Laws and the Lawyers (You Never Heard of) That Make Them

By Oliver Dunlap, King & Spalding


The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) has been keeping a secret from you. A group of BASF attorneys happen to be some of the most effective legislators in the state. But despite being able to make real legal change for their fellow citizens and clients, they rarely get any press. How can this be, you might ask? The Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) is the answer.

For almost 70 years, BASF has sent a proud and productive delegation of attorneys to the annual CCBA meeting (and its predecessor, the Conference of Delegates). It is a delegation of attorneys from every conceivable practice area: business litigation, criminal, family law, trusts & estate, bankruptcy, IP, personal injury, civil rights, transactional and employment lawyers are all there. They come from private and public practice, and from in-house positions, the bench and law firms large and small. What they have in common is a desire to create, change and improve California law.

The 2014 BASF Delegation to the California Conference of Bar Associations

The 2014 BASF Delegation to the California Conference of Bar Associations

In the past six years, the CCBA has sponsored more legislation than any other single entity in the state, with over 60% of CCBA-sponsored bills becoming California law.

This fantastic legislative success is a credit to the skill and commitment of both the BASF delegation – one of the conference’s most prolific – and their hundreds of attorney delegate peers from across the state. It is also an indication of the deference shown to CCBA proposed legislation, drafted and vetted by a diverse group of attorneys that represent all of California.

And it is the drafting and vetting that is perhaps most important. CCBA’s legislative success is part of a process that begins long before its outstanding lobbyist, Larry Doyle, walks the halls of Sacramento with the delegations’ proposals. It is a process that begins with an idea, a problem, a need for change. Any attorney – maybe you, maybe your company or client – that has an issue starts that process by drafting a resolution. You can do it on your own, or with a BASF delegate. In fact you can be a BASF delegate. Learn how at

What you need is that desire to create, change and improve California law. Through the CCBA, your resolution will reach attorneys across California. Your idea will grow, evolve and improve. You will analyze and refine your proposal with CCBA’s crack legislative review team (RESCOM). Then argue its merits before peers from across the state at the CCBA’s Conference, held concurrently with the state bar’s annual meeting. Finally, with Doyle’s help, you will work with the California legislature to bring about your legal change and (re)write the law.

Through the CCBA and this process, BASF’s delegates truly are some of the most effective legislators in the state – if under-heralded and under-utilized. If you want to change the law, consider working with or joining the BASF delegation. It is a rare and rewarding experience.


Oliver Dunlap is a litigator with King & Spalding in San Francisco.  He focuses on mass tort, product liability and IP cases for life sciences and high tech companies.  He is also a former chair of the BASF delegation to the Conference of California Bar Associations.