Profile photos of Lawrence E Biegel, Mary McKelvey, Leah Saffian and Tricia Horan
(From left to right, top to bottom) Lawrence E Biegel, Mary McKelvey, Leah Saffian and Tricia Horan




This is a guest blog for the Bar Council by the California Lawyers Association about their organisation and their Week in Legal London program.

The California Lawyers Association (CLA), established in 2018 after legislatively mandated to spin-off from the State Bar of California is a nonprofit, voluntary bar association serving thousands of licensed attorneys throughout California.

We are the premier statewide voice for the legal community, advocating on behalf of our members before the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive Branch, and the State Bar of California, which is the licensing and disciplinary regulator of our industry. We currently have over 40,000 members.

The Mission of the California Lawyers Association is: "Promoting diversity, excellence and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in the administration of justice and rule of law."

CLA is governed by an 18-member Board of Representatives who each come from one of CLA’s 18 sections. Our 18 Sections cover different law practice areas, including a New Lawyers Section for attorneys in their first 8 years of practice. This enables our members to focus their time and energy where it is most relevant to their interests and career stage.

The Week in Legal London program hails from our Litigation Section, currently our largest section with over 6,800 members.

CLA is known for delivering high-quality programs, events, and resources. Through premier educational and networking opportunities, our members can maintain expertise in their fields, build contacts, and uphold the legal profession and system.

As an independent entity, we can now provide greater value to our members, including direct communication with the California Legislature and the ability to be more responsive to each member’s needs.

Together, we are committed to fostering excellence and fellowship throughout the California legal community.

What is the reason for the visit to London and the program highlights?

The Litigation Section of the California Lawyers Association has for 36 years sponsored a biennial trip to London. Our attendees, mostly trial lawyers, wish to meet their British barrister counterparts and watch them in action, i.e., in the courtrooms, in their chambers, and at lunch in the various Inns of Court. Because we do not have a “divided bar” in the United States, there is always a fascination with the “hand-off” from the solicitor to the clerk and then to the barrister and watching the team move forward toward trial.

In our prior programs, we have been most fortunate to be welcomed at the Royal Courts of Justice by the Chief Justice of England and Wales. During our 2024 trip, on Monday we met Baroness Sue Carr and felt honored to be addressed by the first woman in that position since the 13th Century.

On Tuesday of our week in London, we were bussed out to Oxford and there addressed by HHJ Ian Pringle KC, the resident judge at that crown court, after which we observed an ongoing jury trial in his courtroom. Back from Oxford, in collaboration with the Inner Temple, we hosted a Moot which featured an appellate argument between two California litigators and two British barristers. The Moot was judged by two British judges, Sir Andrew Moylan, and Mrs. Justice Nathalie Lieven, as well as Judge Michael Solner, an attendee of our program and retired from the Los Angeles County Superior Court and now acting as an A.D.R. mediator.

Wednesday was spent at the Supreme Court building in Parliament Square where we were addressed by Lord Reed of Allermuir, the current President of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. After that informative talk, we adjourned to the lawyers’ conference room to watch a spirited panel discussion between a solicitor (Bill Barton), a highly placed clerk at 39 Essex Chambers (Lewis Walker) and a distinguished commercial barrister (Paul Darling). This dynamic panel was moderated by HHJ Brian Barker KC, the former Recorder of London, and a longtime friend of our program.

On Thursday, groups went to various courthouses in London (Old Bailey, Southwick Crown Court, and the Westminster Magistrates Court) with one group heading by train to visit the Cambridge Crown Court, hosted by its resident judge, HHJ Mark Bishop.

Of course, any visit to the Old Bailey is special due to the nature of the cases being heard there and the quality of the barristers overseeing those cases. HHJ Mark Lucraft, the Recorder of London, and HHJ Richard Marks, the Common Serjeant of London hosted us and allowed up close and personal access to their courtrooms and met with each group after a court session had concluded to explain the dynamics of the trial being observed. Finally, Thursday included visits to various chambers, e.g., 11 KBW, 39 Essex Chambers and Garden Court Chambers. This, we found, is where the “sausage is made.”

