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January 2018 - Unicorns, Puppies, and the OCBA

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by Nikki Presley Miliband

Unicorns and puppies are just two of the topics OCBA members have suggested I write about this year in light of the still highly charged national political climate and our diverse membership with opposing viewpoints on almost any issue. So, with perhaps just a mention or two of puppies along the way, I will instead focus on matters relevant to your practice and your OCBA membership.

In 1995, after having moved in 1991 from Oklahoma when Paul Copenbarger agreed to hire a fellow Okie, I became involved in what is now the OCBA’s Legislative Resolutions Committee. This committee—comprised of the who’s who in the OCBA legal community—included almost all future OCBA presidents. Let me tell you briefly about one. Back then, at the Saturday night delegation dinner held during the State Bar Annual Meeting, the OCBA Secretarial candidates had a mock debate. While minding my own business at the dinner, the handsome guy (not that I noticed!) sitting next to me was—unbeknownst to me—running for OCBA Secretary. As dessert was being served, he stood up, said “I’ll be right back,” and proceeded to participate in the long tradition of humiliating himself in front of the entire committee. I decided to take a chance on him anyway! After winning the election, Joel S. Miliband became OCBA President in 2000. We’ve since married and the rest is, as they say, history. He is and has been my best friend and inspiration. This began my journey with the OCBA. While I initially thought Joel and others were crazy to volunteer so much of their time to the OCBA, I soon found the dedication, integrity, and quality of the people doing the same to be unparalleled and I wanted to be a part of this amazing organization.

Over my twenty-two years of OCBA involvement, I have noticed that many of our members are not aware of our bar association’s impact on our community at large. For example, many of our members are not aware of the historical relationship between the OCBA, the Legal Aid Society, and the Public Law Center or that, combined, the OCBA Charitable Fund and OCBA LRIS have provided over $3 million to pro bono providers and law-related charities, including $1,889,189 to Public Law Center. Oftentimes, members have little OCBA participation outside their specific section and practice area. The community and our lawyers benefit when we work together. My goal is to encourage greater OCBA participation by and inclusion of section members.

The OCBA has twenty-seven sections, nineteen committees, fifteen affiliate bars, and several task forces. Opportunities exist for all members to participate and the professional rewards for doing so in terms of advancing the system of justice, providing access to justice, and helping the community are immeasurable (not to mention the potential personal rewards, having met the love of my life through the OCBA!).

If your passion is politics and legislation, join the Legislative Resolutions Committee, which proposes resolutions to be passed into law and engages in lively and passionate debates over these proposals with other county bar associations. Want to give back to our community? Join the Community Outreach Committee. If you are a newer lawyer, join our Young Lawyers Division. For more seasoned lawyers, join our Masters Division. Other committees include Professionalism & Ethics, Judiciary, Mentoring, Education, and many more. Attend the mixers and judicial receptions; volunteer to be an arbitrator for the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee. You will meet the movers and shakers of the OC legal community and will be professionally enriched.

This year’s focus to encourage our membership to become more involved will include leadership development, pro bono opportunities, and affiliate bar relationships. We will be revamping our Pro Bono Committee by folding into it the mission of some of our task forces. We will be creating a mechanism to connect members with various pro bono service providers. This way, attorneys can better pursue pro bono interests in their desired practice areas.

As for leadership development, through our Leadership Committee and the OCBA Diversity Task Force, we will establish a pipeline of potential future bar leaders to ensure we have an array of qualified individuals, diverse by ethnicity, practice area, firm size, gender, geography, etc. We will be conducting a series of roundtable events where potential future leaders will have opportunities to meet with and discuss leadership issues with current and past leaders of the OCBA. We will also explore and implement strategies to ensure that the OCBA meets the expectations and needs of the next generation of Orange County lawyers. Some of these issues will be the subject of future columns.

It is both humbling and an honor to stand on the shoulders of all of our OCBA past presidents—many of whom are still very much involved and volunteer with the OCBA—whose institutional knowledge is invaluable.

This is your bar association. Your input and suggestions for what you, our members, believe would help you receive more from your OCBA membership are not only welcome, but they are necessary. I look forward to working with all of you to advance the best ideals we share together as lawyers and to strengthen the bonds among us through our association with the OCBA.

Nikki Presley Miliband is the OCBA’s 2018 President. Nikki is also a probate and trust litigation partner at Good Wildman in Irvine. She can be reached at nikki@ocbar.org.