The California Academy of Appellate Lawyers (CAAL) is an election-only organization devoted to excellence in appellate practice. It fosters networking in the best sense: meeting interesting and committed colleagues and judicial officers in congenial settings, where everyone learns, and many develop both referrals and lifelong friends.
Once known as the Appellate Lawyers Eating and Drinking Association, CAAL was launched in 1972 when the Presiding Justice of the Second Appellate District mentioned to some lawyer friends that serving on an appellate court could be isolating. He suggested occasional dinner gatherings of a handful of judges and lawyers, where they could talk casually about appellate justice. Today, CAAL is a mutually supportive network of around 100 members, interacting both in person and online. In addition to an active listserv where members can gain (or offer) insight on any practice challenge, we meet three times a year for advanced MCLE, discussion of changes to appellate practice, Academy business, and great food and wine.
Whether in Pasadena, San Francisco, or at coastal locales, we are always joined by 4-10 guests. Most are appellate justices and staff, mixed in with whoever can add valuable perspective on issues of the day—be it a leading U.S. Supreme Court practitioner, an international court official, or a news reporter. Pending cases are off limits as topics of conversation, but CAAL debates and keeps members informed on a host of issues, such as publication of opinions, judicial elections, budgets, appellate ethics, sanctions, memorandum opinions, reliance on staff attorneys, and the value of oral argument. The ground rule is confidentiality, and the exchanges are frank and sometimes surprising.
CAAL also has active committees devoted to amicus curiae participation and input on appellate rule changes. Here our ground rule is “side neutrality”; CAAL aims to improve appellate practice and access to justice across the board, but avoids favoring plaintiffs, defendants, or any side of a divisive issue.
If you’re interested in applying for membership, we welcome you to review the qualifications and application. Northern and Southern California membership committees rigorously review applicants’ submitted briefs (together with their opponents’ briefs and the courts’ decisions), obtain input from the legal community, and make recommendations to the full membership at one of the Academy’s three annual meetings.