December 2011 - Meeting 2011 Goals
by John Hueston
In September 1988, I stepped inside the Yale Law School for the first time and walked up to the announcement board. My wife Mae and year-old daughter Tara accompanied me. As I stood before the announcement board, a wizened man in short sleeve and jeans approached. “Hello, I am Guido, who are you?” I recognized “Guido” as Professor Calabresi, Dean of the law school. After I replied with my name, he immediately recognized me as a member of the entering class and asked me to “drop by” his office to discuss any concerns or issues. Later that week when he addressed the entire class, he warned us that we should always challenge ourselves and the institution; the moment we stop doing so we have taken our first step to the second tier. I realized that as members of any institution, no matter how well regarded, we have a responsibility to challenge it to continue to improve, adapt, and excel.
Twenty years after my graduation from law school, I found myself as President of the OCBA urging members to challenge the institution just as Dean Calabresi had done. Thanks to the vision of my predecessors and board members involved in all aspects of the work of the OCBA, the effort fit seamlessly within the OCBA’s long tradition of encouraging new ideas and programs to extend our reach and relevance to all practicing attorneys in Orange County.
This year, many of our former and future leaders of the bar rallied to retool the OCBA on almost every level:
The Masters Division was launched to create the County’s first elite practice and mentoring group. Under the leadership of chairs Julie McCoy and Dean Zipser and honorary chairs Judge Alicemarie Stotler and Tom Malcolm, the Masters Division determined the desires of eligible members by survey and drew over 300 participants to “Historic Trials Re-Lived: The Tate-LaBianca Murder Trial.” The Division’s next event is a combined interactive technology seminar and social event set for March 15th with panels including a tutorial on incorporating an iPad into your practice and making your home office function like a large one.
The Entertainment, Sports, and Marketing Section began this year as the County’s first bar organization dedicated to these emerging practice areas. The new section has attracted over 100 members, including new OCBA members. Board member Michael Baroni organized the first meeting at Anaheim Stadium, which focused on litigation issues arising from large sports and entertainment venues. Additional planned events feature the general counsel of the Screen Actors Guild and “entertainment lawyer of the year” Bonnie Eskanazi who represented the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate over profit participation in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy dispute.
A new OCBA facility: 4101 Westerly Place in the City of Newport Beach. At 13,011 gross square feet, it offers more than twice the current leased space of the OCBA at a carrying cost less than the monthly lease amount. The building will be fully paid in 15 years. The new space will include training and seminar rooms that will permit reduced event pricing for all OCBA members. The OCBA Facilities Task Force, comprised of Todd Friedland, John Hurlbut, Dimetria Jackson, Stuart Jasper, Kyle Kawakami, Richard Millar, Teresa McQueen, Kiran Sharma, and myself, provided leadership and support in all stages of the research, acquisition, and planning process.
The Small Trial Program began as a pilot project this year between Legal Aid and the Young Lawyers Division. YLD chair Mac Cabal has had a key role in structuring a program in which attorneys with little or no trial experience train for and handle unlawful detainer cases likely to proceed to trial.
The OCBA is working to ensure open courts in a partnership with the Orange County Superior Court. Presiding Judge Thomas Borris and Assistant Presiding Judge David Thompson have set enviable statewide precedents with their prudent fiscal management and significant cost savings measures which has allowed Orange County to avoid any court closures, unlike many other California counties. The OCBA participates in the Bench and Bar Coalition, a group focused on creative partnering of judges and leading lawyers to protect the courts. I have worked as one of 17 statewide members of Steering Committee for the Open Courts Coalition. The Coalition, in turn, is working on court efficiency proposals and fee suggestions as part of a unified statewide effort to seek expedited restoration of court funds.
To bring mentorship to solo, small firm attorneys, and associates, we introduced the “How They Got There” series on firm success stories in Orange County. This year’s panel included Mark Robinson, Mark Minyard, Joel Miliband, Tom Bienert, and Jeff Golden.
Under the leadership of Teresa McQueen and Julie McCoy, Mentor on Demand is expanding to include video profiles of all Orange County judges on an expedited basis. The profiles of Judges Bromberg, Marks, and Robinson are our most recent additions.
The OCBA and its Charitable Fund have prioritized the funding of new, innovative charity programs with the potential for substantial individual or institutional impact. The new Prelaw Outreach Program (“POP”) created and hosted by the U.C. Irvine School of Law encourages students to enter the practice of law and to assist students in the admissions process and in applications for financial aid. This year, the Charitable Fund under Lei Lei Wang Ekvall’s leadership enabled POP to nearly double the number of participants and expand the breadth of the programming and financial support.
To remove financial barriers to greater participation in the OCBA, the OCBA authorized substantial fee reductions for government and nonprofit attorneys.
To make OCBA board elections more representative, we eliminated archaic district elections in favor of at-large, countywide elections. This is the final step in a process initiated by former president Dean Zipser to revamp the Board to render it more representative and capable of grappling with issues on a monthly basis.
The first of several planned in-house counsel forums facilitated the exchange of new ideas for additional efforts by the bar to provide additional resources, education and networking opportunities for in-house counsel.
Members of the various sections and committees of the OCBA launched scores of additional unique programs and outreach efforts this year that would require several additional pages of acknowledgments. The tangible result of these initiatives is a renewed interest in OCBA as witnessed by an increase in membership throughout the year and a significant increase in the participation of OCBA members in this year’s election. None of the work this year would have been possible without the creative input and participation of our board members and the indefatigable efforts of Executive Director Trudy Levindofske and the OCBA staff.
The OCBA is truly attempting to live up to Winston Churchill’s observation about change: “[t]o improve is to change. To be perfect is to have changed a lot.” Under the leadership of incoming President Dimetria Jackson, the OCBA will certainly continue to aim for perfection.
John Hueston is 2011 President of the Orange County Bar Association and a partner with Irell & Manella LLP specializing in white collar criminal defense and business trials. He can be reached at email@example.com.