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“The fierce urgency of now”

“The fierce urgency of now” is Martin Luther King’s eloquent expression of a fundamental truth:

What we do today will determine whether our future will reflect the highest ideals to which we aspire, or will instead be marked by complacency and an absence of progress. Get the business lawyer free consultation to feel free from the issues of legal matters.

This truth was recognized by a small group of Los Angeles trial attorneys who gathered in 1949 to create what was then called the Lawyers Roundtable. The concerns that motivated our founders are familiar to us – to represent the interests of their injured clients; to resist efforts to curtail their clients’ rights of recovery; to improve the quality of their legal representation by sharing information and by refining the art of their trial advocacy; and, to enhance their own legal careers by association with fellow trial attorneys who share their common interests and objectives. These guiding principles are as vital and relevant today as they were then.

Could anyone among our founders in 1949 have imagined that their fledgling association would one day have nearly 3,000 members? Could they have imagined it would grow to become the largest local plaintiffs’ bar association in the United States?

Certainly, our founders would be gratified to know that the organization they established – years before the civil rights or feminist movements – has been led by the presidency of a female lawyer, by an African-American attorney, and now by an Armenian immigrant who is the grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors. That these “landmarks of inclusion” and many, many more have been accomplished is a tribute to the vision, skill and tenacity of the leadership and membership of our association.

The Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), as we have been known since 1994, now has an expanding membership with volunteer committees on the courts, education, government relations, membership, new lawyers, listserv and public relations, and a staff of eight employees.

As I begin my term as president of CAALA, it is with a deep appreciation of all that has been accomplished by the many whose time, and extraordinary skills and energies, have been devoted to our Association in past years. We are both the beneficiaries and the trustees of their legacy.

In many ways, the issues faced by the founders of our organization in 1949 were far less complex than those we encounter today. In 1949, unemployment was at 3.2 percent and the economy was on the precipice of enormous growth. Today, we face unemployment of 12.5 percent in California at this writing, and these unemployment figures are not expected to improve significantly during the next several years. The California budget remains deeply in crisis, already limiting our access to courts and thereby limiting our efficiency in resolving cases on behalf of our clients. During the past 18 months, many homes have been lost to foreclosure, jobs have retracted and businesses have closed. To look into the eyes of prospective jurors, and to hear their words, is to know that times are tough and hearts are hard.

The challenges we face in the representation of our clients in 2010 are real. CAALA needs to mobilize and empower its membership, and its membership needs CAALA.

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