Not so soon!
Not so soon! Just when we thought it was safe to put away the mask and gloves and go back to life as usual, COVID-19 has come roaring back. This adds to my worries about the effect of the pandemic, added to other forces, on associations like the Beverly Hills Bar.

As one might expect of the president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, I am a joiner. I believe in the value and the power of groups, whether it is a church, temple, or mosque; a professional or business association; or my son’s Boy Scout troop.

Litigation, at least as I practice, is an associative activity. I have built my practice through the people I’ve known and worked with, both in this Bar and elsewhere, and the way I handle lawsuits is based on people and relationships. I can research the law and make tactical use of procedure as well as the next lawyer, but my focus in every case is on the facts and how the people involved interacted. Does their behavior make sense based on what I know of human nature?

The most valuable skills of a good litigator, in my opinion, are interpersonal. Does the lawyer like people? Can she sense people’s likes and dislikes, their disappointments, frustrations, and even resentments? Can the lawyer use his understanding of what makes people tick to add up the facts in a way that persuades?
Most litigators are social animals. But our society is increasingly less social. COVID is just the latest assault on community. Technology promises frictionless interactions, reducing people’s perceived need to deal with others to get things done. But COVID adds (well-founded) fear to convenience. And where do we go from here?

Can we conduct jury trials by video conference? It seems irreconcilable, at least, with the Sixth Amendment right to confront opposing witnesses in a criminal trial. But in all trials, whether civil or criminal, jurors and judges want to see the witnesses and touch the exhibits. As lawyers we want to be in the same room with a witness under cross-examination. Much of our trial strategy is based on intangible factors of human behavior, feelings and emotions and the “sense of the room.” Appellate courts defer to the facts as found in the trial court because jurors were able to hear live testimony and assess the witnesses who gave it.
Without live testimony, would that deference still be warranted?

More broadly, I worry that our work as lawyers comes from the friction of everyday life, the shared hopes and failures, collaboration and rivalries, misunderstandings and betrayals that happen between people. If people aren’t interacting, or are only doing so remotely, I think it could adversely affect what we do. Less conflict means less lawsuits. But fewer problems also mean fewer opportunities for solutions.
To be clear, I don’t expect technology will eliminate conflict. It certainly hasn’t had that effect so far. Technology actually seems to be making it harder to resolve conflict. Maybe that means there will be more need for lawyers to use our skills. Let’s hope so, not just for our sakes, but for society.

P.S. I was privileged to be interviewed by Hillary Johns about this for the first episode of Litigator’s Corner, which you (and my mom!) can watch on BHBA-TV.
President's Message
It’s hard to believe that we are in July of 2020. This year has been one of so many unexpected occurrences that we could not possibly have anticipated, and it is now more than half over. As we face another potential shutdown, it seems hard to remember our carefully laid out plans, resolutions and goals which came to a halt in the first quarter of this year. Yet throughout this quarantine I’ve seen many markedly special moments created out of the necessity to recognize a particular occasion, holiday or celebration.

While done differently this year, graduations have been one of those celebrations. We Barristers are close enough to our law school days to emphasize with those of you recent graduates as you navigate through bar exam studies, your State Bar admissions and the uncertainties you are facing. Be encouraged because you have accomplished much, and this is just the beginning of many successful moments for you.
To everyone who recently passed the bar exam, congratulations! We are very excited for you in the place where you are now standing at the precipice of your careers. Since the State Bar will not be holding June admission ceremonies this year, we invite you to attend our Virtual Admission Ceremony to take your attorney oath on July 22, 2020. Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile and Judge Norman Tarle will be sharing a few thoughts with you as you begin your new profession. You can register to attend for free here:, and also take advantage of the free BHBA membership offered only to new admittees.
As I consider your position at this unprecedented moment in time, I think about the overwhelming stressful feelings we are all experiencing. The uncertainty of this ever-changing present has some saying 2020 should be written off as ‘the year that didn’t happen’. However, this challenging experience has potential to become a launchpad for positive transformation and to create an opportunity for much personal growth. To explore this concept, the Barristers have joined with the BHBA Labor & Employment Law Section to present a program on July 28, 2020. Please join us as we learn about ‘Turning Your Coronavirus Stress Into Personal Growth & A More Meaningful Life’.
The Barristers are also planning a program with the BHBA Work-Life Balance Committee for some time in August on ‘The Unique Lawyer Mindset’ to help you in your path toward a successful law career. It will focus on defining your goals and aspirations as a lawyer, and unlocking your full potential as a unique lawyer. Be on the lookout for more information about this upcoming program.

