Solo and Small Firm Section

News from the Section

    1. 2015 Solo and Small Firm Section Attorney of the Year Award Recipient Ashley West
    2. Changes in the Courts and E-Filing Updates
    1. "Special Bulletin: U.S. Department of Labor Announces Expansion of Definition of Spouse for Family and Medical Care Leave"
    2. New Case Law
    1. Big News for Smaller Firms
    2. Practice Books Available for Purchase
    1. Annual meeting will be in Anaheim in 2015
    2. CEB

1. Message from the Chair

Susan Share We are very excited to announce that the Solo and Small Firm Attorney of the Year Award will be presented at this year's Solo Summit happening in Newport Beach in June. 

Open to all attendees, the reception provides an opportunity to support one of our colleagues who has shown exemplary work in his/her legal field and community at large, as well as a chance to hob nob and network with our solo and small firm colleagues. Be sure to come and join us during this event!

2. In the Know

A. Ashley West -- Solo and Small Firm Attorney of the Year

Ashley WestThe State Bar Solo and Small Firm Section is delighted to announce that Sacramento attorney Ashley West is the recipient of its prestigious 2015 Attorney of the Year Award. The award will be presented at the Myer J. Sankary Reception at the Solo and Small Firm Summit held on June 19, 2015 in Newport Beach. Ashley is a founding partner of the boutique transactional firm Carter West, focusing on high dollar corporate and real estate matters with her law partner, Ian Carter.

This year's nominees were a group whose histories of involvement and achievement exemplified the ideals of leadership of the profession and service to the community that the Award is meant to recognize. Ashley stood out for the depth of her dedication to the community and professional work to which she has been devoted since her admission to practice in California in 2004, and the prodigious amount of that work.

Ashley's dedication to the profession and public service shines brightest through her work with WEAVE, Inc., Sacramento's primary provider of services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Ashley joined WEAVE's Board of Directors in 2005, and since then has served on or chaired many of its committees, and notably served for three years as its Board Chair and President (2009-2011).

Read more on the Solo and Small Firm's website.

B. Changes in the Courts

  • Be advised that there is a list of new, revised or repealed San Diego Superior Court forms now available for use. The court forms available on the Internet may be found at, and/or printed forms may be found at the San Diego Superior Court business offices.

  • Effective Friday, April 3, 2015, the Superior Court of California for the County of San Mateo's clerk counter hours will be changed. The clerk's office counter hours will be extended on Fridays. The offices will now be open until 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone hours and the records division counter hours will also be extended to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

  • Effective January 5, 2015, the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda is now formalizing extended hours in Civil, as well as announcing extended customer service hours - until 4:30 p.m. - for the Criminal, Juvenile, Family Law, Court Records, and Appeals Unit Clerk's Offices. Also effective January 5, 2015, the Court will temporarily suspend the collection of filing fees for motions in limine. That fee will be the subject of discussions by a statewide working group convened by the Judicial Council The court will participate in that working group and will determine, based on its progress, whether and when to reinstate the motion in limine filing fees. Notwithstanding the Court's decision on the filing fees, all provisions of Local Rule 3.35(e) remain in full effect.

  • Effective March 2, 2015, on a three-month pilot basis (pending rule change), universal filing will be available for civil cases (excluding Probate) at the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. Documents may be filed at Rene C. Davidson courthouse or Hayward Hall of Justice. For further information, you may contact the Civil Division Clerk's Office at (510) 267-6911.

  • Effective June 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015, the California Superior Court, County of Calaveras will have new hours of operation in the Clerk's Office, as follows:

    Monday through Friday 8:15 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

    Effective July 1, 2015, the court's hours of operation in the Clerk's office will be as follows:

    Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

    Telephone hours will also be the same. Courtrooms will remain open Monday through Friday and are unaffected by this change. The public will remain able to pay certain traffic fines and fees and to access court calendar information on the court's website at A drop box also is available to receive documents for same day filing Monday through Friday when the Clerk's Office is closed. Filing deadlines will not be extended due to the limited service days. Pursuant to California Rules of court, rule 2.210 (b) any document deposited in a court's drop box by or before 4:00 p.m., on a court day is deemed to have been deposited for filing on that day. All documents will be removed from the drop box at 4:30 p.m., daily. Any document dropped after 4:30 p.m. will be receive and filed the following court business day.

