What’s past is prologue

Carrying forward the legacy of our founders

B James Pantone
2019 January

Fifty-six years ago, a group of Orange County attorneys got together. To the outside observer it might have seemed an odd gathering, a group of competitors. Yet these attorneys shared a powerful common goal: Fighting the cause of civil justice. Whether their clients were injured at the hands of a negligent driver, suffered the loss of a loved one from medical malpractice, or were disfigured by a poorly designed product, each faced powerful opponents in their fight to obtain justice for their clients – large corporations and insurance companies armed with seemingly unlimited financial resources and legions of defense attorneys. Somehow, someway, the playing field needed to be leveled. These attorneys realized that together, through sharing their experience, wisdom and resources, they were a far greater, far stronger force for the cause of civil justice. From this simple idea, the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association was born.

Since its inception, OCTLA has grown from a handful of attorneys into an organization 500 members strong and growing. The ties that bind us together literally span generations. The children of our early leaders have grown up to join, then lead the organization. Those mentored by its founders have become accomplished attorneys in their own right. In turn, they too have guided others to similar success. This is perhaps the greatest strength and legacy of our founders’ vision: Mentorship with a mission.

OCTLA is not just an organization of attorneys. We are a community, a band of brothers and sisters, bound together by a common cause and shared system of values. And we stand together. The success of a single member of OCTLA is celebrated by all, and all are dedicated to the success of each other. By raising each other up, by helping each other become better attorneys and more effective advocates, we advance our common goal of civil justice step by step.

The past year is a great example of OCTLA’s continuing evolution. We launched a new website, improving access to the listserve and OCTLA’s exclusive (and free!) document and deposition banks while expanding member access to include Trialsmith’s online deposition bank. We introduced a summer internship program that provides second-year law students with unparalleled access and exposure to the Orange County trial lawyer community and practice. The program received rave reviews from participants, and we look to further expand the program this year.

Yet another new program, “OCTLA Breakfast Club,” provides members the opportunity to discuss and roundtable common litigation challenges and issues in a relaxed, informal setting with colleagues and leaders of the trial lawyer community. These innovations are only possible because of the hard work and vision of OCTLA’s dedicated leaders and volunteers.

Our 2018 Top Gun Awards Dinner and Charity Gala raised over $200,000 for Together We Rise, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of foster children. In doing so, OCTLA and its members have raised well over a million dollars for charities serving Orange County through the years. Nor should we forget our annual events such as our Columbus Day Golf Tournament, group pilgrimage to CAOC’s Justice Day in Sacramento, Palm Springs Seminar in collaboration with Consumer Attorneys of the Inland Empire, or our monthly MCLE programs, which continue to deliver the best programs available for improving and strengthening our members’ skills in trial advocacy.

None of this happens in a vacuum. It is the result of years of work building upon more years of work. Special thanks is owed to our great 2018 board of directors for all the amazing work and time they have contributed to OCTLA this past year. Our 2018 president, Geraldine Ly, has led the organization with vision, grace, unlimited energy and a warm generosity of spirit. We are a better, stronger organization because of Geraldine’s sage leadership.

Throughout the 15 years I have served on the OCTLA Board, there has been one constant, steadying force guiding OCTLA’s path to success: Executive Director Janet Thornton. Year after year, Janet keeps our organization running smoothly, keeps each administration on track, each committee on task, and makes each event on OCTLA’s calendar possible.

I am humbled by the honor to serve as the 2019 President of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. I look forward to working alongside the 2019 Officers and Directors to build upon the legacy of our founders and predecessors that has made OCTLA one of the premiere trial lawyer organizations in the state. Through cutting edge educational programs on trial techniques and emerging legal issues we will provide our members a competitive advantage through greater knowledge. By expanding networking and mentoring opportunities and strengthening our community through our monthly mixers, social events, new Breakfast Club meetings, and internship programs, we will grow the organization. By keeping our members apprised of dangerous legislation which threatens our clients’ access to justice and the courtroom, we will promote our clients’ access to justice and the courts.

Although our officers and board hit the floor running each year, our official kickoff is OCTLA’s 2019 Installation of Officers and Directors on January 26, 2019 at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. In addition to Senator Connie Leyva swearing in the incoming board members and officers, we will be honoring Judge Glenn R. Salter as OCTLA Judge of the Year.

Our founding members envisioned an organization that would be “Orange County’s premier advocates for the protection of individuals and their access to civil justice.” The legacy of their vision is evident in the generations of OCTLA members, and the impact they have had on our legal landscape and the cause of civil justice. Their vision birthed a community of which we should all be proud to be members. Now, onward!

B James Pantone B James Pantone

B. James Pantone is an attorney with the law firm of DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo, A Professional Law Corporation, located in Santa Ana, where his practice is dedicated to the rights of injured parties with a focus in the areas of product liability, wrongful death and personal injury.

Copyright © 2019 by the author.
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