The past few weeks presented me with an “Old School” and “New School” mixed tape. I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Sandra Day O’Connor speak on February 28, 2013 at the Civic Learning California Summit hosted by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in Sacramento. Justice O’Connor spoke about her road to the highest bench. She told the story of how she couldn’t get a job as a lawyer in the 1950s after she graduated Stanford Law School because of her gender. The old school mentality of not having women in the work place stood in her way. After hearing that San Mateo County had hired a woman lawyer, she approached the County Counsel’s office about hiring her. When they didn’t have an open position, she offered to work for free. And that is how she started her legal career.
Justice O’Connor went on to become the first female US Supreme Court Justice in 1981, a milestone in our country’s history that paved the way for a new school on the US Supreme Court bench. She is now spear-heading iCivics.org, an online, interactive platform to teach grade school kids to become civically engaged. I think of iCivics.org as the new version of School House Rocks. The premise behind iCivics.org and the Summit is to encourage civic engagement which connects individuals with their communities, which in turn strengthens communities and empowers individuals to participate in matters that have positive effects on them, their neighbors and potentially, the law. At the Summit, I heard from politicians, lawyers, judges and community leaders of the many ways civic engagement influences matters such as voting registration, neighborhood watch programs, and the bills that are presented before the legislature. It appears that civics is still relevant.
Following the trend of relevancy, the ACBA has just appointed a planning committee to create a new strategic vision—or rather, the “new school”— for the bar association. In the bar association world, the old way of reaching members through newsletters and magazines has been replaced by social media; in-person MCLEs are now online classes; and meetings are replaced by video conferences. The planning committee will be examining each of the ACBA’s programs to determine what is relevant to our membership so that we provide services that our members want and use. In tandem, I am working with the State Bar of California and volunteer bar leaders to hold focus groups of young lawyers in the South Bay, San Francisco and the East Bay to determine how the future members of the bar evaluate bar associations, memberships in these associations and their roles as lawyers. Through this strategic planning process, the ACBA will adhere to its old school roots of serving justice since 1877 as well as evolve into a dynamic bar association that helps our members work more profitably and productively, less stressfully, and perhaps more joyfully.