Sausage Factory

Alicia M. Gámez

CCBATwo things that should not be viewed are the making of law and sausage, or so the saying goes.[1]  My trip to the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) proved one-half of that old saw wrong.

As a new member of BASF’s Board of Directors, I took to heart the requirement that directors participate in the CCBA during their term. I went in blind and discovered that the experience is a crash course in debate, negotiation, and the California Code.

The process begins long before the delegates come together at the fall conference. Members of local bar associations draft changes to the code. These draft resolutions are vetted locally before being distributed to bar associations across California, where the pros and cons of each resolution are analyzed and vetted by practitioners in each field. My “study group” was hands-on: we reviewed the resolutions, contacted the authors for clarification or with amendments, and made recommendations to the BASF delegation.

In the weeks before the conference, the entire BASF delegation convenes. Each study group presents its recommendations and reasoning and on the history and goals of each resolution. After debate, the delegation adopts positions and reports them to the CCBA.

At the conference, proponents from across the state, with the CCBA report in hand, identify potential sympathetic delegations. They go to work. While debate proceeds in the conference hall, proponents huddle outside, bargaining with the unconvinced. Meanwhile, in the conference hall, the proponents and opponents take the microphone. In their minutes or seconds of time, they alternate between inciting action and warning of the wrongs that such action will unleash.

It was time well spent. I met and worked closely with colleagues in my field and across California. I also gained valuable insight into what irks and pleases practitioners across practices and the substantive changes they put in play.

After seeing the process in full — from original proposal to approval at the CCBA — I have a resolution or two in mind. I look forward to the game.


[1] Apocryphal statement attributed to various figures including Otto von Bismarck and John Godfrey Saxe.