Reflections on BASF in the Year 2000
The Bar Association of San Francisco in 2000
by Fred W. Alvarez, 2000 BASF President
In looking back at the year I had the privilege to lead the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), I could not be more optimistic. I am optimistic about the future of BASF when I think about the many ways that our members of yesterday found, and our members of today are finding, to serve our community, and to fight The Good Fight. That’s what BASF does in 2022. It’s what we did in 2000.
I don’t say that I’m optimistic because those of us tackling the issues of our day were all that successful in wrestling them to the ground. We weren’t. But, it was not for lack of trying or lack of energy or lack of talent. Twenty years ago we were passionate about addressing racial injustice, the lack of diversity in the Bar, gender inequality, disability discrimination, barriers to reproductive rights, uneven access to the courts and the scourge of homophobia in some of our institutions. Had we “succeeded” in our efforts, BASF members today could be mobilizing to address new challenges.
To be sure, the issues of our day are still with us, and maybe are even more dire than they were then. What makes me optimistic about today is to think about the people who were fighting these fights way back then, and what they went on to do—the BASF members of the board, the sections, the task forces and the committees who didn’t know it at the time but would go on to have real impact in the roles that they would assume some day.
Those Year 2000 lawyers who I had the privilege to work with were busily meeting to organize around how to make progress on all these issues and writing position papers, amicus briefs, Op-Ed’s and BASF resolutions. They would go on to be federal judges, ambassadors, Superior Court judges, Justices of the District Court of Appeal, California Labor Commissioners, Presidents of the State Bar of California and the Bar Association of San Francisco, Public Defenders and District Attorneys, managing partners and leaders of practice groups of their firms, accomplished Public Interest advocates and more. One even became Vice President of the United States.
They don’t know it yet, but the Year 2022 BASF members who are grappling with the issues we left them—and the issues we never even imagined—will go on and do even more than we did. That’s what BASF members did in 2000. That’s what 2022 BASF members will do in the coming years. BASF is the incubator for lawyers who want to work for justice in all of its dimensions. That’s what makes BASF different. It did in 2000, and it does today. I don’t mean to minimize the work that we did in 2000, because a remarkable group of lawyers did some great things under the BASF banner. When outgoing Bar President Terry Stewart—now Presiding Justice Therese M. Stewart—introduced me as the first “openly” Latino BASF Bar President in 125 years, I was overwhelmingly proud that BASF had finally crossed that bridge. In the 2000 Bar year, we took the Goals and Timetables baton passed to us from 1995 and ran forward with even more aggressive diversity goals for the San Francisco legal community.
We convened a Blue Ribbon Panel of the best thinkers of our day in diversity (under the leadership of Ray Marshall, Jim Brosnahan, Kevin Fong and Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers) and came up with even more imaginative approaches to opening up our profession to meet those goals. We convened an extraordinary Diversity Conference that summer led by our California Chief Justice, the President of the American Bar Association and the Deputy Attorney General of the United States—one Eric Holder. We went to the White House to meet with the President of the United States as President Clinton launched Lawyers for One America, a national effort that would be led by our own Teveia Barnes.
We enthusiastically supported and nurtured meaningful and imaginative initiatives started in earlier years, like School-to-College and the Law Academy (first imagined and launched by Jeff Ross). We were the driving host organization that bought the Just The Beginning Foundation meeting of over 120 African American Federal Judges and U.S. Attorneys to San Francisco. We developed a Pro Bono Pledge for our law firm members to keep them focused on delivering legal services to those who needed it.
As the Bar Leaders and BASF members of today look back on what we were doing twenty something years ago, I hope that they won’t despair of the state of affairs in our legal world today. Instead, I hope they will look fondly at the things we tried to do. More importantly, I hope that they see for themselves the types of futures our committed members built for themselves in both private practice and public service, and as they assume those roles, that they feel the same passion that we did for the issues of our day — a passion for public service and a commitment to progressive values that seem to live and thrive in the DNA of BASF, and has done so for decades.
Fred W. Alvarez, 2000 BASF president