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New president aims to double membership for La Jolla Bar

The La Jolla Bar Association, in existence since 1984, now finds itself in a rapid phase of expansion and membership diversification. The organization’s new president, Nena Jo Haskins, took office in January and hopes to double the size of membership during her year-long term.

“In the past,” she said, “it was always whoever wanted to join, but I have been actively recruiting. I plan to bring that up at my first board meeting coming up. It will be a break with the past.”

The new members of the organization are primarily coming from the field of patent law and intellectual property law, Haskins said, along with some criminal lawyers. However, the more traditional membership of the group had been a mix of real estate and business lawyers, who still constitute the group’s core.

Haskins said the group’s main purpose is to enlighten and educate lawyers on the current topics in the legal profession. To that end, the group hosts speakers at a luncheon once a month. Attendance is usually about two-thirds of the group, Haskins said, and all who attend receive continued education credit with the bar association for attendance.

While attendance at the luncheons used to be more of a perfunctory function, Haskins said that recently the occasion has become both educational and social.

“People used to come at 12 and leave promptly after the speaker,” Haskins said. “Now I get there at quarter of 12 and the restaurant is full and people are also staying longer after the meeting and asking more questions of the speakers, so it is becoming more social and continues to be educational.”

Many of the new members are younger, joining earlier in their careers, Haskins said, and they are drawn to the group as a tool for networking.

“We are getting younger now, which is where the patent and intellectual property lawyers, drawn by the area’s growing biotech industry come in,” Haskins said.

Another new development Haskins hopes to realize is group community service performed by the members. Some already do pro-bono work in private, and some donate time to Law Week, when groups of lawyers in San Diego give free legal advice to residents.

“I plan to bring up organizing some form of community service at my first board meeting,” Haskins said. “Some already goes on in private, but I want the group to participate as a whole.”

The president of the La Jolla Bar Association is elected by the entire group, who vote on a slate of candidates proposed by the board. Association members do not have to live in La Jolla to join but must at least work here.

Haskins said it was important to her that the new slate of candidates be as diverse as possible and added that the process was not usually too controversial since obvious candidates stood out.

The main qualification for the presidency, she said, was active participation in the group.

The duties of the presidency are varied, from recruiting the speakers to being a justice at the University of California’s Moot Court Competition.

“So far, the job has been a whole lot of fun in terms of meeting people and attending interesting functions such as the moot court competition,” Haskins said. “My husband, who is also a member, has been doing a great job of getting the speakers, so I haven’t been too tied down by the phone.”

The speaker for February was San Diego Sheriff Bill Kolender, who Haskins said was well received. This month the group will hear from San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

Those interested in membershipshould call (858) 756-5016 or e-mail

nenaslaw@sbcglobal.net.