In Conclusion….

What we’ve accomplished and what’s really important to a stronger CAALA

Joseph M. Barrett
2015 December

It is unbelievable how time flies. In 2009 I was elected to be an officer, and before you know it, I’m wrapping up my year as CAALA President. It all seemed to happen so quickly, filling my life like never before. Back in 2009, I never expected half the things I would eventually do as president to occur, but when the time came to lead, I saw and tried to seize many opportunities. I found myself forming committees, choosing leaders, meeting with trial bar leaders across California, making friends with even more members, identifying new problems and finding solutions every week; working hard to be an effective leader for us, the Trial Lawyers for the People.

The blueprint: promises kept

I outlined a 10 Point Plan in January which set forth my goals for this year. With a great deal of help from fellow CAALA leadership and our amazing members and staff to implement those goals, I am able to report to you as the year concludes that I made progress or achieved those goals.

I wanted to strengthen our ties with CAOC and AAJ because this is important to us all to protect our fees, our laws, and access to justice. We held a Leadership Dinner for all three organizations. We easily worked with CAOC all year long on legislation, outreach with elected officials, membership, and I am confident we are much more comfortably working together and ready to help us all as a result.

We wanted to boost membership and we did. A reachable goal was made, 3,000+ members, and through the tireless work of the Membership Committee led by Minh Nguyen and Scott Corwin and CAALA staff’s Liz Hagan, we did it. We also vetted over 1,000 members to ensure to the extent possible our listservs are secure and our members fit our organization’s requirements.

Our Past Presidents have stepped up with inspiration and teaching all year. We held a beautiful dinner in their honor this year. I’ve never seen our Past Presidents as engaged. We are better for this, standing on the shoulders of these giants and adding to the tapestry they have woven, greatness and leadership, for decades.

We continue to strengthen our ties with the judiciary. We work well with the defense bar, holding a joint mixer with them and stressing civility in our practices. On behalf of CAALA and ABOTA I spoke at several law schools in Los Angeles with ASCDC President Mike Schonbuch and others about civility.

Committtee chairs

I wish to thank the Education Co-Chairs Genie Harrison and Christa Ramey. The Public Affairs Co-Chairs Ibiere Seck and Dena Weiss. The Listserv Co-Chairs Tim Loranger and Fran Campbell. The New Lawyers Co-Chairs Martin Aarons and Alyssa Schabloski. The Membership Co-Chairs Minh Nguyen and Scott Corwin. The Women Lawyers leadership Ibiere Seck, again, and Amy Solomon. The Document Task Force led by Jeff Rudman. The CAALA-PAC Chair Steve Goldberg and his Task Force. The incredible Executive Committee I had the privilege to work with, David Ring, Ricardo Echeverria, Mike Arias, Shawn McCann, Jeff Rudman, and the three Immediate Past Presidents Geoff Wells, Lisa Maki and Mike Alder.

Membership Director Liz Hagan recently said to me, “This is the year of the volunteer!”   When we hold phone banks or seek members to roll up their sleeves and do the tedious work of document review for our Document Bank, many new faces pitch in. Our Board is younger and more diverse than ever. Over 70 percent of our leadership this year is women. CAALA is growing, becoming stronger and more responsive, and we owe it all to you, our 3,000-plus members. Thank you.

The experience: lessons learned

Listen well. Being a leader means listening a lot and being thoughtful in reaction. Lead with others and by example. I kept this in mind every day this year. We are your representatives to elected officials, the judiciary and other bar leaders.

Grassroots work is essential to get anything done. You can only be an effective leader if you can convince and empower others to follow. That is why to me it is critical to be a part of the Listserv, to mix at mixers, to sit with the members at seminars, to ask people about their needs and what we can do better whenever we can.

Ideas matter. I took note of many ideas and implemented many. Others, like the Name Change Committee, I realized were not needed (now anyways), but we are ready on this subject whenever it is timely to address again. One of our leaders, John Blumberg, came up with a great idea to work with City and County leaders and see if they can condition government contracts with corporations on providing 10 or more days of paid jury service. I give this as an example of ideas that matter.

Don’t give up. Tenacity is a key to effective leadership. I’d rather be able to look at the guy in the mirror in the morning and know I was doing the right thing, even if it bruised feelings and temporarily damaged relationships, rather than doing what was convenient or popular. I’m proud to say, right or wrong, I was willing to stick with my views of what is right for CAALA and Trial Lawyers for the People.

Take risks. Change the world. I did this, and I do not regret it. My first act as your President was to make Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities our Official Charity. LATLC ( is growing and now boasts over 1,000 supporters. We raised over $500,000 this year alone, and touched tens of thousands of lives.

Many said to me through the years that we cannot change how we are perceived by the public, that it is a lost cause. I dispute that. We are good, we do great things, we change the world for the better one case at a time, and we are charitable. We continue to move in a positive direction. Now, others are noticing across the state, and we are getting positive media coverage. We have been honored by the State Legislature this year and were nominated for the AAJ Trial Lawyers Care Award. We will work in the future years to make this even better, and grow this idea across the Golden State and perhaps America. I have a dream. We can do this. Sí se puede, people!

Relationships are everything. It is important to leave your desk, take lunches and dinners, meet with people and be a leader. Be solution-driven in your approach. Make goals. Be resilient. Adapt. Admit when you’re wrong. Learn. And the final thought is the most critical. Grow. Be better tomorrow than you were today, do things you never even thought of before. Make your mark. All these things made this a very remarkable and memorable year for me, Mr. 2015. I wish my successor David Ring the best. He’ll be great. And please, help him – CAALA needs all of you.

Joseph M. Barrett Joseph M. Barrett

Joseph M. Barrett served as 2015 President of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles. He is a partner at Layfield & Barrett specializing in major, complex cases concerning catastrophic injury or death and impact litigation across the diverse fields of tort law including civil rights, insurance bad faith, product liability, professional negligence, vehicle and premises liability and road design. Mr. Barrett served the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) as the President in 2015 and is a member and supporter of the American Association for Justice.

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