Last month marked the second Bay Area MCLE Conference MCBA has put on via Zoom and its 14th MCLE Fair/Conference. The reviews are in and attendees gave high marks to 15 programs over the three-day fair. We were particularly excited about our four keynote speakers. In the opening keynote, fan-favorite Professor Rory Little gave us insight into the current Supreme Court term, being called a “blockbuster” in the media. Day two’s keynote saw me in conversation with groundbreaking retired Judge LaDoris Cordell, who has a new memoir out about her nearly 20 years on the bench. In Her Honor, Judge Cordell manages to discuss the good and the bad in our justice system while making her book a page-turner with compelling stories, some uplifting, some heartbreaking, from all areas of the law. I highly recommend it.

The conference’s final day saw Deputy Public Defender (and MCBA board member) Karthik Raju interview famed criminal defense attorney Thomas Mesereau (think the Michael Jackson trial). Mesereau not only had plenty of fascinating stories to tell, he had plenty of good advice for trial attorneys. He often used unexpected, even high risk, (and successful) defense strategies, and he revealed his thinking behind them, as well as their effects in the courtroom and the jury room. Any trial attorney, not just criminal lawyers, could have taken away a lot of insight into courtroom strategy. And Professor and former host of KQED’s Forum Michael Krasny closed out the conference as MCBA President-Elect Ahtossa Fullerton “interviewed the interviewer.” Professor Krasny shared stories from a long and distinguished career that has included interviewing three Supreme Court justices and countless politicians, authors, actors and celebrities from all walks of life. In so doing, he made many trenchant observations about society today and how it has changed over his career. Many thanks to each of our keynote speakers.

Of course, many additional speakers and moderators covered a broad range of interesting and useful topics, some of them providing those elusive specialty MCLE credits:

  • Lita Abella from the State Bar Lawyer Assistance Program and Psychologist Starr Kelton-Locke made an excellent team to address the realities of substance abuse with advice on identifying it and what to say and not say when trying to help others.
  • Incoming MCBA Treasurer Scott Buell held an informative, if worrisome, discussion of mediation confidentiality with mediator extraordinaire Jeff Kichaven.
  • My colleague Tom Weathers interviewed his friend Professor Larry Baca, a Pawnee Indian and Justice Department Civil Rights Division alum, about the pervasive discrimination Native Americans still face, sharing several chilling stories in the process.
  • MCBA board member Valerie Kushel welcomed Tim Galusha and Thea Beatie Eliot for a deep dive into the changes wrought by Proposition 19.
  • Maura Prendiville presented an excellent update on the many employment law changes surrounding pregnancy and family leave.
  • I welcomed my colleague Andy Wolfe, one of Marin’s top fee arbitrators, for his thoughtful lessons on running a law practice that avoids fee arbitration.
  • To round out day two, I invited cybersecurity expert Georg Usi to educate all of us on improving our cybersecurity, whether at your firm or for yourself. He had great, practical advice.
  • The final day of the conference started with a timely discussion of vaccines in the workplace with Shannon Clausen, Charles Thompson and Holly Sutton.
  • Fred Hertz brought his tremendous insight as a mediator to give us lots of great advice on preparing pre- and postnuptial agreements.
  • MCBA board member Habib Bentaleb moderated a panel with Lauren Mendelsohn, Lara DeCaro and Alison Malsbury on current issues in cannabis law, which had plenty of good advice about practical lawyering issues that arise in the tricky space where your clients do not have access to the banking system and are violating federal law.
  • And leading into Michael Krasny’s closing keynote, one of my best friends, Cliff Atkinson, spoke with Bill Green about the incredible power of telling a story visually to a jury, or in Bill's case, a mediator and defendants and their counsel.

As chair of the conference committee, I would like to give thanks to the many additional folks who made this conference possible. Foremost among them are Executive Director Mee Mee Wong and Membership and Events Administrator Denise Belli. Their many hours of blood, sweat, and tears are what really made the conference not only possible but a success. And I would like to thank the committee members for their time and effort in planning (and participating in) all of these great programs: Karthik Raju, Valerie Kushel, Ahtossa Fullerton, and Kris Cirby.

Our partnering bar associations made the conference a truly “Bay Area” one. Many thanks to:

  • Alameda County Bar Association
  • Bar Association of San Francisco
  • California Women Lawyers
  • Marin County Women Lawyers
  • Marin Trial Lawyers Association
  • San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association
  • San Mateo County Bar Association
  • Santa Clara County Bar Association
  • Sonoma County Bar Association

Finally, our sponsors were critical to the success of the conference. MCBA extends a heartfelt thanks to all of them for supporting the conference and the association: