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About Us & Our Mission

BASF Initiatives and Task Forces

The Bar Association of San Francisco champions equal access to justice and promotes humanity, excellence, and diversity in the legal profession.  We champion projects - short and long term --that help to raise awareness and spur action in these areas.


Women in Trial Training

2019 President Doris Cheng announced her initiative in her installment speech at the December 18, 2018 Annual Membership Luncheon:

In her speech, Cheng acknowledged “the roots of progress” within the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), including “over a hundred years of pro bono service to our community, and, in the last sixteen years, a focus on advancing women in the law.”

Cheng’s presidential initiative grows from these roots and is inspired by a question she frequently encounters at trial lawyer conferences: “Where are the women trial lawyers?” 

“We need greater diversity in the courtroom where women and people of color will not be held back, and we need partners and peers to promote their presence in that arena,” Cheng elaborated, adding that “the sustained under-utilization of powerful voices is not progress.”

Cheng’s initiative for 2019 will therefore focus on building advocacy skills by instituting two-day trial skills training courses primarily for women and minority attorneys. The Women in Trial initiative will kick off with the first two-day training in February 2019, with a second training to follow in July.

2017 President Merri Baldwin rolled out her presidential initiatives during her installation speech and they include:

Immigration Representation Task Force: Because of the increased need for legal representation for both detained and nondetained respondents in removal proceedings, we are in the process of forming the BASF Immigration Representation Task Force. This will be made up of board members, immigration attorneys, and community leaders and will focus on how to best support the work of the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative and maximize the opportunities for legal representation of immigrants facing removal proceedings.

Enhancing Volunteer Opportunities: The second area of focus for 2017 is enhancing volunteer opportunities and outreach. JDC is a direct provider of legal services and is the second-largest pro bono program in the state and the largest program in Northern California. Not only that: JDC celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2017. To mark that occasion, we want as many of you as possible providing legal services directly to those who need them. To help achieve that goal and enhance that incredible success, we will both provide additional volunteer opportunities and make it easier to access existing opportunities.

  • Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP): Take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about homelessness in San Francisco, and how the JDC's Homeless Advocacy Project effectively addresses clients' issues.  The volunteer will meet with HAP leadership for an insider view on one of the City's most pressing problems, and then shadow HAP staff as they interview potential new clients who are at serious risk of losing their housing, seek federal disability benefits, or scramble for proper immigration documentation in these frightening times. While this is a primarily an educational opportunity, the volunteer may be able to support the HAP staff or provide limited assistance to clients during their visit.

    Location: 125 Hyde Street, San Francisco

    Check the calendar for available Tuesday dates

  • February 13 JDC Volunteer Pop Up
    JDC provides direct legal services in the areas of eviction defense, family law, legal advice clinics, right to civil counsel projects, medical-legal clinics, and consumer law and tax. There are many ways for lawyers to volunteer and make a meaningful difference in someone’s life. Last year, more than 1,700 lawyers provided services to over 6,500 clients.

Woodside Learning Center: For the past few years, BASF volunteers have worked with detained youth at the Log Cabin Ranch, a minimum security facility in the Santa Cruz mountains. Lawyers and judges garden and do woodworking with the students, helping the students understand that we appreciate them as young people and want to help them succeed.

Building on that work, we will be doing a workshop with detained youth at the Woodside Learning Center, the school run jointly by San Francisco Unified School District and the San Francisco probation department. This comes about as a result of a conversation I had with a teacher at Woodside after making a presentation to her class a few years ago when she mentioned it would be a great idea to teach the students debate skills, equipping them with a new set of tools, ones that could help navigate the barriers they will continue to face.

Through volunteer lawyers, we will run a series of debate workshops this year for students at Woodside, starting in March. This will involve working directly with the students, both boys and girls, teaching them how to debate.

Community Law Practice Incubator: In 2016, under the direction of BASF President Michael Tubach, The Bar Association of San Francisco created the Community Law Practice Incubator (CLPI) in partnership with its Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) and Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) to serve the professional needs of attorneys within their first three years of practice, and expand access to affordable legal services for low income persons. 

Learn more about CLPI.


Criminal Justice Task Force: In January 2015 the BASF Board of Directors convened a Task Force on the Criminal Justice System, composed of prosecutors, defense attorneys, civil rights attorneys, law professors, the judiciary, members of law enforcement (police and sheriff) and police oversight agencies.  The Task Force formed several subcommittees to examine current practices regarding the collection and retention of data in detentions/arrests, use and policies regarding body cameras, training regarding bias (including implicit bias), use of grand juries in police-involved shootings, and civilian oversight. Learn more.

Pro Bono Pledge: In 2015, the BASF Board of Directors voted to release a new call to action encouraging members and law firms to give back with pro bono service. A set of pro bono pledges, one aimed at law firms and one at individual attorneys, urges 50 hours of pro bono service or taking one pro bono matter in 2015. Learn more.


It Starts With a Day: Get involved in the community in which we live and work – it all starts with a day of your time. During 2014, President Stephanie Skaff organized five events to support those in need. 2015 President Timothy Moppin continues the effort in 2015. For more information, visit

Service for Service: The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) and The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) will bring services to veterans and their families by holding a one-day clinics.


Mind the Gap: In 2013, BASF launched the Mind the Gap program. The goal of the program is to provide recent law school graduates who are unemployed or underemployed with training, work experience, mentorship and debt reduction information. For more information, visit the Mind the Gap web page.

