At this point in 2013, I have completed more than half of my term as President of the ACBA Board of Directors. I anticipated my term to be challenging, educating, and rewarding. I have thus far been challenged as a leader, consensus builder, and problem-solver. Serving as President of the ACBA is an educational experience in non-profit management, finances, and accounting, as well as strategic planning. The rewards are constantly presented to me in the form of my fellow board members who carve out time of their busy personal and professional lives to help lead the ACBA; the ACBA’s amazing Executive Director and staff who multi-task in the office, plan events like the VLSC Justice for All gala and the ACBA Summer Reception while running the day-to-day operations of various bar programs, and who genuinely care about the success of the Bar; and in the form the Alameda County Bench Officers and Chief Executive Officer who are committed to enhancing court operations with decreased budget resources in order to ensure access to justice.
On a personal note, serving as mentor through the ACBA’s Barristers and through VLSC has also been challenging, educational and rewarding. For every year that I have been a member of the ACBA, I have volunteered to mentor a Barrister member who is starting his/her legal career or a VLSC attorney learning how to practice family law. Last year, VLSC assigned me a mentee who is a civil litigator who volunteered to represent a client through the VLSC program in a high conflict custody family law action. That case was complicated in terms of the issues presented by the parties and the parties’ personalities. I was impressed with my mentee’s commitment to provide top-notch legal services to her client, learn a new area of the law and learn how to practice in family law court. Working with my mentee taught me about different strategies that I may not have considered. The fact that my mentee worked to resolve the matter short of trial was rewarding, just as much as seeing her, my fellow bar member, provide pro bono legal services to a person who could not afford it. My mentee demonstrated the importance and necessity for volunteer legal services. I have great pride in knowing that the ACBA’s VLSC program makes this opportunity available in our county, changing lives one at a time.
I could not close this blog entry without acknowledging how humbled I am by the dedication and commitment of ACBA’s members and staff to building and improving the Bar’s programs, to assisting VLSC clients, and to supporting each other. Our country recently suffered an economic depression, people lost their jobs, and funding for non-profits has shrunk. Yet, I have not experienced any lack in the desire of bar members to donate their time, to personally and professionally help each other, to improve the legal profession, to give back to their community, and to ensure access to justice.
At this point in my tenure as ACBA President, I am challenged, inspired, and grateful.
Rowena Gargalicana is a partner at Gargalicana/Graceffa LLP in Oakland, where she focuses on real estate and family law. A graduate of USF School of Law, she has chaired several key board committees including finance, bylaws, strategic planning, and the Admin committee.