Think You Know All that the CCCBA Does?


You’ll Be Surprised!

This month Contra Costa Lawyer magazine celebrates the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Contra Costa County Bar Association.

Each year, the August issue of the magazine is guest edited by the Editorial Board, with one Board member chosen to be the lead.  This year I have the privilege of filling that role.  In the process, I have learned a tremendous amount about how the Association came into being, and how it provides vital services to the profession and to the community today.  We hope you enjoy this look back at the beginnings and evolution of your Association.

Eighty-five years ago, Contra Costa County was largely agricultural, and the country was mired in the Great Depression.  For a true sense of what the world, and our community were like then, read “1934” by Editorial Board member David Arietta.  It is a fascinating look at how different the county, and our nation were then.

In 1934 (the year, not the article), the legal profession was the epitome of an old boy’s club.  It took 51 years for the Association to elect its first female Board President, Suzanne Chapot.  Fast forward to 2019, and women now fill the majority of leadership and judicial positions in our county.  For an interesting history of this evolution, read Women Attorneys and Judges in Contra Costa County Over the Past 85 Years – We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.”  The author, Lorraine Walsh, is a member of the Editorial Board, and Chair of the newly formed Senior Section.

It is sometimes tempting to take CCCBA for granted because everything the Association does looks seamless, and runs so smoothly.  If you have spent time in the Association office, or regularly attend Association events, you know the “seamless” appearance is a result of the tireless efforts of an outstanding professional staff. 

This issue celebrates one of those individuals who joined the Association staff in 1979 and still serves today.  In 40 Years and Still Smiling,” Communications Director Carole Lucido tells the story of Membership Director Jennifer Comages.

Through its many charitable activities, CCCBA and its members serve the residents of Contra Costa County in more ways than I ever realized, and not just in the form of legal services.  Did you know that over the years CCCBA members have donated over 56 tons of food, and well over $1 million to the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano Counties? 

For a fuller look at the Association’s many charitable programs, read Contra Costa COMMUNITY Bar Association,” authored by CCCBA Board Member Nicole Mills. Highlighted in this article are some of the youth services, services for the elderly, and support services for students provided by the Association.  Also provided are some of the poverty statistics for Contra Costa County that I was unaware of, and that add to the importance of the next article.

Despite what we may see while shopping in Walnut Creek or dining in Danville, Contra Costa has a large population of low income residents who may need, but cannot afford the services of an attorney.  In CCCBA’s Tradition of Pro Bono Community Service,” Executive Director Theresa Hurley reviews the history of the Association’s services to those who would otherwise have no access to legal assistance.  From its early days as an informal arrangement, the program has developed to a regular series of community workshops and other services for those who would otherwise have to do without the help they need and deserve.

From what I have read about the Association’s earliest days, its purpose was more social than professional, and the practice of law had not yet given rise to areas of specialization.  Everyone did whatever walked in the door.

Today, specialization is more the norm.  CCCBA supports that with twenty-two different sections representing a broad range of legal specializations and societal interests.  Last year alone, the Association sponsored 96 MCLE events that were attended by over 2,900 people.  It also sponsored more than 60 other events, including networking, social, fundraising, and holiday parties.

In just the first three months of this year, CCCBA’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service (LRIS) received 2,915 inquiries, and made 966 referrals.  The Association also sponsored 22 MCLE programs, and 15 legal workshops in a variety of areas.

My view of the Association has always been a bit of looking in from the outside because I do not actively practice law.  Shortly after I graduated from law school in 1983, I had the opportunity to join a major investment bank, but in a non-legal capacity.  My legal training was certainly an advantage, but the job shifted my focus, and my peer group from the legal community to finance and wealth management.

I joined CCCBA in 2009 when my office moved to Walnut Creek.  I saw it as a way to reconnect with the profession, and to learn about the latest developments in areas that might affect the clients of our wealth management practice.  I was truly grateful for the warm welcome I received.

Normally, the meetings I attend with our firm and our industry are classroom style, where the speaker speaks, and the attendees take notes and try to get out the door as quickly as possible.  The first time I attended a CCCBA section lunch, I was impressed with the relaxed, interactive, round-table discussion format. 

As the speaker was talking about how he approached a particular subject in court, a gentleman to my left interjected that he had tried a new approach in a recent case.  The speaker said he was unfamiliar with that approach, and asked how it had worked.  A gentleman to my right spoke up and said, “It worked like magic.  He kicked my butt.”

Opposing counsel sitting at the same table, chatting and laughing over lunch, while sharing their expertise with their fellow attendees?  I knew then that CCCBA was a very special organization.  I had yet to learn just how special it truly is. 

This edition of Contra Costa Lawyer magazine is a testament to just how unique an organization CCCBA really is, and what a tremendous asset it is to the profession, and especially to the community it serves.

And it even has time to publish an award winning magazine.

On behalf of the Editorial Board, I hope you enjoy this special 85th anniversary issue.