Participate in the evolution of CAALA

CAALA is adapting and changing, and nowhere is that more evident than in participatory education programs for new lawyers

Shawn McCann
2019 April

One of the biggest challenges for any association is to stay relevant and keep ahead of the curve. Addressing the changing environment and evolving needs of members are some of the most important responsibilities of the leadership of any association.

In my years on the Board and Executive Committee, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about this with CAALA members, the Board of Governors, and especially with the elected officers. We need to consider the effects of changing technology, member demographics, and member preferences in working toward our goal of helping our members achieve success for their clients. 

Our elected officers are Jeff Rudman (President Elect), Genie Harrison (First Vice President), Doug Silverstein (Second Vice President), Minh Nguyen (Treasurer) and Ibiere Seck (Secretary). They are all highly dedicated volunteer leaders who care deeply about this association and its members.

CAALA’s structure is unique among legal associations in that the six officers progress through the offices year by year, eventually becoming president six years after they are elected as secretary.

This allows the leaders to learn all aspects of the Association before they become president. Since the newest elected officers won’t be taking the reins for five or six years, our structure gives us the ability to maintain institutional knowledge and to look ahead at what is best for the Association and its members not just this month, but several years down the road.

As Charles Darwin wrote: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Or to put it more succinctly, our challenge as an association is to “Adapt or Die.”

Impatient for change

My conversations have led me to believe that some of our members are impatient for change. I am told that CAALA has been doing the same things for a long time and it’s time to adapt or face the risk of no longer being relevant.

Others are very happy with where we are as an association and rightfully point to our successful “benchmark” measurements of membership numbers, event participation, list-serve subscribers, Advocate magazine readers, etc., as proof we are doing just fine. I have been warned not to fix what isn’t broken.

My feeling is that both sides are right. We are doing well, but it’s also time to look ahead at what CAALA’s members will want from their association five or six years from now.

CAALA has more younger attorney members than ever before, but the majority of our membership have been in practice 10 years or more. In order to stay relevant, we need to pay attention to both groups.

I can report that CAALA is adapting and changing. In many ways, we aren’t the same as we were a decade ago. One example is how we educate our members to help them become better lawyers.

Participatory education

Due to innovations by the Education Committee and New Lawyers Group, we have been evolving to provide new learning experiences. This is reflected in every program, seminar or event that CAALA presents, from small roundtables to our large annual convention. The way members learn is changing, and CAALA is ahead of the curve.

Sophia Conforti wrote about this in the ASAE Daily Buzz Blog. She said “Learning is an experience that attendees go through at meetings – which means participation is key. Education is a main component of many meetings but providing attendees with a true learning experience often relies heavily on participation.”

Conforti quotes Dave Lutz from the Velvet Chainsaw blog who said, “Learning is not something done to attendees. It’s something they do. Learner-centric seminars provide education sessions where attendees act as participants in their own learning.”

Understanding this, more and more of our programs have gone away from the traditional model of a single speaker lecturing on one topic. If you’ve attended any program presented in our new Office Conference Center, you experienced roundtable programs where members are encouraged to share their opinions and insight. Attendees find that sharing their personal experiences influence how skills are learned and applied.

Examples of this are CAALA programs such as the Case Collaboration series, New Lawyers roundtables, the Practice series, Legal Staff seminars, the Women in Law Roundtable and our MCLE education programs. Attendees are encouraged to interrupt the presenters with questions and comments and to share their own experiences. By doing this, we expand the focus to the participants as well as the presenters, and by most reports, this collaboration leads to more fulfilling and enriching programs.

Providing member-to-member learning experiences coincides with the increasing number of Millennials in CAALA. As Chris Douglas wrote in the Learning and Development Daily Advisor Newsletter, “Millennials are a generation that places a lot of value and emphasis on having control over their own learning.” I don’t believe this idea is limited to Millennials.

CAALA will continue to expand beyond inviting members to sit like students and listen to a speaker. We can do more for our members by empowering them to participate. As Isaac Morehouse wrote, “A participant is active, assertive, taking in data but also producing it. A student awaits instruction. A participant seeks out the next step and takes it.”

I will continue talking with members and elected officers about how CAALA can adapt and improve over the next few years and I encourage you to do the same. Please reach out to us with your thoughts and opinions on how we can help you achieve justice for your clients. I want each reader of this column and every member to be a “participant” in the evolution of CAALA.

Shawn McCann Shawn McCann

Shawn McCann is a partner at Banafsheh, Danesh & Javid. He graduated from Loyola Law School in 2003. Shawn handles a broad variety of cases regarding personal injury and product liability. He serves on the Board of Governors for Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and Consumer Attorneys of California and was recently admitted into American Board of Trial Advocates. He currently serves as CAALA President.

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