Our Spirit of Volunteerism Is Alive
Thanks to the efforts of our members, the Association has again made a difference
By Patricia M. Schnegg
Patricia M. Schnegg is president of the Association.
This President's Page was originally published in the June 2000 issue of Los Angeles Lawyer.
As my term as president of the Association comes to a close and I reflect back on the past year, I am struck by the fact that the legal community and our Association have seen many changes that were not predictable when I took office last June. Yet, through all the turmoil, my goal has been to stress the need to rekindle the volunteer spirit that lies within every lawyer and the responsibility we all have to give back to the profession.
The crisis over court unification was perhaps the most critical issue the Association faced as I took office. Last summer, the prospects for a successful resolution of that controversy were anything but promising. But through the remarkable diligence of the court leadership and the work of the Association's Ad Hoc Committee on Trial Court Unification, the obstacles to unification were eventually overcome. I had the honor of participating in the culminating event of that process-the swearing-in ceremony for the the county's new superior court judges. It was particularly satisfying to watch Chief Justice Ronald George and Presiding Judge Victor Chavez greet every judge as he or she was elevated.
I would like to thank Judge Chavez, Assistant Presiding Judge James Bascue, Judges Veronica McBeth, Ray Hart, and Philip Mautino along with Patricia Phillips, who chaired the Association's committee, and the committee members for all their hard work in making this memorable event possible.
Working with the Courts
I would also like to express my appreciation, on behalf of all Los Angeles County litigators, to John Collins, who led our Superior Court Improvement Initiative again this year. The initiative, among its many other accomplishments, has secured the elimination of "local local" rules in the Los Angeles County Superior court.
I am equally proud of the Association's participation in the litigation of several important issues before the courts. Through the hard work of Catherine Barrad, chair of the Amicus Briefs Committee, the Association was able to weigh in with a quick response whenever appropriate. Similarly, the Juvenile Courts Task Force, led by Paul Freese and Miriam Krinsky and assisted by Russ Ginise, did a terrific job of analyzing Proposition 21 prior to the primary election last March to provide our membership and the public with guidance in understanding the impact of this proposition on the state's juvenile justice system.
The Association also continued its important efforts to ensure the high quality of our bench. Steve Bacon, chair of the Judiciary Committee, led the Association's efforts to promote an independent judiciary, and the Judicial Evaluations Committee, chaired by Gerald Chaleff, put in overtime to complete their work in advance of this year's judicial elections. The committee's recommendations provide an invaluable service to the county's voters, who often are at a loss for information during judicial elections.
The Past and the Future
We also grappled, as an Association, with the future of our profession. At the beginning of the year we focused on the multidisciplinary practice of law. Today, we are dealing with the ever-escalating salaries paid to first-year associates and the economic impact this change will have on private law firms, government lawyers, pro bono activities, and clients.
The Association also took time to remember its past. Inspired by Judge Arthur Alarcon's keynote address to the Barristers at the annual Judge Day, the Association launched the Oral History Project this year. Its goal is to preserve the history of the legal profession in Los Angels and that of Los Angeles lawyers for current and future members of the Association.
Shortly before my installation, the Association moved into its new quarters on Figueroa Street. Since then, we have utilized our new free-standing, state-of-the-art conference center to accommodate many of our programs and courses and to keep the cost of those programs affordable for our members. The LACBA/Lexis Publishing Conference Center also provides us with a facility to conduct extensive computer training courses and workshops for section and committee leaders on how to establish Internet sites that can be linked to the Association's Web page-www.lacba.org. The fact is that more and more of us rely on the Internet for a large portion of the information we need, and the Association's Web site continues to expand and bring added value to members.
For example, the Litigation Section, under the leadership of Brian Sun, provides weekly highlights of newly decided cases. And through the efforts of Dick Burdge, a member of the Board of Trustees, you are now only a click away from accessing up-to-the-minute news on court unification and related issues such as the status of the new complex litigation court. For those of you who do not visit www.lacba.org on a regular basis, you are missing out on one of the Association's greatest member resources.
I also want to thank the executive committee, the Board of Trustees, and all of our sections and committees for volunteering so much of their time and energy to the Association. In particular, my fellow executive committee members, Rex Heinke, Roland Coleman, Miriam Krinsky, John Kronstadt, Robin Meadow, Mark Neubauer, Bill Bilderback, Lorin Snyder, and Susan Skelding worked diligently throughout the year on many long-range planning issues such as increasing Association membership and establishing professional development projects. This year the entire Board of Trustees was called upon to play a key role in addressing such long-range goals for the Association as well as voting to reaffirm our stand on court unification.
A special thank you also goes to the Barristers, the Association's largest section. The Barristers are the future of this association, and, under the able leadership of Bill Bilderback, the Barristers volunteered countless hours to its many programs and members' activities. The Association was also mindful of the need to provide training to these new lawyers. The hugely successful Nuts and Bolts of Civil Litigation series continued this year, with even many seasoned litigators taking advantage of the high caliber of the program's faculty, including judges, judicial officials, and experienced practitioners. I want to offer a special thank you to Dan Floyd and John Kronstadt, the Barristers, and all our committee members for their hard work on this series.
Thanks to the Staff
Of course, behind every great institution is a great staff, and without question, this Association is fortunate to have Rich Walch as its executive director. Rich celebrated his 21st year with the Association this year; he embodies its spirit and heart. Our Association is blessed to have many other hardworking staff members. In particular, I would like to thank those with whom I had the opportunity to work most closely this past year: Joe Kornowski, our associate executive director and general counsel, as well as Grace Lee, Tim Elliot, Cecily Cashman, Barbara Seidel, Burchell Jacobs, Sam Lipsman, and Karen King.
I have always been proud to be a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and I am especially proud to have been able to lead the Association as president. As my term comes to an end I can honestly tell you that I will not miss the chicken dinners, but I will miss the people and the camaraderie. For when all is said and done, the friendships are what make the job worthwhile. Rex Heinke will be installed as the Association's next president on June 20, and I know that he will do a terrific job. And yes, Rex, it is a lot of work. Good luck!