CAALA: It’s really a community

A trial lawyer’s typical day doesn’t include a lot of communal activity, but they are far from alone when they have CAALA

Stuart Zanville
2016 April

Trial lawyers aren’t anti-social. But, the professional life of a CAALA member can often be isolated, sometimes even solitary. Many CAALA members are sole practitioners and few work in large offices. Some don’t even have professional staff; they are truly on their own. Even our biggest member firms are small compared to large corporate or defense firms.

Most of a trial lawyer’s working hours are spent alone in front of their computers researching and writing legal documents. Many of their meetings are one-on-one sessions with clients, experts, etc. They spend a lot of time by themselves in their cars driving to depositions or client meetings.

Trial lawyers will admit that their typical day doesn’t include a lot of communal activity. But they are far from alone. That’s because they have CAALA.

One big community

While CAALA is a practice-specific bar association, technically it is a professional association. Unlike associations where businesses are the members, professional associations are made up of individuals who share a common belief or purpose.

More than anything else though, CAALA is about communal activities. In fact, you can say that CAALA is nothing more than one big community.

As Executive Director, I spend a lot of time thinking about our association and how we serve our members.

You may not know that we are the nation’s largest local association of trial attorneys. Our membership is primarily in Southern California, but with 2,600 attorneys and more than 3,000 total members, CAALA is larger than all but a handful of the STATE trial lawyer associations.

Our annual convention, our education and membership programs, our special events, our member magazine and our online resources; all are considered the gold standard of trial lawyer association events and services.

When I’m asked why CAALA is successful, I quickly say “it’s because of the things we do for our members: Provide education, information, resources and benefits and give them a voice in the legal world.”

Networking opportunities

The more I think about it, the most important thing we now provide is a chance for trial lawyers to be part of a community that lets them interact and share ideas. More than anything else, we connect members.

Everything that CAALA offers allows members to be part of a larger community. Every one of the programs we offer, and there are more than 80 each year, are chances for members to connect. They may participate in an education seminar, but they are also networking and connecting with their fellow trial lawyers.

From the annual CAALA Vegas Convention to the monthly roundtables for new lawyers, every CAALA event is a networking opportunity and a way to connect.

Many of our members tell me that they achieved success because of their involvement with CAALA. By attending mixers or new lawyer programs, they came in direct contact with veteran attorneys and other new lawyers who offered counsel and advice. This has always been CAALA’s culture and is an attribute that separates us from other bar associations.

Even though the majority of the members are solo attorneys, the CAALA listserves allow them to be part of a huge “virtual” law firm that connects them with more than 1,800 of their peers. The newest list serve is exclusively for CAALA’s legal staff members and helps connect them to fellow legal staff professionals.

CAALA also has a strong mentor program that connects members. More than 300 attorneys take part and the demand for mentors is higher than ever. It’s another example of the importance of being part of a community that can grow your practice.

For the past three years, nearly every live CAALA program has attracted record attendance. Each week, trial attorneys will drive to the CAALA office or to a local hotel to attend an event that provides them education and information and also connects them with other trial lawyers.

But it’s not just the live events that connect members. The online webinars that CAALA presents also get record attendance, with more than 300 attorneys often taking part.

In February, CAALA presented a mid-week education seminar on automobile accident cases. It taught attendees how to learn the right steps, listen and ask the right questions to help deliver the right information to clients, adjustors, arbitrators, judges and juries. There was an outstanding panel of speakers chaired by David Hoffman that included Amy Solomon, Chris Spagnoli, Greg Rizio, Daniel Pierson and Jeffrey Rudman.

The CAALA Conference Center was full, with more than 80 attorneys in attendance. But even more remarkable was the 180 attorneys who participated by logging in to the live, streaming Webcast of the seminar. Even if they weren’t there in person, the online attendees got to be part of the community that enjoyed this important seminar. For example, one member described how he became part of the community at that program even though he was watching on his laptop from his bedroom.

Trial lawyers may feel they are by themselves, but the CAALA community ensures that they are not alone.

Stuart Zanville Stuart Zanville

Stuart Zanville is the Executive Director of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Contact him at (213) 487-1212 or by e-mail: stuart@caala.org.

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