A deserved reputation

At CAALA we’ve got your back, and so did my friend and mentor, Jim O’Callahan, whose passing we mourn

Shawn McCann
2019 March

CAALA has a deserved reputation as one of the nation’s premier trial lawyer associations. I’m not just saying that because I’m CAALA’s 2019 President, I’m saying it because it’s true. During my years on the Board and Executive Committee, as well as the last few months serving as CAALA’s President, I’ve studied what makes our association so successful. It is probably true that each of the 3,100 members of CAALA has a unique perspective on what CAALA means to them, but in this column, I’d like to give you some of my thoughts about what makes CAALA special.

In my entire legal career, I’ve only worked at two law firms. The first was Girardi and Keese, and my current firm is Banafsheh, Danesh & Javid. The two are among the largest firms in CAALA. Girardi and Keese had as many as 25 attorneys when I worked there, and BD&J is growing rapidly and now has over a dozen attorneys.

I know that my situation is rare among CAALA members and that most members are either solo practitioners or in firms with only two or three attorneys.

Working for a larger firm has its benefits. If I have a question about discovery, motions, or strategy, or I just need to talk through an issue, I can walk down the hall and talk to other lawyers in the firm. Most CAALA members don’t have that luxury, and that’s where CAALA fills the void, and that’s why CAALA is so special.

CAALA is an association that more than anything else, offers resources to its members to help them become better and more successful attorneys. Or, in fewer words: “We’ve Got Your Back.” To me, those four words are the reason CAALA is successful.

As a trial lawyer, you face challenges from your opposition every day, and those challenges are only magnified when you are on your own, or at the beginning of your career. Many of you have learned, however, that CAALA’s resources can help you overcome those challenges.

In addition to the free education programs, free roundtables and the free subscription to the Advocate magazine that every member receives; there’s a short list of free resources that help make you better trial lawyers.,

The list begins with the CAALA List Serve. More than 2,200 CAALA members are subscribers to the six list serves we offer. The list serve gives you the benefits of a virtual law firm with advice and counsel available 24/7. Nowhere else is there such a wealth of knowledge available for trial lawyers; literally, in the palm of your hand.

CAALA’s online document bank is also invaluable if you are a solo or at a small firm. Currently, there are more than 3,000 commonly used documents available on demand to CAALA members and the number of documents grows every day. It’s there so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you face a new legal issue.

CAALA’s Mentor Program is also an invaluable resource. This one-on-one relationship with accomplished attorneys allows younger members to benefit from the experience of others. In short, mentors act as “a lawyer down the hall” to talk through legal issues and share wisdom and experience. I am proud to report that more than 400 members participate as mentors and mentees.

While all the resources I described are important, there’s another one that’s at the top of the list – the CAALA Community. Our community is 3,000+ trial lawyers with the same goals and challenges that you have and the same desire to achieve justice for injured clients.

When you become part of that community, if you are very lucky, some members become mentors and maybe they become friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have both.

I worked at Girardi and Keese for 13 years, and while I was there, I met many remarkable attorneys who not only became my mentors, they also became my friends.

One of those was Jim O’Callahan. Jim was a great lawyer, and a true gentleman with a dry sense of humor and a willingness to generously give his time to a friend or colleague who needed some help. Jim believed in the dignity of the legal profession, civility to all courts and counsel, and 100 percent dedication to his clients. Even while being one of the best trial lawyers in Los Angeles, Jim remained one of the most modest people I ever met.

Jim was raised in the Bay Area, and after graduating from UC Santa Cruz, he came to L.A. and attended UCLA Law School. He was hired as a law clerk at Girardi and Keese in 1986 and was an attorney at the firm for 33 years.

When I started as a young law clerk at the firm in 2001, Jim was one of the first people in the office to take me under his wing. When asked for help or advice, Jim never said “no” and never rushed a young lawyer out of his office. His answers were often punctuated with quotes from Irish poetry, Greek mythology, rock songs, and old movies. I am one of countless lawyers and law clerks lucky to have called Jim a mentor. More importantly, I feel truly honored to be one of the many lawyers that count Jim as a friend.

Jim O’Callahan passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on January 29; he was only 62. It’s a huge loss for his family, his firm, the legal community, and for everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.

The CAALA community is filled with outstanding men and women who reach out to young members and become mentors and friends. I hope each of you is as lucky as I was to have a mentor and friend like Jim.

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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