by Heather L. Rosing
The long-standing State Bar of California “Sections” are now the first statewide, all-attorney bar association in California – the California Lawyers Association (CLA). CLA came into existence pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 36, which was signed into law by Jerry Brown in late 2017. CLA’s mission is to promote excellence, diversity, and inclusion in the legal profession, and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law. Because the Section members transferred over to the new entity, CLA is already 60,000 members strong. Once the ranks of the California Young Lawyers Association (CYLA) are added to this number, CLA will be the largest state bar association in the country.
A nonprofit 501(c)(6), CLA is governed by a Board of Representatives, with a representative from each Section and one from the CYLA. On January 18, 2018, CLA elected its first slate of officers: Heather L Rosing as President, Emilio Varanini as Vice-President, Jim Hill as Chairman of the Board, Chip Wilkins as Vice-Chairman of the Board, Lee Berger as Secretary, and Betty Williams as Treasurer. Pam Wilson serves as the Interim Executive Director, and Tricia Horan is the Director of Operations. CLA is currently headquartered at the State Bar in San Francisco and anticipates moving its main operation to Sacramento.
The Sections have a long history of success, activity, and high quality educational programming through the State Bar. SB 36, also known as the State Bar fee bill, separated the Sections from the State Bar effective January 1, 2018, and gave CLA a mandate to provide low-cost and no-cost legal education in return for the continued inclusion of CLA on the State Bar’s dues statement. Since the split, the State Bar has transferred other professional association functions to CLA. All members of the Sections are automatically members of CLA and can continue to maintain membership in CLA through a simple payment on the State Bar’s dues statement. Attorneys can also join CLA directly through CLA’s website at www.CAlawyers.org.
We are extremely excited that CLA has officially launched, The State Bar is focused on its regulatory mission, and CLA can now act as a true Bar Association that engages in a variety of activities that were not possible in the State Bar context. While change is always difficult at some level, the State Bar, the Legislature, and the Sections worked very well together to effectuate the transition and separation. CLA is off and running in a very positive and exciting way.
CLA’S DEDICATION TO INNOVATION
CLA, its members, and its many volunteers are over four months into the work of building the organization and devising initiatives. The CLA leadership is working with Section members on enhancing the value of the organization and creating new platforms for dissemination of information. CLA, as a bar association, now has the freedom to adopt innovative ways to engage its constituents, educate them on the latest developments and trends, and attract and retain a diverse membership from across the state – including attorneys belonging to the Sacramento County Bar Association, now celebrating its 100th year.
“When we were part of the California Bar Association, we needed to ensure all of our communications between members were carefully planned and organized to comply with Bagley-Keene open meeting rules. We lost the impromptu nature of informal collaboration, email threads, and impromptu get-togethers,” said Jim Hill, Chairman of the Board. “We can freely communicate among leadership and members and have a flexible approach to our strategic plan now that we are a separate entity from the State Bar.”
CLA FOCUS AND ACTIVITIES
The organization’s primary focus is simple: to promote the professional advancement and education of attorneys practicing in California. In today’s competitive legal landscape, CLA offers a variety of resources and networking opportunities, while strengthening fellowship throughout California’s attorney community.
CLA is proud to offer several signature events. The first is the CLA Annual Meeting, which is based on the model built by the State Bar over many decades. The first CLA Annual Meeting will be in San Diego on September 14 and 15, 2018. The second CLA Annual Meeting is anticipated to take place in Monterey in the fall of 2019. CLA’s vision is to create an environment at the Annual Meeting where all attorneys, bar leaders, bar organizations, and judicial leaders are welcome and encouraged to network and participate in high-quality educational programming. CLA is in the process of reviving the Bar Leaders Conference, which is expected to premiere at the 2019 Annual Meeting.
Another CLA signature event is the Small Firm and Solo Summit, again modeled on the successful event hosted by the State Bar for many years. Anticipated to take place in June 2019, this event will offer a variety of critical practice management tools, CLEs, mix and mingle opportunities, and more. It is a rapidly changing environment for small firms and solo practitioners, and CLA is excited to renew the Summit as a resource to this community.
In accordance with the CLA mission, the 16 Sections continue to regularly deliver high-quality programs, events, and resources. They are also continuously seeking new ways to expand its offerings – helping members maintain expertise in their fields, build contacts, and grow their practice while upholding the ideals of the legal profession and justice system.
Another priority for CLA is expanding and refining its communication tools for members, as well as the general public. CAlawyers.org already features more than 1,200 pages of resources, information on past meetings, and other valuable membership tools. Cognizant of the need to maintain a strong presence through social media, each CLA Section has developed a social media strategy designed to connect the organization with the younger generation of lawyers in particular.
Finally, CLA members should keep their eyes out for a variety of organization-wide initiatives in the areas of diversity, pro bono opportunities, bar collaboration, support of the judiciary, and advocacy at the Capitol. CLA is fortunate to have the members, volunteers, staff, and resources to make a substantial impact in California on cutting edge issues.
MAINTAINING AND BUILDING CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS
The CLA Board of Representatives has made working with the State Bar a priority. In particular, the State Bar and CLA have a shared interest in educating attorneys, developing young lawyers, providing the highest quality legal services, promoting diversity in the legal profession, and protecting the public.
One of CLA signature initiatives is bar collaboration, which involves bringing together bar associations, affinity organizations, and bar leaders across the state to discuss points of common interest, joint networking events, joint educational programming, and more. CLA is excited to continue to foster these relationships, including a relationship with the Sacramento County Bar Association.
CLA is also engaging in dialogue with other legally related groups and agencies across the state, in an effort to foster relationships that will assist CLA in achieving its mission and serve the profession of law.
CALIFORNIA YOUNG LAWYERS ASSOCIATION (CYLA) HAS A NEW HOME, TOO
The future of the legal profession in California is in very good hands with CYLA. All California licensed lawyers 36 years old or admitted to practice for five years or less are automatically members of CYLA. The CYLA leadership and volunteers will continue to offer younger lawyers and new practitioners the best opportunities for involvement in the legal profession, as well as participation in public service at the state and local levels.
CYLA is also developing a program to appoint liaisons to each of the CLA Sections, to enhance the dialogue between CYLA and the Section membership. The Sections are very interested in cultivating young attorneys and providing mentorship. CLA’s heavy investment in CYLA will ensure that these future leaders will have access to expanded educational programs, as well as enhanced networking and advancement opportunities.
CLA encourages all attorneys and legal professionals in California to consider joining and taking advantage of not only all of the benefits and educational opportunities, but the energy and enthusiasm inherent in building a new and influential statewide Bar Association.
You can learn more by visiting CAlawyers.org or contacting the CLA at 415.795.7029.