A GOOD PLACE TO CALL HOME
The Association is committed to increasing the value of your membership
By Lee Smalley Edmon
Lee Smalley Edmon is president of the Association.
This President's Page was originally published in the July/August 1998 issue of Los Angeles Lawyer.
One of the realities of practicing law these days is that we tend to spend much of our energy intentionally narrowing our focus; that is, finding our niche and attempting to excel in a single area. As a result, we limit our view of the world. The Los Angeles County Bar Association is one of the best antidotes to this unintended by-product of specialization. Membership in the Association provides us with opportunities to interact with lawyers whose practices-and perspectives-are very different from our own. Through its numerous committees and programs, the County Bar offers a window through which we can look beyond our own offices to the broader legal community in which we work.
For me, this has meant the chance to get to know lawyers I otherwise would never have met and who have become lifelong friends. The bar has also provided me with a better understanding of the complexity and diversity of our profession and our justice system as a whole. Perhaps most important, it has impressed upon me the incredible range of good work that lawyers are doing in and for our community. I am very proud of our profession and this Association, and I hope you are too.
All our members-whether they are in the business of assisting large corporate clients, defending or prosecuting those accused of crimes, or providing a voice for individuals who otherwise would have little hope of a just resolution of their grievances (and these are just a few examples)-are fundamentally in the business of helping people solve problems. Our members should gain enormous satisfaction from knowing that, every day, people confidently look to their attorneys to safeguard their future, their finances, their families, and their freedom.
The mission of this Association is twofold: first, to meet the professional needs of Los Angeles lawyers. As a practical matter, this means providing education and opportunities to share ideas among colleagues with similar interests and problems in order to improve your knowledge and skills. It also means protecting and promoting professional standards among all lawyers in the community.
The second mission of the Association is to advance the administration of justice. We have the obligation, and the opportunity, to bring together the considerable skills of our committed and talented members in order to respond to the great challenges facing us today-such as increasing equal access to our justice system at a time when government support for legal services has dropped to levels lower than many of us can remember, restoring public confidence in lawyers and the justice system, responding to attacks on the independence of the judiciary, and ensuring equal access to our profession for all. This year, we will continue to meet these challenges with the goal of making a difference for the better.
Meeting the Needs of Los Angeles Lawyers
With advances in technology-word processors, cell phones, faxes, e-mail, and video conferencing, just to name a few-clients have come to demand more from us than ever before. We must provide improved service, faster responses, and better results, and all at a lower cost. These pressures make it more difficult than ever to find the time to do those things that drew us to the law as a profession: making a contribution to society, providing pro bono service, training and mentoring the next generation of lawyers, and working to improve the justice system. In particular, newer lawyers have expressed increasing frustration with their inability to find mentors willing to provide the support and guidance crucial for a successful, satisfying career.
We are therefore launching an ambitious training program for new lawyers. The program is being designed by some of our most talented and experienced members, as measured by both their years of practice and their training of new lawyers. That program will 1) give new lawyers the opportunity to learn from masters of the art of lawyering, 2) develop valuable networks of contacts, 3) foster a sense of the true importance of professionalism early in their careers, and 3) provide much-needed support for the next generation. Focus groups of experienced lawyers and new lawyers have indicated what this program should include, and their enthusiasm has proven contagious.
For all lawyers, we will continue to improve the quality of the education programs we offer to you. To make them more convenient and affordable, we will provide them at locations throughout the county. We will also explore ways in which the Association can keep you abreast of developments in the law and help you acquire new skills, all through your desktop computer.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Association's litigation guidelines, adopted during Margaret Morrow's term as president. With the assistance of the courts, we will ask a task force to analyze the progress and effectiveness of the guidelines and consider other ways to encourage civility among lawyers. In the meantime, we will continue to incorporate in each of our programs the message that the costs of incivility are too high-for our clients and for the reputation of the profession.
The Association will also continue to provide member benefits to assist you in your practice, including valuable discount programs for office products, cellular phones, and insurance. We would like you to tell us what else the Association can do for you. Please write to me at the Association offices, or you can contact us on the Association's Web site at www.lacba.org.
Probably the most important service the Association can provide lawyers is the opportunity to increase their personal satisfaction with the profession. I agree with John Davis, founder of New York-based Davis Polk & Wardwell, who said, "Most lawyers have a deep desire to conduct themselves in such a way that the profession will be strengthened by their passage through its ranks." This year the Association will continue to provide lawyers with opportunities for pro bono work and to advocate improvement of the justice system. Those activities will not only improve the public's perception of our profession but also lead to greater personal fulfillment.
Advancing the Administration of Justice
Equal access to justice, one of the top priorities of this Association, is only available if the public is served by well-run and accessible courts and has access to counsel. For the last three years, the Association's Blue Ribbon Commission on the Los Angeles Superior Court has worked with the University of Southern California's School of Public Administration and the leadership of the Los Angeles Superior Court to help identify and prioritize ways in which the local courts should be improved to better serve the community. The interim report, issued in June, identified four initial priorities for the court: 1) the establishment of mechanisms to ensure that the court will continuously monitor its performance and pursue improvements, 2) assignment of cases on the basis of judicial officer competencies, 3) jury reform, and 4) establishment of uniform, courtwide rules and procedures. In addition, the report suggested changes in the court's governance to empower its leadership to be more responsive to the community. The Blue Ribbon Commission, with the assistance of USC, will continue to work with the courts on these important goals.
In 1989 the Association adopted goals and timetables for law firm hiring and advancement of minority lawyers. These goals were adopted by a high percentage of area firms, and the Association remains committed to creating a diverse legal profession. However, recently released figures show a substantial decline in the number of minority students applying and admitted to University of California law schools.These results are extremely disappointing and contradict the demographic changes in the region.
For the justice system to have the respect of the community, it must reflect the community. The Association's Minority Representation in the Legal Profession Committee, under the able leadership of Ron Beard of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, will build a scholarship program for minority students admitted to local law schools and make affirmative efforts to recruit the scholarship recipients and to begin mentoring relationships with them prior to their arrival on campus. Additionally, to support and encourage qualified minority law students, the committee will explore the possibility of helping place first-year minority students in summer positions in Los Angeles firms. Through these efforts, the Association plans to increase the opportunities for all members of society to strengthen the justice system.
The Association is a fabulous resource for its members, and it provides a wide spectrum of opportunities for involvement. These are interesting times for the legal profession in California, and the Association will remain strong and vibrant throughout them. There is much work to be done over the next year. With your participation, we will do it.