California Bar Journal
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Friends vie for president
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"It really is an exciting time," agrees Guilford. "To be in the middle of it is really very inviting."

Seff said the bar needs to move on two internal improvements - upgrading its technical capacity and making changes recommended in a study of how best to allocate the bar's fixed expenses. It needs to rebuild its credibility with lawmakers and its members and, once regained, figure out how to maintain that credibility.

"One of the ways to do that is to try to better identify and meet our members' needs," he said, "although I don't want to create the impression the bar hasn't been doing that."

Seff favors increased efforts to bring diversity into the legal profession, encouraging minority lawyers to take more leadership roles. He hopes to boost the delivery of legal services to an underserved population.

Long involved with the Conference of Delegates, he believes that body, a target of conservative lawmakers for its perceived liberal bent, is on the road to financial autonomy and will continue to be a source of reform in the practice areas it traditionally addresses.

MCLE is unlikely to disappear but could use some tinkering, he says. "I continue to believe some sort of diversity training is critical, but it may not have been presented in the best possible way in the past," he said.

Guilford, 48, sees MCLE pulled by a tension between the needs of the justice system and the needs of attorneys. "The legal system is certainly served by educated lawyers, but imposing those regulations on our members is problematic," he says. "We need to make MCLE as streamlined, efficient and nonbureaucratic as possible. We need to proceed cautiously when we impose requirements on our members."

For Guilford, a partner with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in Costa Mesa, leadership of the bar is divided into "micro" and "macro" components. Like Seff, he expects internal improvements in the bar's operations and better technology in the coming year. He's anxious to get the bar back on track, look closely at its budget and staff levels, and wants it to respond better to its members and the public.

In the bigger picture, he is adamant about what he calls "core issues," including the importance of judicial independence and access to justice for everyone who needs a lawyer.

"We need to always ask, 'What is the core issue?'" Guilford says. "The core issue is to provide proper legal services to the people of California."

That role may be challenged by the creation of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs), in which lawyers could practice with other professionals under one roof. The American Bar Association recently recommended changing the rules of professional conduct to permit such partnerships.

Guilford said the recommendation deserves more study. He expressed concern about the potential for compromising some fundamental ethical precepts of the legal profession, but said lawyers must remain open to change.

"Is this a necessary trend," he asks, "or an attack on our basic ethical parameters of practicing law? The truth probably lies somewhere in between."

Seff calls MDP "the critical issue for the coming year, possibly the coming decade because it will affect the way law is practiced and will change it." He called for a wait-and-see approach, but suggested the legal profession is at a crossroads. "It is trying to decide whether to continue to provide service with a single focus on the client or whether to adopt some other model where client service and confidentiality may not be the paramount values."

A business trial lawyer, Guilford has worked at Sheppard since receiving his law degree from UCLA. He describes himself as "a passionate pragmatic" - able to uphold strong beliefs but pragmatic enough to reach consensus. "I'm passionate about what I believe in, but it's always tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism and I'm willing to listen to what other people have to say," he explains.

Describing his work as a bar governor, he says, "I do think bar leaders need to take their jobs very seriously while not taking themselves so seriously. That's a goal which I have sometimes met."

In addition to his interest in photography and history, Guilford plays basketball, tennis and softball, writes poetry, is an avid theater-goer and a board member for a local baroque music festival. He and his wife of 26 years, Loreen, have two daughters, Colleen and Amanda.

If Seff becomes bar president, he promises to show no favoritism. "I expect to let everybody who's interested have as much responsibility and sorrow and pain as they can handle," he laughs.

Acknowledging that the law "is a jealous master or mistress" which is often unsatisfying to its practitioners, Seff is quick to defend lawyers. "We really do keep society on a much more even keel and more directed to the peaceful resolution of our difficulties than were we not to exist," he said.

The bar can play a role in improving the profession by encouraging a return to civility, working to repeal antiquated laws while developing more efficient laws that maintain fairness. "The system will never be fixed," he says. "The best we can do is to keep working at it."

Seff specializes in the law of licensed beverages, principally representing suppliers, including brewers, importers, wineries and retailers.

He loves to travel and read in his spare time. His wife, Margene Fudenna, is a quiltmaker, cake decorator and student of taiko drumming. Seff plans to join Fudenna at a two-day taiko camp this fall, where he will take an introductory course in the art of Japanese drumming.