by Julie M. McCoy
Founded in 2011, under the leadership of then-president John Hueston, the Masters Division was conceived to be one of the elite organizations within the OCBA, the mission of which is to address the unique concerns and needs of the highly experienced practitioner. Under the Division’s bylaws, membership is limited to members of the bench and bar with 25 or more years of professional experience. During its inaugural year, all OCBA members with the requisite experiential qualifications are automatically deemed members of the Division, free of charge. According to the OCBA’s records, over 2,000 lawyers and judges currently qualify for membership in the Division. Consonant with the elite status of the Division, President Hueston appointed two of the county’s foremost legal luminaries as Honorary Co-Chairs: The Honorable Alicemarie Stotler and Thomas Malcolm. Under their leadership, a blue-ribbon board of directors was formed to shepherd the new Division through its inaugural year. The diverse group includes many longtime leaders of the OCBA, as well as many distinguished members of our judiciary, including Justices Kathleen O’Leary, Richard Fybel, and John Trotter, Jr. (Ret.) of the Court of Appeal, Judge Andrew Guilford of the U.S. District Court, and Judges Gail Andler, Michael Brenner (Ret.), Thierry Colaw, Kim Dunning, Glenda Sanders, and Nancy Stock of the Superior Court. The initial officers include Chairperson Julie McCoy, Vice Chairperson Dean Zipser, Treasurer Andra Greene, and Secretary Paul Gale.
Among the first tasks the new Division tackled was to select an appropriate name. The title “Senior Lawyers Division” was swiftly rejected in favor of “Masters Division,” consistent with the leadership’s desire to emphasize achievement rather than age as the prerequisite for membership. Likewise, Division leaders resoundingly (and unanimously) rejected the choice of a dinosaur as an emblem, instead settling on a tree with spreading branches—evocative of knowledge or wisdom, rather than decrepitude.
With these weighty issues handily resolved, the leaders turned to identifying their priorities for the initial year as dictated by the needs and desires of the membership. To that end, an electronic survey was devised to sample interest among division membership on a wide range of topics, including substantive programming, social events, networking, retirement and financial planning, mentoring, and various member benefits. The survey was sent to over 2,000 recipients who possessed the requisite 25 years’ experience to qualify for membership. The responses then became the primary tool used to plan the initial year of member activities and deliverables.
The survey responses were highly instructional in that respondents clearly eschewed interest in programs and activities geared toward retirement planning in favor of those directed to revitalizing their practices and leveraging new technologies. Survey respondents overwhelmingly favored programs addressing new technologies and changes in the practice of law over social events such as golf outings and cruises. They also expressed a strong interest in opportunities for networking and for mentoring younger lawyers. Survey results in hand, the board got to work planning the 2011-2012 Masters Division year.
The Division’s inaugural event, held in September 2011, served up ample opportunities for networking. Held at the lovely Turnip Rose, Grand Newport Plaza, the first event featured famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi talking about the Tate-LaBianca trial, and was preceded by a well-attended cocktail reception on the large outdoor patio. Many of the county’s legal luminaries were on hand for the gathering, including some who have not regularly attended bar association events in recent years. Of the over 300 lawyers and judges in attendance, all seemed to enjoy the opportunity to mingle with colleagues with whom they had lost touch. The formal program provided an interesting behind-the-scenes look at one of the most historic trials of history. The board hopes to continue the “Historic Trials Re-lived” theme in future programs and to build on the success of this inaugural event.
Another highlight of the inaugural event was the presentation of the first “Legends of the Law” award. The Division leadership conceived this award to honor “those exemplary individuals who, through their careers in the law, have made significant contributions to our profession and achieved a level of professional excellence that has enhanced the profession as a whole, and the Orange County legal community in particular.” The very deserving first recipient of this award was the Honorable Byron McMillan, who retired from the Orange County Superior Court in 1984 after serving as a jurist for 21 years, two as presiding judge of the superior court, and garnering a reputation as an outstanding judge with an exemplary judicial temperament. Additional Legends of the Law awards are slated to be handed out during 2012, so stay tuned!
