NEW LAWYERS COMMITTEE BULLETIN: JUNE 2008

Fellow CAALA Members:

A little more than a year ago David Arbogast approached the CAALA Board and I about starting a New Lawyers Division within CAALA.  I believe this came from seeing the great success AAJ has had with its New Lawyers Division.  The New Lawyers Division with AAJ is the heart of the National organization, every year participating in a Habitat for Humanity Project. 

Last year we began meeting with other lawyers who have been practicing law ten years or less to discover ways in which we could help out CAALA be stronger as an organization and, more importantly, how we could reach out to the Los Angeles Community at large.  We have a strong core of committed new lawyers and we are discovering ways to do these things. 

Big national law firms oftentimes get credit for their Pro Bono work.  Yet we help the little guy every day in our practices.  If it were not for the contingency fee lawyer so many people would go in need with harms never redressed in our courts.  So, what are the ways we can give back to our community at large as a Plaintiffs Attorney organization beyond the contingency fee work that we already do?  Well this is the question we sought to answer!

CAALA President, Amy Solomon, approached us about an organization that she thought was doing some good work with folks with disabilities – The Disability Rights Legal Center (located at Loyola Law School).  We invited them to come and speak with our committee regarding the work they do within the education field, helping students with disability receive the accommodations that they are entitled to under State and Federal Law, but sadly oftentimes do not get.  The DRLC provided us with a MCLE training session to train our committee members to assists in their Pro Bono Educational Advocacy Program.  I am proud to say we had two other board members join us in this training, Steve Goldberg and Mayra Fornos.  We have already begun receiving assignments!

In addition to the new relationship with the DLRC, CAALA New Lawyers have spoken at two local schools for career days.  We really hope to reach out to other schools where we can send lawyers to speak with kids and provide advice on how to achieve their educational goals, whether that includes going to law school or something else. 

Finally, we have learned so much from our more experienced brothers and sisters in CAALA, whether it is from the listserv or receiving advice from the mentor program.  We also know there are things that we can do as younger lawyers to help the organization as a whole.  The committee has begun compiling documents to upload on to CAALA’s website to assist members in finding the forms they need easily.  We have also attempted to find ways to make the CAALA job bank online a little better.  

Currently, we are also going to be taking a look at our printed material for the annual Trial Skills for the New Lawyer Seminar.  It was created many years ago and some of the code sections and rules of court are out of date.  The New Lawyers Committee is planning on updating this book with more current articles and updating the codes and rules.  Hopefully, this will make next year’s New Lawyer Program a bigger success than it has been in years past.

I would like to encourage new and not-so-new, young and not-so-young lawyers to join us for our monthly meetings.  They are lot of fun!  In addition, we would like to hear about other ways we can make CAALA stronger as an organization and how we can give more back to the community! 

We hope that you will join us!

Best,

Christa Haggai-Ramey, Chair
Ronni Whitehead, Vice-Chair

Featured Local Rule: Los Angeles Superior Court Local Rule 7.12 et al.
By Roger Haag

I recently saw an advertisement in the Advocate that showed two smiling attorneys shaking hands with a slogan that said "Do you Remember When Everyone Got Along?...Those days are here again."
Like many of you, I don't remember a time when everyone in litigation "got along".  Have you ever had to promise opposing counsel a new born infant for your first and only two week extension to respond to written discovery?  Have you ever had opposing counsel coach their client during a deposition?  These and uncivil behavioral issues are discussed in Los Angeles Superior Court Local Rule 7.12 (a) through (l) which can be found on the Los Angeles Superior Court website at http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/courtrules/ui/PopUp.aspx.

Local Rule 7.12 (a) through (l) is comprised of 50 paragraphs discussing how attorneys should behave toward each other and the court during almost all phases of litigation.  Some practical examples of Local Rule 7.12: "A lawyer should not attach to extensions unfair and extraneous conditions." Local Rule 7.12 (a)(5); "While a question is pending, counsel should not, through objections or otherwise, coach the deponent or suggest answers." Local Rule 7.12 (e)(8); and my personal favorite, name calling or other personal attacks are not permitted. Local Rule 7.12 (c)(2). 

