“I wanted to be a lawyer since I was six, but I was afraid to tell anyone”
It is an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to lead this great organization. I have great respect for CAALA and its members and I look forward to serving you as CAALA’s 70th president.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and no one who knew me in my youth would have guessed that I would be selected to lead the nation’s largest local trial lawyer organization. I am the fifth of seven kids born to a dirt contractor and part-time teacher in Kent, Washington. I wanted to be a lawyer since I was about six years old, but I was afraid to tell anyone. I had never met an attorney, so saying I wanted to be one sounded as far-fetched as saying I wanted to be an astronaut. Fortunately, my father taught us the importance of hard work and problem-solving. My mother instilled in me a love for reading and an insatiable curiosity. These tools made college and law school possible.
With the encouragement of a beautiful girl named Sarah, I moved to Los Angeles. Her parents, Wally and Andrea Yoka, welcomed me into their family. Tom Girardi gave me a job. CAALA gave me a community.
I love being a lawyer. More specifically, I love being a trial lawyer. There is nothing else I would rather do. Like many of you, I honestly like being around lawyers.
That is what first drew me to CAALA; the opportunity to be around the most talented trial lawyers and accomplished appellate attorneys — and new lawyers like me, still trying to figure out how to answer form interrogatories. In my first years as an attorney, I would walk up to the likes of Browne Greene, Gary Paul, or Mike Alder at a CAALA mixer and pepper them with questions about their cases, strategies, or issues I was facing. My questions were simple and mundane, but the lawyers were always gracious, patient, and generous with their time and wisdom. Ever since, I’ve tried to be the same.
In the beginning, like many of you, I attended New Lawyer meetings and was amazed by the inspiring stories, great advice and friendly atmosphere. Amy Solomon encouraged me to participate more and I was honored to be appointed to the Board of Governors. When I began attending board meetings, I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of attorneys of varied practices unified in their dedication to serving the members. Over the years, I have had the pleasure to work on the Government Relations and Education Committees, helped plan the Las Vegas Convention, and chaired the Membership Committee. If there is one thing that I learned, it is that the more time I give to CAALA, the more I get in return.
As I spent more time at CAALA events, I found a community that I didn’t know existed. Through CAALA, I found friends and mentors that advised me, encouraged me, and sometimes commiserated with me. For the last 15 years, my clients have benefited from the generosity of those friends, mentors, and attorneys.
For 70 years, CAALA has benefited from a long list of great leaders. This year, I humbly undertake to live by their example, maintain the dignity of this organization and work every day to improve the lives of its members and their clients.
The trepidation with which I pick up this mantle is tempered by the confidence I have that the CAALA staff will be with me each step of the way. One cannot overstate how fortunate this organization is to have such talented and committed people working in the office. Stuart Zanville, Cindy Cantu, Liz Hagan, Bill Smith, Kwedi Moore, Martha Ruiz and Margie Ruiz tirelessly work hand-in-hand with the Board and Executive Committee to bring the best resources to the members.
I am also fortunate to be preceded by a great president in Mike Arias. Mike called upon the Board and CAALA members to serve on committees and task forces to investigate alternative strategies and actions available to CAALA. This year, we will use the information gleaned by the committees to improve relationships with affiliate members, optimize our marketing, and strengthen our outreach to law students and other bar organizations.
In addition to these goals, I will focus on increasing membership and diversity. I believe our CAALA community is strengthened by bringing in new perspectives, ideas, and backgrounds.
My goal this year is to improve upon our most under-utilized resource: our members. Our 3,000 attorney members hold an infinite amount of knowledge, wisdom and experience. At CAALA, we have tapped into that resource through the list-serves, document banks, and round table events, but we have merely scratched the surface of what we can achieve. So, I offer this challenge: give CAALA 10 minutes a week; answer a question on a list serve; upload a brief onto the document bank; share a deposition transcript; write an article for Advocate; or simply take a few minutes to encourage a young attorney to believe in him or herself. Each of our individual successes will be multiplied by sharing the knowledge and wisdom that we have accumulated.
By now, I hope you understand how much CAALA has meant to me. That’s the only way I can describe the honor and responsibility I feel as I begin my year as your president.
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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