VOLUME 14 | NUMBER 7 | JULY 2019


LACBA and the Real Property Section:  Fixtures of My Life


It’s been many years in the making and yet I am still humbled to be installed as the new Chair of the Real Property Section, an organization with close to 1,000 members, and to be the first Chair of Armenian descent. I think it’s always been part of my DNA to be a real estate attorney, having an architect for a father and a judge for a mother. I remember spending Saturdays at my father’s office looking over his various sketches of shopping centers, hotels and office buildings and, on a few occasions, attending law school with my mother when she didn’t have access to a babysitter. When I entered law school in 1994, the world was experiencing a downturn in the real estate market. By the time I graduated in 1997, the real estate market was rebounding and this cycle of ups and downs in the market has repeated itself many times ever since. Regardless, there always seems to be plenty of real estate work if you are willing to adapt your practice to the needs at the time. The same year I graduated law school, I also became a member of LACBA and the Real Property Section and both have been fixtures of my life ever since.

I began volunteering with the Real Property Section as a member of a Steering Committee for one of our subsections and eventually rose to being the Chair of that subsection. Eventually, I was elevated to join the Executive Committee where I have served in various roles ever since. And along the way, over the past 20 years of volunteering, I have made and worked alongside many great friends and colleagues, some of whom have also referred me clients. As a solo practitioner, I can’t tell you how thankful I have been for those referrals, but to be honest, that’s not why I’m still volunteering. For me, that’s just icing on the cake.

I have learned a great deal just by being surrounded by such important and influential people who I look up to, such as Susan Booth, Ira Waldman, Norm Chernin, Michael Klein, Brant Dveirin, Carolyn Dreyfus, Norma Williams, Sarah Spyksma, Pamela Westhoff, and my predecessor, Claire Hervey-Collins. They are all staples of our Section, which I think speaks volumes of our Section. Any stranger might initially look at the group of people who make up our Executive Committee and think we were all competitors playing for different teams. The reality is we all get together every month, put aside our differences in affiliation and plan networking events and programs that will educate and give the skills necessary to anyone willing to attend so that that person can get the expertise he or she needs to attract the same clients we are all pursuing. I find that truly inspiring. It is the main reason I have continued to volunteer all these


years and I hope my story inspires others to do the same.

As the Chair, I have a very daunting task. I have to somehow not just maintain our current membership, but I have to significantly increase that number. Most voluntary bar associations across the country, including LACBA, have seen a decline in membership over the past several years. There are many reasons for this, but I assure you the leaders at LACBA are tackling most of those reasons in a very productive way. I continue to stay involved during these challenging times because LACBA and the Real Property Section nourished me as a young attorney and continue to nourish me. They have given me many of the skills I have needed to excel in my career and now LACBA has some obstacles of its own to overcome. Given the various options for CLE, we need to adapt, make changes and add new benefits to create added value and meaning to membership in LACBA and the Real Property Section. This will be one of my main goals as Chair. We will continue to put on excellent, currently relevant programs with a diverse panel of speakers (e.g., diverse in race, gender, years of experience, size of the firm represented on the panel, having more than one firm on the same panel) who are going to provide the necessary checks and balances that you are not likely to get at programs put on by or at any one firm or company. My other goals include increasing networking and co-sponsorship with various real estate organizations so that, with the education and skills taught and learned in our CLE programs, our attendees will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the same to prospective employers and clients. Having said this, much of what I will be doing is maintenance because, honestly, for a long time now, our Section has been a well-oiled machine. We put on more programs than any other Section of LACBA, we have an incredible team on the Executive Committee and we have an irreplaceable Section administrator in Fatima Jones, all of whom are going to make my job much easier so I thank them in advance and look forward to a challenging but productive year with their help.

I know that when my term as Chair is over, I will continue to volunteer, because there is no way I can possibly give back in 1 year as the Chair what this Section has given to me in over 22 years. In the meantime, I hope to make all of you proud of me as the Chair of our Section and please know that while I may have my own ideas of how to make membership in LACBA and the Real Property Section more meaningful and valuable, I welcome giving you all an opportunity to be heard and share your thoughts so that we can truly make this a team effort.

Thank you.
Eric Altoon
Chair, Real Property Section


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