Yosemite Conference: Come for the CLE, Stay for the Scenery

By Peter Rukin Rukin Hyland Doria & Tindall


It has been said that “for everything there is a season.” Well, for 41 years, winter has been the season for the Labor and Employment Section’s Yosemite Conference. The Yosemite Conference is the section’s flagship event, bringing together lawyers representing management, labor, employees, the public sector—as well as judges and neutrals—for two days of mind-expanding CLE and camaraderie.

What makes the Yosemite Conference unique? Certainly, Yosemite Park’s natural beauty—more breathtaking in winter than any other season—has something to do with it. The majestic backdrop will lower the blood pressure of even the most type A lawyer by several degrees. Nature walks around Mirror Lake, hikes to Yosemite Falls, ice skating, sipping hot chocolate around a roaring fire at the Ahwahnee Hotel (now known as the Yosemite Majestic Hotel), and skiing at Badger Pass are just some of the activities available before and after panel sessions.


The Yosemite Conference is also marked by a special collegiality worth treasuring. For four decades, Bay Area labor and employment lawyers have taken a time-out from daily legal combat and spent a weekend off the grid with colleagues from the other side of the bar. This annual time together with legal adversaries and their families has contributed tremendously to a Bay Area labor and employment bar more civil and engaged than its counterparts around the country. It is harder to demonize an opposing counsel once your five-year-olds have built a snow fort together!

Finally, there is the CLE. The conference’s reputation and location draws leading practitioners and academics together for high-level discussions around issues affecting law and legal practice. Recent presenters have included Judge Marsha Berzon on Justice Brennan’s labor and employment legacy, Christina Latta (Google’s in-house employment counsel) and Rome Aloise (International VP, Teamsters) on the challenges and opportunities of the on-demand economy, and Patricia Gillette and Therese Lawless on implicit bias in the legal profession.

You never know who will be special guests at the conference. One recent year, the entire National Labor Relations Board was in attendance. Judges, ambassadors, and cabinet members are among those who have given conference attendees off the record, behind-the-scenes perspectives on the great issues of the day.

The conference also has a renewed focus on programming that new lawyers may find useful. For example, last year’s programming included a panel on the particular challenges associates face in building an employment practice in this legal environment.

This 2017 conference takes place January 27-28. Panels include: “Vanquishing the Wage Gap: Will the California Fair Pay Act Usher in a New Era of Pay Equity”; “We Know All About YOU Already: The Benefits and Pitfalls of Pre-Hire Background Checks”; “Beyond Employment: New Workplace Structures”; “Class Action Waivers and Strategies After Morris v. Ernst & Young”; and a Barristers-led panel addressing civility in the legal profession.

Look out for registration materials in your email next month.

Peter Rukin is a partner at Rukin Hyland Doria & Tindall and 2016 chair of the BASF Labor and Employment Section. He has been enjoying the Yosemite conference with his wife (Sharon Djemal) and kids since 2003.