AAML Southern California Chapter’s 2018 Family Law Person of the Year Award
I am honored and humbled to have been named the Family Law Person of the Year by the Southern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. I was presented the award during the Chapter’s black-tie gala in San Diego during its annual Institute of Family Law Trial Advocacy over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.
It is no secret that family law is most challenging. In 1997 the Court of Appeal pointed out in D’Elia v. D’Elia: “In terms of the potential breadth and complexity of issues which they face, family practitioners work in one of the most, and perhaps the most, exacting and demanding areas of concentration in the law. Under California’s community property laws, every item of marital property presents a host of challenging issues. Not only must the family practitioner worry about the characterization and valuation of each asset, he or she often must consider future tax consequences involved in various items of community property. On top of that, support and custody issues involve different considerations, in which a human relationship–as distinct from a discrete event–is the subject of the litigation.”
The AAML is a hugely positive force in this difficult environment. It was founded in 1962 to “encourage the study, improve the practice, elevate the standards and advance the cause of matrimonial law, to the end that the welfare of the family and society be protected.” I am proud to have been named a Fellow in 2006.
In 2014, a prior AAML national president, Jim McClaren, emphasized:
* We Fellows of the AAML are a tough group of litigators who can hold our own with anyone in the courthouse;
* We are nonetheless polite and professional to each other, and to the court, and
* We are an organization of the very best family law litigators in the country. That means that we can each try the most complex cases that are presented to us. That also means that we know how to settle the cases.
Currently the AAML has more than 1,650 Fellows in 50 states. Our Southern California Chapter is one of the largest in number (100+), and it is by far one of the most influential.
Service is a hallmark of our Chapter. Muhammad Ali said: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” Among other things, our Chapter: (1) Presents the annual 3-day Institute; (2) Donates substantial amounts, close to $200,000 during my tenure, to non-profit family law causes and organizations; (3) Grooms promising young family law lawyers through its new mentorship program, and (4) Shapes substantive family law and policies by weighing-in on legislation and important appeals.
As an organization, our Chapter produces high-level programs with other groups including accountants, custody specialists and so on. As individuals, we Fellows generously and constantly write, present and speak to and for our community of family law professionals.
In 2014 our Chapter decided to establish our annual Trial Basics Seminar. Its purpose is to reach out to our community, improve the skills of less-experienced family law lawyers and give back to our profession. Its target is family law lawyers with limited trial experience wanting to learn basic trial skills from the AAML’s experts. I received the 2018 POY award in large part because Herring Law Group took the lead in launching the TBS, and I have served as the Seminar’s Dean since inception.
The TBS has two parts. The main event is a day-long annual seminar, packed with nearly 20 fast-paced presentations by our AAML Fellows. It is moderated by California family law guru and AAML Northern California Chapter Fellow, Garrett Dailey. We hold it at the very nice Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel. We provide a nice breakfast, a fabulous lunch and full Continuing Legal Education credits.
The TBS’ unique feature is that we then provide live “hands-on” breakout sessions in San Diego and Los Angeles a couple weeks later. All participants are expected to attend, where they practice their skills in a “mock trial” type of environment.
We teach 100 attorneys at each Seminar. By the end of this Spring’s program, our Chapter will have educated nearly 400 young family law lawyers throughout Southern California. … And our Chapter provides all this for free.
My journey with our Chapter has just begun. I appreciate the opportunity to have served in many capacities and to keep actively serving. I encourage all of our Fellows to approach the AAML in this same manner and mindset. I thank the AAML and our Chapter so much.