Check out some stats from 2013 about the program.


Court Funding Task Force: The court closures and cutbacks San Francisco is facing are an untenable situation for our court, our community and our clients. In 2012 BASF formed three working groups to address issues associated with Legislation, Constitutional challenges and Judicial Council action. For more information, visit the court funding web page.


Marriage Fairness: The mission of this Marriage Fairness Task Force is to educate the community about marriage fairness and to defeat the effort to place, for the first time in our California Constitution, an amendment that discriminates and denies a class of citizens a fundamental right. 

Known for its longstanding efforts and commitment to promote equality for all , BASF is working  alongside many community organizations to defeat Proposition 8 on the November 4, 2008 ballot.


Access to Justice: BASF will be helping guide the state as the topic of state-funded legal representation in civil cases involving basic human needs move to the forefront. View the conference on Google video, which was held in October 2008.


Town Hall Meetings: Teaming with local civic groups, these forums will feature discussions on topics such as the rule of law, judicial independence, the workings of the court system, and the death penalty.


Fair and Impartial Courts Task Force: Building on the progress made by the Independence of the Judiciary Committee in 2007, the renamed task force will develop a rapid response program to provide appropriate and timely responses to unjust criticism of judges and courts.

Read 2008 BASF President James Donato's Op-Ed.


Providing Substantive Digital Information and Commentary: As a trusted source of reliable content to the public and the legal community, BASF will be preparing videos, podcasts and online training, among other things to the BASF Web site.


Supporting Pakistani Attorneys: In November of 2007 Pakistan was wrenched into martial law -- its constitution suspended, its courts closed, its judges forced to sign loyalty oaths, and the right of the Pakistani people to petition their government lost. In the midst of this turmoil, one group immediately took to the streets to protest these actions: Pakistan's lawyers. In newspaper after newspaper, we have seen these lawyers -- wearing suit and tie -- risking their lives in confrontations with military police to demand the return of the rule of law.
Read the letter to members (34KBPDF) from 2007 President Nanci Clarence.

Read the December 2007 BASF Bulletin article (444KBPDF)about the November 9 rally.

Check out the You Tube videos of the rally.

  • Part 1: Featuring San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi
  • Part 2: Featuring Nanci Clarence, 2007 BASF President, Clarence & Dyer; and Javed Ellahie, Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Part 3: Featuring Shirish Gupta, South Asian Bar Association

Read the January 2008 BASF Bulletin article (293KBPDF)about the December 12 teleconference with attorneys in Pakistan.

Listen to the audio of the teleconference at

Note: Recording playback requires Flash. If you do not have Flash installed, you will be prompted to install it before playback begins.

Download materials (163KBPDF) from the teleconference.


Expanding the Diversity Agenda: BASF's diversity efforts were expanded during 2007 to include more focus on LGBT lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.

A DVD version of the Disability Conference, which focused on the hiring and retention of attorneys with disabilities is available.

A report on the hiring and retaining of LGBT attorneys was released in November 2007. Download the LGBT report.

Please contact Yolanda Jackson at to order the Disability Conference DVD or a hard copy of the LGBT report.

BASF College of Trial Advocacy: With the help of some of the best trial lawyers in the country, BASF rolled out in December 2007, a full-fledged NITA (National Institute of Trial Advocacy)-styled College of Trial Advocacy for San Francisco juvenile defenders.

Read the January 2008 BASF Bulletin article (308KBPDF) about the December 3 Clinic.


Independence of the Judiciary Committee: A committee to be a clear, consistent and powerful voice for a fair and impartial judiciary was formed in 2007 and acts as BASF's SWAT team: a first responder that will monitor attacks, speak out in the press, and fires back because courts are not in a position to do so.

Read the March 2007 BASF Bulletin article (315KBPDF) about the new committee.

Read the July 2007 BASF Bulletin article (296KBPDF) written by Committee Chair Dennis Herrera.


Goals and Timetables for Minority Hiring and Advancement: In an effort to advance racial and ethnic minorities in the San Francisco Bay Area legal community, BASF's Diversity Task Force adopted a set of goals and timetables and periodically conducts surveys measuring the success of the initiative.

Read more about the goals and timetables.


Charitable Giving Task Force: The Charitable Giving Task Force's Resolution for law firm giving was passed by the BASF Board of Directors in August 2006.

Find out more about the work of this task force.

No Glass Ceiling Initiative: The No Glass Ceiling Task Force was formed in 2001 to increase opportunities for women to serve in leadership positions within the legal profession in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read about the 2005 No Glass Ceiling survey findings and goals for 2010.


Work/Life Balance Initiative: The Work/Life Balance Initiative, with its task force of more than 50 attorneys, legal professionals and representatives from local law schools, came together in 2006 to survey the legal community to find out about best practices for work/life balance.

Find out more about this initiative.


Sister City Initiative: BASF’s Sister City Bar Initiative was created to build relationships abroad, to foster goodwill and to offer practical assistance to BASF members in their practices.

Read the BASF Bulletin article about this initiative. (218KB PDF)
Read the San Francisco Attorney magazine article about this initiative. (826KB PDF)


Putting a Face on the Homeless: In 2006, an effort to start putting a face to San Francisco's homeless was established through a series of articles highlighting clients of the Justice & Diversity Center's Homeless Advocacy Project.

Read the articles.