Why the Conference? Why Not!

Larry Doyle Attorney, Lobbyist, Mediator

CCBALawyers deal with the law – both case law and statutory law – on a daily basis. And occasionally we, as lawyers, come across a statute or a judicial decision based upon statutory interpretation that just isn’t right. The problem may be as simple as an incorrect cross-reference to another statute or as substantive as a total judicial misreading of the law or a public policy that needs to be changed.

So what do you do? For most lawyers, the answer is “Nothing.” We might shrug our shoulders, curse under (or over) our breath, or make some similar gesture. But then we just return to our business.

Others, however, seek to take a more proactive course and try to get the law changed. And for many lawyers, the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) has become one of the most effective ways of achieving that goal.

The conference offers individual attorneys the opportunity to propose changes in the law, have those proposals vetted by their local colleagues and, if they survive the first cut, ultimately by hundreds of attorneys statewide. And if a proposal is approved by the full conference, it is presented to the legislature for possible introduction as legislation.

For each of the past four years, more than 20 conference resolutions have been included in legislation sponsored or supported by the conference, and more than half of those proposals have been signed into law. In 2013, the conference sponsored or supported 23 bills containing 26 resolutions. Thirteen of those bills – 16 resolutions – were signed into law.

Although complete statistics are not available, it is clear that the conference is now among the most effective organizations in the state in terms of legislation sponsored and bills enacted.

You really can’t lose by participating in the conference process. At worst, you have the opportunity to play an active, educational role in the legislative development process, possibly learning the craft from one of the conference delegates who has truly “been there” before, including former legislators and constitutional officers such as former Assemblymember Howard Wayne and former Attorney General John Van de Kamp.

At best, you can lay claim to a positive change in the California codes or Rules of Court, and have the satisfaction of knowing you played a pivotal role in solving a problem.

About the author:

Larry Doyle is a Sacramento-based attorney, lobbyist and mediator. He is the former Chief Legislative Counsel of the State Bar of California, and has been Legislative Representative of the Conference of California Bar Association since 2009.