A Newcomer’s Perspective of the Conference of California Bar Associations
Editor’s Note: This issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer features the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA). It should not be confused with the Contra Costa County Bar Associations (CCCBA).
Over the course of my legal career, I’ve had numerous experiences in which I was frustrated with the status of the law. I would come across it in court, hearing the judge say, “I am sorry, but the law does not give me the authority to do that,” only to have the absence of that authority detrimentally impact a litigant, and even sometimes, a child. I would experience the frustration with the law in research, wondering why the law did not provide for something which was common sense. I felt client frustration while delivering the concepts in a legal standard that simply did not make sense or was purely inequitable. So many times, the only response was, “Please don’t shoot the messenger.” Then I was invited to participate in the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA), and the occasional helplessness I felt in changing the inequities of the law was mitigated.
The beauty behind the CCBA is the voice it gives to practicing attorneys to make a difference in the laws when change is needed. Practicing attorneys are on the front lines, in the trenches with the law, trying to explain it, manipulate it, structure it, all for the benefit of our clients. We, the practicing attorneys, are the best suited to help form the laws we work with every day.
According to the 2015 article from PEW, the number of attorneys serving the statehouses across the nation dropped from 22.3 percent in 1979, to 14.4 in 2015.
The legislators in our statehouses are those who are debating and deciding the laws which not only impact our clients, but us personally. Yet, many of them have zero legal experience. This could explain some of the issues we encounter with the law, and statues as they evolve. Participation in the CCBA helps bring more attorney experience and knowledge into the law-making process.
The biggest concern I had in participating in the delegation was the time commitment required. On top of running two law firms with my law partner, I am a wife and mom of two little kids — an almost three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter, so to say my free time is limited is an understatement. That said, it takes time to prepare your solutions, but not generally more than a couple of hours. We have about two to three meetings per session to review the resolutions. There is dinner, and wine. The conference is a three-day commitment, which I just always put in the calendar. Sadly, the 2018 conference conflicted with my daughter’s first birthday, so I had to move her party.
There is a value add which practicing attorneys can bring to the legislative process that other professionals cannot. It comes from the familiarity they have with the frustration the law can cause.