As we continue through this year with its unknowns and challenges, take heart in that we have been placed in a unique position with the potential to not only survive, but to thrive. And, as a good friend used to remind me in difficult moments, remember that “one day this will all be just a memory”, so don’t forget to celebrate all of the special moments in a memorable way.
Taking Action vs. Just Jumping On the Band Wagon
Since Memorial Day 2020, many of us have been receiving emails from one organization after another expressing support for Black Lives Matter expressing outrage at the abhorrent racial disgrace and outright murder of George Floyd and countless other African Americans and pledging commitment to see justice and equality brought to the forefront. While all these expressions of solidarity are sincere, well intentioned and welcome, they have been mostly written words on a page or screen.
To achieve the equality we all believe in and to bring the justice that is so desperately deserved to minority members of our society, minds, hearts and attitudes need significant modification. To say the same things decade after decade without acting on those words, is just reenacting Sisyphus pushing that stone up the hill only to have it roll over him on the way down when he reaches the peak.

To change minds, hearts and attitudes, a deep re-examination of subconscious bias and a profound education of the basis and history of those biases needs to take place.
That is why the Beverly Hills Bar Foundation (“Foundation”) and the Beverly Hills Bar Association (“BHBA”) distinguish themselves from all those other organizations of mere words.

This month, the Foundation joined forces with the BHBA to launch a Racial Equity Challenge; an education and discussion program to give background and context to the root of racial inequality in this country and it’s real-time, daily effects on our colleagues, neighbors, classmates of our children, fellow community members and our entire nation.

The materials are written by educators, journalists, academicians and everyday contributors living the inequities every day of their lives. Our Equity Challenge is based on the  “21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge, a registered copyright of America & Moore, LLC, 2014, by diversity educator Eddie Moore, Jr.

Rather than just add to the platitudes, we are actively engaging and inviting everyone to join us in this educational journey. Our challenge is a 15 day deep dive in the subject matter, broken into 3 weeks with an Elimination of Bias MCLE component. Its contents will surprise and shock you. The intention is to awaken a deeper understanding of the causes of our deep national racial divide and hopefully how each of us can individually and collectively actually change the paradigm.

Looming over us while we continue to wrestle with portions of our less than admirable national past, is the novel Corona Virus that is wreaking havoc on our economy, our healthcare system and amplifying the social and racial inequalities of daily living. As small businesses are hanging on for dear life and residential tenants cower in fear of eventual eviction for nonpayment of rent after they lost their jobs to the shutdown, none have the financial ability to engage the assistance of counsel. While the Foundation supports a Modest Means Legal Services program, it is not a free legal aid service. Working with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, the Foundation and the BHBA have both signed on to support and offer volunteers to LARepresents, a free legal service to all qualified Angelenos who are seeking legal assistance due to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic.

If you have expressed your interest to volunteer pro bono legal assistance in the past or if you wish to provide pro bono services now but have not yet volunteered with us, you will be added to the roster of BHBA attorneys who are ready willing and able to provide services when the City Attorney reaches out to us for pro bono representation of our city’s residents and business owners.

Words are powerful and motivating. But actions speak louder than words. Please embark on our Racial Equity Challenge with us and volunteer for the LARepresents pro bono program. Speak loudly together with the Beverly Hills Bar Association and Beverly Hills Bar Foundation.