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A term ends with relief, and thanks

By Holly Fujie
President, State Bar of California

Holly Fujie

Like every other State Bar President, I end my year in office with some relief at getting my life back, and some regret. It has been a great honor serving as your president, and although it has definitely been, as the old Chinese curse goes, an “interesting” year, it has also been richly rewarding and filled with unforgettable experiences. I wanted to use my last column to thank all those who have made this such a productive and fulfilling year for me.

THE STATE BAR BOARD OF GOVERNORS — To Vice Presidents John Dutton, John Peterson, Dick Frankel, Bonnie Dumanis and President-elect Howard Miller, and to Governors Patty White, Bill Hebert, Rex Heinke, Michael Marcus, Paul Kramer, Jim Aguirre, Joe Chairez, Michael Tenenbaum, Angela Davis and Jon Streeter, as well as our wonderful public members, Richard Rubin, Jeannine English, Laura Chick, Bill Gailey, George Davis and Jim Hussey, and CYLA Governor Micha Star Liberty — you are all the best and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I asked you to work hard this year and you have far exceeded my expectations. We have been faced with so many incredibly difficult issues this year and you have met them all with intelligence, wisdom and creativity, as well as with humor. I cannot imagine a better group to have worked with this year. I want the entire bar to know all that you have done for them and how grateful I am for your efforts.

THE STATE BAR STAFF — Led by Executive Director Judy Johnson, the staff of the State Bar is incredibly hard working and dedicated. There is not enough space in this entire newspaper to list all of your contributions to a successful year, but know that I appreciate the efforts of each of you and all you have done for me and for the bar.

THE STATE BAR’S LEADERS — The bar could not function without the herculean efforts of its volunteers. I have grown to appreciate so much the work that section, committee, commission, Conference of Delegates and task force leaders and members do. I also want to thank all who participate in the Bench-Bar Coalition (and its intrepid organizer, Dia Poole), who work tirelessly to support access to justice in this state. Many of the very best people I know are “bar junkies,” because you care so much about our profession.

LOCAL BAR ASSOCIATIONS — It has been a special pleasure to travel throughout the State to meet with and to get to know so many local lawyers and bar leaders. From the Granlibakken Conference hosted by the Placer County Bar Association at Lake Tahoe (where more than a hundred lawyers were kind enough to get up at 8:30 on a Saturday morning to hear me talk for an hour and a half about elimination of bias) to numerous events in San Diego (ending of course at the Annual Meeting this month), with many stops in between — all of you have been incredibly welcoming. I want to give a special shout-out to Jerri Malana, president of the San Diego County Bar Association, for her help with the Annual Meeting and her “Lawyers Giving Back” campaign, which exemplifies the very best in our profession.

THE WOMEN’S, MINORITY AND SPECIALTY BARS — As a woman of color, I have felt it my duty to address the many issues still facing underrepresented groups in the profession. Diversity strengthens the legal profession for all lawyers and it validates the judicial system as a whole. I have been overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm with which the women’s, minority and specialty bars have greeted my election as president and how they have worked tirelessly with me to create programs and demonstrate their dedication to greater inclusiveness. I want to give special kudos to California Women Lawyers and the local women’s bars (The Lawyers Club of San Diego, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Queen’s Bench in San Francisco and Women Lawyers of Sacramento) for their support and enthusiastic participation in the program co-sponsored by the State Bar’s Access and Fairness Commission called “You Can Do It! Successful Women Lawyers Discuss Combining Legal Careers and Families.” Created to address concerns about the retention of women in the law, the program was extremely successful — reaching hundreds of students at 15 California law schools and bringing those bars literally hundreds of new members. We are working to make this an ongoing program, by which we hope to help the next generation of women lawyers succeed in the profession.

THE ABA AND OTHER NATIONAL BAR ORGANIZATIONS — California is home to more than 220,000 lawyers, and as such, it has an important role to play in the national legal scene. It has been a privilege to represent the California bar before the American Bar Association, the Western States Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers, the American Law Institute and other important regional, national and international law organizations.

CALIFORNIA YOUNG LAWYERS ASSOCIATION — It has been wonderful working with our new lawyers and to see how they will build the future of the profession. I am particularly grateful for their hard work on the project I set for them of compiling information on mentoring programs and putting them on the State Bar’s Web site. I know I will see many leaders of CYLA as leaders of sections and as members of the board of governors in the future.

Finally, but most importantly, I want to thank my husband, Lee Cotugno, and my children, Sabrina and Thomas, as well as my law firm, Buchalter Nemer, APC, and so many good friends (you know who you are) for giving me such incredible support and forgiving my frequent and extended absences this year. You have all put up with so much with such good grace and I will be eternally grateful to you for your support.

To all California lawyers, judges and everyone else in the legal community, “Arigato gozaimasu!” Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president.

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