Many attorneys feel the Local Rules are unenforceable. However, Local Rule 7.13 allows the court to sanction a party for violating the Local Rules.  Many attorneys also believe the Local Rules are merely advisory.  Although the preamble of Local Rule 7.12 states the rules are "guidelines" and "civility in litigation recommendations to the bar" (emphasis added)  the appellate court has treated these "guidelines" and "recommendations" as law.  In a case where the Los Angeles Superior Court sanctioned an attorney for violating Local Rule 7.12(j)(2), dealing with ex parte communications, the appellate court chose to interpret the local rule, rather than declare it void pursuant to California Rules of Court §981.1(a) (now 3.20). Blum v. Republic Bank, (1999) 73 Cal. App. 4th 245. 

Additionally, in Stewart v. Colonial Western Agency, Inc., 87 Cal. App. 4th 1006, the appellant attempted to label Local Rule 7.12 (e)(9) as merely a questionable transcription of the custom and usage of local trial attorneys.  The appellate court disagreed and admonished appellant by stating the following in footnote 3 of the decision, "[c]ounsel would be well advised to conform their behavior to the rules [Los Angeles Superior Court Rules] which have the force of law. (emphasis added).

The purpose of Local Rule 7.12 is to ensure all attorneys act in a civil and professional manner during litigation.  Although we will never get along with every opposing counsel, we can make litigation a little more pleasant if we comply with Local Rule 7.12 and educate opposing counsel when they violate the rule.

CAALA's Mentor Program
By Roger Haag

"By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn."
Latin Proverb

As new attorneys, we are regularly faced with new situations where the answers are not necessarily found in practice guides and treatises.  For solo and small practitioners there are the added issues of running a law firm and developing business. These situations are potential minefields.  Mistakes and missteps can make or break a case or a law practice.  It has been said, "experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes."  As CAALA members, we have excellent resources to help us avoid some mistakes in litigation and law office management.  One such resource is CAALA's magazine, The Advocate, which is an excellent source of practical information.  Another excellent resource is CAALA's Mentor Program. CAALA's Mentor program is equally beneficial to both new and seasoned attorneys. 

For new attorneys, the program allows the mentee to build skills and knowledge, at an accelerated pace, to become an excellent litigator.  A mentor can provide support and encouragement to young attorneys and can focus a young attorney's energies toward constructively resolving an issue.  A mentor can also be a private sounding board for a young attorney to discuss his concerns about a case.   Conversely, the program provides an opportunity for the seasoned litigator to act as a mentor.  Mentors benefit by sharing their valuable experience and through this exchange of thoughts, ideas and opinions, a mentor further enhances his/her legal skills and knowledge.

It takes more than an initial introduction to develop a successful mentor relationship.  The mentor and mentee must make a commitment of time to develop the trust and interpersonal relationship that is necessary for a fully-engaged mentoring relationship. 

There are various ways to develop a successful and rewarding mentor relationship. 

Consider an initial face-to-face meeting: Although phone and email introductions are quick and convenient, a face-to-face meeting is more likely to personalize the relationship.

Exchange e-mail addresses, office and cell numbers:  The hallmark of a good mentorship is that both parties are available for each other.  Our profession does not afford us the opportunity to be at the office every day.  Additionally, by exchanging this information, you both implicitly send a message that you are both available (remember, no calls after 8pm or weekends, unless it's an emergency!) and committed to developing a successful mentorship.

Schedule Regular Meetings:  Mentors, do you have some down time in between court hearings? Are you taking a lunch break?  Are you in trial?  Have a drink or light dinner before or after a CAALA meeting or function.  These are just a few examples of times you can meet with your mentee. 

Spontaneous communication:  Everybody generally likes to receive mail (except junk mail or spam) and today it is easy to send a quick e-mail to say hello or pass on new case law. 

Mentorships are ultimately based on personal relationships.  If you would like to make a change such as a new mentor/mentee, contact liz@caala.org

The CAALA Mentor Program is equally beneficial to both young attorneys and seasoned litigators.  Young attorneys benefit from the knowledge and experience of the mentor. Seasoned attorneys expand their legal knowledge by sharing their experiences and opinions.  There is also the potential that a seasoned attorney may obtain new business or even an associate in cases with their mentee.  Everybody is a winner in a mentor relationship, so please consider participating in CAALA's Mentor Program!

Enroll in the Mentor Program Today!