When, in his December 1996 editor's letter, my predecessor, Peter Allen, described our first attempt to single out the California lawyers who, over the course of a year, made the biggest impact, he called it a "risky business." I know what he meant. But after all these years, I also know that by every measure it's a risk that's paid off. Judging just by the mountain of nominations that we receive, our California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year Awards are not just widely recognized but also highly coveted.
The winners do not always come from the most obvious practice areas. Last year, for example, Kent L. Richland won a CLAY for probate law after taking Anna Nicole Smith's strange case all the way
to the U.S. Supreme Court. This year, one of our CLAY winners is a member of Congress, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who championed legislation that makes it easier for freshly minted lawyers burdened by law school debt to take lower-paying jobs in the public sector.
"Some firms are a lot less selective than others about whom they nominate," notes Managing Editor Chuleenan Svetvilas, who has overseen our CLAY selection process for the past three years. In fact, she remembers a year when a single firm sent in at least ten nominations. Multiple nominations, however, do little to sway the judging. Our 2008 awards (page 20) go to 34 outstanding attorneys for 22 achievements.
Also in this issue, contributing writer Bill Blum examines the so-called fathers' rights movement-a movement that is championed by both lawyers and disgruntled dads who believe family courts are biased against men ("The Dad-vocates," page 32). "I wouldn't be surprised if my article ends up displeasing both sides of the debate," says Blum, who works as an administrative law judge in Southern California. "On the one hand you have women's rights advocates who think that if you give any play at all to fathers' rights, it's not a good thing. And then there are fathers' rights advocates who think that if you examine the claims of both sides, you're not fully appreciating the discrimination they encounter." In the end, though, Blum believes the debate shouldn't be about the rights of fathers or mothers. Rather, he says, it should be about the needs of children.
Finally, we want to welcome the newest member of our editorial advisory board, Colette Vogele of Vogele & Associates. A seasoned intellectual property attorney, Vogele hosts a podcast about new media and the law. Before establishing her own firm in San Francisco, Vogele held a prestigious residential fellowship with Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.