The Division’s second major event was held on March 15, 2012 and delivered on the membership’s request for programs related to technology. “The Three C’s of Legal Technology: the Courtroom, Clients, and Confidentiality,” a three-hour evening seminar, featured an all-star panel of presenters and tackled an ambitious agenda. During the dinner hour, a panel including Justice Ming Chin of the California Supreme Court, the Honorable Robert Moss of the Orange County Superior Court, and Past President John Hueston addressed how technology has changed, how judges work, and how cases are presented and tried, including a fascinating inside look at technologies employed during the Enron trial. Following dinner, four break-out sessions addressed the iPad’s advantages and applications (“You Are the Apple of my Eye”), the use of smart phones in the practice of law (“I’m Going Mobile”), setting up a home office (“Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again”), and ethical issues raised by the use of the new technologies (no, we weren’t clever enough to come up with a cute title for this one). The evening was extremely well-received, with over 300 members of the bench and bar in attendance. The Division anticipates offering a technology seminar in future years in response to many attendees who expressed an interest in exploring many of the topics in greater depth.
For the balance of 2012, though, the Division will offer activities geared more toward networking and entertainment. On July 26, 2012, members will have the opportunity to mingle and network at a Summer Social to be held at The Balboa Bay Club and Resort. This venue should provide a festive atmosphere that will encourage socializing and the swapping of war stories in a relaxed setting. The board also anticipates that at least one Legends of the Law Award will be presented at the mixer, so stay tuned.
In September, the Division will offer an evening program “Reel Justice,” which will feature UCLA Professor of Law Emeritus Paul Bergman discussing movie clips from films about the justice system. MCLE credit will be offered. In addition to courses on Evidence, Professor Bergman teaches Film & the Law and helps direct the Street Law: American Legal Education Clinic, through which legal concepts are taught to high school students. He co-authored the book Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies with fellow UCLA Professor of Law Emeritus Michael Asimow. The hard-working Program Committee, under the leadership of Chair John Sganga, is putting the finishing touches on the upcoming programs and events that promise to deliver on the expectations of the “Masters,” as expressed in the survey responses.
Another committee doing important work in the Division is Leadership Development, chaired by OCBA Past President Dean Zipser, who also serves as the Division Vice Chairperson. The Leadership Development Committee intends to develop and implement strategies for identifying, educating, and training future leaders of the Bar. Indeed, the Division’s bylaws recite that one of the Division’s purposes is “to aid in the development of less-experienced members of the Orange County Bar Association.” The hope is that by leveraging the experience and talent of its “Masters,” the OCBA can successfully groom new generations of leaders.
The Masters Division maintains a website at www.ocbar.org/mastersdivision, thanks to the Website Committee chaired by Past President Dick Millar. There, one can access photographs from past events, as well as news relevant to members. Of course, as with Division events, all are welcome. There is no requirement that you be a “Master” to access the website or to attend the Masters Division events; however, special event pricing is offered for members.
During this inaugural, dues-free year, the Division was greatly assisted financially by the generosity of various sponsors who shared in the cost of the events. Judicate West graciously agreed to sponsor the September, 2011 Bugliosi event, and also provided dessert at the March technology seminar. Merrill Corporation and Case Anywhere were sponsors of the March program. We are very grateful to our sponsors for helping to underwrite the costs of these events so that we could price them affordably for attendees.
In future years (2013 and following), there will be a modest charge to become a member of the Division. However, corresponding benefits will be offered, so members should still find it affordable.
We hope that all members of the Bar will avail themselves of our programs, and we welcome input as to what types of events, programs, and benefits would be beneficial to you. The inaugural board is very proud of what we have created, and we look forward to serving you. Any ideas or suggestions for the Division can be emailed to Chair Julie McCoy.
Julie M. McCoy is Chair of the Masters Division, and was 2006 President of the Orange County Bar Association. She practices civil litigation and appellate law in Newport Beach, and may be contacted by emailing email@example.com.