And, as at every other organization on the planet right now, the economy is affecting the 2009 outlook. But maybe not in the way you’d think. For now, at least, tight times have Russ Roeca focused on doing more, not less.
So, what aspect of the local bar association have you been most involved with in the past?
My involvement in the Bar Association of San Francisco began with the minority employment committee work in the mid- to late-80s. I found it compelling, the need compelling, and the interests of the people involved compelling. … That was the committee that came up with the (diversity) goals and timetables.
What’s the biggest BASF responsibility you feel weighing on your shoulders for 2009?
I am confident that our members are going to be there, even in these times. I’m confident of that. But I’m confident there’s going to be greater need in the community [for things like the Volunteer Legal Services Program]. We have a lot more on our plate. Our community has a lot more on its plate.
What one initiative do you feel is the most important to maintain at BASF for the coming year?
I essentially have three things that we need to continue moving forward: Assuring the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, the independence of our courts. … If we allow, through our failure to act, that to be broken down, then we are failing as a profession. … That’s one of the three legs of the stool of the bar association’s mission. And if we do not have a diverse legal profession, one that reflects the broad spectrum of our community, then it’s not going to be able to command the respect of that community … and that holds true of the courts, as well.
The courts have to be diversified. … so I think that that is truly large and looming. And in addition to diversifying the profession, which is interlinked with ensuring the independence of the judiciary and courts, is the need to seriously address the justice gap. Fundamental legal issues are confronting [pro pers] every day … issues of domestic violence, family issues, evictions, homelessness. You name it. And VLSP does so much in that regard. And we’re going to have to continue it. And more so now. …
A committee’s being put together and we’re going to be looking into methods by which we can expand the availability of legal services to the unrepresented, beyond a self-help desk. We’re going to look at ways that maybe we can partner with others [such as partnering with others in a pilot project to provide lawyers in cases where fundamental health, safety and other issues are at risk]. It can be a frightening place for a non-lawyer. … We understand we’re in an economic meltdown in many ways. But we’re going to get it rolling, and hopefully there will come a point where we can determine a way to fund this sort of thing.
What one new initiative do you feel would be the most important to start in the coming year?
We’re not planning any new programs this year, because BASF is rich in programs. What we’re talking about with the justice gap is an expansion of what we do, and what VLSP does so well.
A civil litigator, Roeca started San Francisco’s Roeca Haas Hager with two other Long & Levit veterans about nine years ago. His own office is still just about a block away from his old firm’s.
— Pam Smith