Finally, after court visits during the morning, the afternoon was spent getting ready for our Gala Dinner at the House of Lords Peers Dining Room. After bussing from our host hotel to the Westminster Palace, we were dazzled by Westminster Hall and then joined many of the colleagues we had met and had hosted us during our week in Legal London for a multi-course dinner which, of course, included toast “to the King” and a reciprocal toast “to the President of the United States of America.”  The dinner was hosted by Lord James Wallace, the Baron of Tankerness.

Most of our attendees then left London on Saturday, but 14 of us trained on Sunday to Edinburgh were we spent four days observing the barristers in Edinburgh at work in the Advocates Library and at the Edinburgh High Court.

This itinerary of our most recent trip encapsulates the reasons for our visits to London:  exposing our California litigators to the full picture of the practice of law in England and Wales, and now including Scottland.

How is California different when compared to London when it comes to the Bar Council and the CLA?

Prior to 2018 The California State Bar governed licensure, discipline, specialty sections and continuing legal education. After 2018 the State Bar bifurcated these functions creating a regulatory licensure body (The State Bar of California) and the CLA, took over the Sections and Continuing Education Functions. Membership is voluntary and members pay fees to their sections which subsidize the publications and courses that are offered throughout the year.

The CLA as an organization has approximately 18 Sections including Litigation, Antitrust, Business Intellectual Property, Criminal, Environmental, Family, International Technology Real Property etc. which lawyers may join every year when they pay their annual dues to the State Bar. The sections offer specialist publications, specialized meetings, newsletters, summaries of new law and cases in the field.

The CLA assists lawyers in obtaining and meeting California Continuing legal education mandatory (MCLE) requirements by providing live and virtual programs.

Every 3 years California lawyers must complete twenty-five credit hours of continuing education. The 25 hours must include 4 hours Legal Ethics, 2 hours Elimination of Bias, 2 hours of competence (prevention, detection, and wellness), 1 hour of technology and 1 hour in civility in the legal profession. Excess hours in any reporting period may not be carried over. Different States have different requirements.

In the UK, the Bar Council advocates for its members and the independence of the Bar and Judiciary to a degree that the CLA does not. For example, neither the State Bar nor the CLA concerns itself with the earnings of its members though there are certainly courses addressing developing a larger practice or a specialist practice in the CLA offerings. In its mission statement the CLA lists advocating on behalf of its members before the legislature and State Bar. In the UK, a greater percentage of barristers received professional fees from the government.

As a result of the disciplinary function remaining with the State Bar post bifurcation, the State Bar is more concerned with issues of discrimination and violations of the cannons of ethics and reforms. The CLA offers courses so that its members do not find themselves before the State Bar facing violations of ethics and codes of conduct, however the codes and canons are promulgated by the State Bar.

There is a substantial overlap between the CLA and the Bar Council in many of their functions.

What are the benefits of closer ties between lawyers in the two locations?

Both the US and UK legal systems face many of the same problems because of their common origin and reliance upon the same principles of justice, due process, fairness, the rights of the accused and the independence of the jury.

As an example of an area in which exchange might be productive is that as a result of the rise of social media and a 24 hour news cycle the accused in a criminal trial which has attracted the attention of the media and particularly social media will not receive a fair trial and an impartial jury in either London or Los Angeles in the manner we understood those terms to apply just 10 years ago.

Jury selection is quite different in both jurisdictions and yet neither jurisdiction has been able to overcome the improper influence beyond the walls of the courtroom and the control of the judge to ensure the defendants right to a fair trial. One would hope that with an exchange of experience and ideas we might move closer to overcoming this tragic erosion of fundamental principles of justice.

London is the crossroads of International legal issues to a degree that the US is not. As the world moves toward globalisation it is valuable for US attorneys to experience that significant role that the English common law plays around the world.

The California and US legal system are enormous and face challenges unknown in the UK because of that size and breadth of the system but the US system is not international or global in the same way that the UK is global. The exchange of experience in both systems is a valuable exchange.

This guest blog was written as a group effort by some of the lawyers on the CLA's Legal London Steering Committee: Lawrence E. Biegel, Leah Saffian, Mary McKelvey and Tricia Horan.