The Year in Review, by 2016 Chapter President John Harding


The Year in Review – 2016

2016 was a prolific year for the Northern California Chapter of the AAML. With the New Year we welcomed three new fellows: Rita Patterson from Lakin Spears, Palo Alto; Renee Ross from Ross Family Law, Pleasanton; and Erin Childs from Fresno. No sooner had Erin Childs become a Fellow than she was appointed as a Commissioner to the Fresno County Superior Court. That makes Commissioner Childs our newest judicial member. Later in the year we welcomed into the Chapter Kelly Shindell DeLacey from Sideman & Bancroft in San Francisco. A strong contingent of new Fellows to bolster our Chapter.

Our Chapter’s pioneering mentoring program continues to thrive, with eight mentoring groups operating throughout Northern California. The program contributes to the development of the profession by offering young lawyers, whether affiliated with a firm or not, the opportunity to learn about the substantive and procedural aspects of family law from senior practitioners. The mentoring program offers a place to build community and collegiality among newer lawyers, and to introduce AAML Fellows to the next generation of lawyers. The mentoring groups are places for younger and/or less experienced family lawyers to ask questions, share concerns, and debate ideas in a supportive environment. The program is structured over two or three years with a curriculum that alternates monthly meetings focused on substantive family law practice topics with guest speakers and demonstrations, case consults, and group-building meetings. Our mentoring program has become a model for the entire AAML.

In February over 70 guests and Fellows attended our annual Associates Night. Co-chairs Brigeda Bank and Ellen Stross delivered an exciting evening that allowed new and veteran family law lawyers to mix, mingle, and share ideas.

Renee Chernus chaired our annual Judges Night. Held in March, with over two dozen Northern California family law judges in attendance, the enthusiastic attendance and engagement by our judicial guests demonstrated once again how valued this night is for all. Judges were also presented with a library of AAML educational materials including copies of the Academy’s Child Centered Residential Guidelines, Representing Children, and Child Custody Evaluation Standards handbooks.

Also in March a healthy contingent of Northern California Fellows made the trip to the Bahamas to experience the revelry and CLE that is the AAML Spring Meeting. Thanks to Joslin Davis and Vicki West for a wonderful time!

Our 40th Annual Symposium was held in May at the beautiful Meritage Resort in Napa. Co-chairs John Hodson and Yasmine Mehmet presented three days of outstanding continuing legal education to a record crowd of over 250 lawyers and judges who came from all corners of California and states beyond. One of the special highlights of the Symposium was the attendance of AAML President Joslin Davis and her husband Fred. President Davis made welcoming remarks to the attendees in her usual charming and enthralling style. Thank you President Davis! Another highlight was the award of the chapter’s DeGoff & Sherman Award for Meaningful Contributions to the Improvement of Family Law, as sponsored by retired fellow Richard Sherman, and in memory of his lovely wife and law partner Vicki DeGoff. This year’s recipient was Nancy Lemon, Esq., Founder and Legal Director of the Family Violence Appellate Project. FVAP is the only organization in California dedicated to appealing cases on behalf of domestic violence survivors and abused children, for free. They represent low-income survivors when trial court decisions leave them or their children at risk of ongoing abuse. By partnering with pro bono attorneys from California’s top law firms and corporate legal teams, FVAP helps abuse survivors throughout California get the safety and justice they deserve by overturning 75% of the decisions we appeal—a success rate that is much higher than California’s average for successful appeals: 21%. The first of its kind FVAP is now a model for other projects around the country. The 2017 Symposium will again be at the Meritage Resort in Napa, on May 5-7, 2017.

The Northern California Chapter’s biannual Trial Practicum took place from October 26th through 29th in San Francisco. Co-chairs Shane Ford and John Hodson presented a remarkable, sold-out program giving 24 lawyers an invaluable opportunity for professional development. This Practicum has become so highly regarded that The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization credits attendees with two of their five trials required for certification as a family law specialist.

The Northern California Chapter has launched this new, improved, and inspiring Chapter website that you are viewing.

Thanks to the commitment of our Fellows the Chapter is thriving, and continues to a beacon of excellence across the country. This legacy will expand under the certain leadership of 2017 Chapter President Ellen Winick Stross.