July meetings were in large part devoted to discussing the accomplishments and goals of each of our nine subcommittees. At our April meeting we also voted on our four new officers discussed above and our new Executive Committee members: Alec Beyer; Hon. Kathleen Ferchland Boriolo; Kia Myers Holsey; Hon. Therese Da Silva; and Viviana Santiago. These five outstanding new members begin their three-year journey at the upcoming Annual Meeting in Monterey in October. Congratulations again, you five. You are in for a most gratifying  professional experience.

In addition, at our April meeting, we voted on the five winners of the 2019 Steve Jimenez Memorial Special Recognition Awards as follows:

  • Lifetime Achievement: Hon. Joseph Samuel
  • Judge of the Year: Hon. Pamela Pulley
  • Applicant Attorney of the Year: Vincent J. Scotto III
  • Defense Attorney of the Year: William E. Davis
  • Young Attorney of the Year: Megan Ruble

Congratulations to each of you! You five have demonstrated an incredible dedication to the practice of workers’ compensation by your knowledge of the law, professionalism, and service to our community. We look forward to celebrating you at our reception held in your honor on Friday, October 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Portola Hotel in Monterey. Everyone from the workers’ compensation community is invited to the reception free of charge. Please join us.    

Additional thanks to my Executive Committee for helping me get through the above four meetings. I was able to do so because each of you worked hard, but more importantly, treated each other and myself with respect.        

Now onto what I learned this last year. As I look back over the last six years I served on the Executive Committee, I see clearly now my first five years were devoted to rolling up my sleeves and working as hard as I could to help our nine subcommittees in one way or another.  During these years I primarily focused on the Publications and Community Outreach Subcommittees, where I helped write and collect articles and educate the public on workers’ compensation law. One week or so before becoming Chair however, I intuitively knew my role needed to shift from my focus on subcommittees to doing all I could to support and encourage each committee member to be the best they could be. In this vein, I was mindful not to shoot down ideas or micromanage. I also did my best to remember to give sincere compliments for a job well done, as I knew failing to do so could discourage, and even demoralize those who so freely give of their time and talent to our group. Finally, as I had a bird’s-eye view of all aspects of the Executive Committee, I was in the perfect position to ensure that all committee members took ownership of some part of our committee in order to maximize their contributions and create the best experience they could for themselves.  It took holding this position to really understand the importance of the above.   

A million thanks to my husband Larry Sager and my law partners at Boxer & Gerson for supporting me 100% as I served as Chair this last year. There is no way I could have made it without each of you backing me as you did. I acknowledge that serving in this capacity took me away from my family and law firm. Please know I will forever be grateful to each of you for allowing me to have this experience.    

On October 13, I become one of 17 members of the Board of Representatives on behalf of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the CLA, representing 100,000 lawyers in our state. I know this too will be a professionally fulfilling experience.   

Finally, Dad, thank you for planting the seed for me to become a lawyer when I was around 17 years old. Thank you also for watering that seed as you did, by providing endless guidance, until we accomplished our goal. The above experience would not have happened without you. 

Should any of you have any questions regarding any of the above, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at msager@boxerlaw.com. It would be my pleasure to talk with you. 

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