3. Up to Date

A. "Special Bulletin: U.S. Department of Labor Announces Expansion of Definition of Spouse for Family and Medical Care Leave"

By Cynthia Elkins

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that the definition of "spouse" for purposes of the Federal Family and Medical Care Leave Act (FMLA) has been expanded to include same sex partners.

In brief, the FMLA (and the California equivalent - California Family Rights Act or CFRA) provides that an "eligible employee" who works for a "covered private employer" is entitled to take up to 12 weeks off of work for a "qualifying event".

For purposes of the FMLA, the following definitions apply:

  • Covered Employer: A private employer, employing 50 or more employees on the payroll during each of any 20 or more calendar weeks in the current calendar year or the preceding calendar year.

  • Eligible Employee: Employees are eligible for FMLA if they have worked for a covered employer and have worked for 12 months (need not be consecutive) and 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the need for leave.

  • Qualifying Event:
    • The employee's own serious health condition (FMLA/CFRA)
    • A qualifying exigency relating to a close family member's military service (FMLA only)
    • Up to 26 weeks per 12-month period to care for an ill or injured service member (FMLA only)
    • Pregnancy-related disability (FMLA only) (California law also provides additional time for a pregnancy related disability under the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) laws)
    • Bonding with a newborn, an adopted child or a child placed in foster care with an employee (FMLA/CFRA or CFRA only)
    • Caring for a family member (parent, child, spouse) with a serious health condition (FMLA/CFRA)
    • Caring for a registered domestic partner with a serious health condition (CFRA only)

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that the definition of "spouse" for purposes of FMLA leave is expanded to include those in "legal, same-sex marriages".

Specifically, the announcement states:

Workers in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, will now have the same rights as those in opposite-sex marriages to federal job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a spouse with a serious health condition. The U.S. Labor Department announced a rule change to the FMLA today in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor. That ruling struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted "marriage" and "spouse" to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.

The rule change updates the FMLA regulatory definition of "spouse" so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse regardless of the state in which the employee resides. Previously, the regulatory definition of "spouse" did not include same-sex spouses if an employee resided in a state that did not recognize the employee's same-sex marriage. Under the new rule, eligibility for federal FMLA protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into. This "place of celebration" provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages.

The rule change is effective March 27, 2015. For additional information on the FMLA revisions, including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions, go to:

What Should You Do Now?

Employers should be sure to review their Employee Handbook and update the policy to reflect the policy change to include the new definition of spouse.

This Special Bulletin is intended as a brief summary of employment law. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is not intended to serve as "legal advice," or to establish an attorney-client relationship. If additional information is needed on any of the topics contained herein, please contact our office. All rights reserved. ©2015

B. New Case Law

On April 16, 2015, the Ninth Circuit held that California's rule that a contractual waiver of the right to a jury is void applied to diversity cases in federal court, at least where California law provided the applicable law. In re County of Orange, Case No. 14-72343, 2015 DJDAR 4197 (9th Cir. April 16, 2015). Hence, plaintiffs no longer need to fear removal by defendants as a tactic to avoid a jury trial. This risk arose most frequently in labor and employment cases and class actions.

4. Tips on Tech

Periscope Up!

By: Renee Galante

Twitter recently unveiled a new application called "Periscope", a technology that a month previously was available only to the media industry. Now it's free to the general public! This application (or app) lets you live-stream from your phone to the internet and anyone can watch the live-stream from their phone or their desktop computer. Periscope can even record the live stream. This technology can impact several aspects of the legal industry, from issues of infringement to the impact on what is a reasonable expectation of privacy, to making it easier for small businesses to create their own "webinars" or ways of reaching out to the public. Are you using Periscope or a similar technology? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please contact to share your experiences.

5. Section Publications

Henry DavidA. Big News for Solo and Small Firms

Our Section Magazine, Big News for Solo and Small Firms, is back as a quarterly publication. If you are a Section member, you should have been receiving our new and improved magazine. We are currently accepting articles for our Annual Meeting edition. Please contact our editor, Henry S. David at:

B. Practice Book Available for Purchase

California Guide to Growing and Managing a Law OfficeOpening a Law Office As a sole practitioner or the head of a small firm, you must act as so much more than just CEO; you also must also wear the hats of Chief Financial Officer, Human Resources Director, Chief Technology Officer, and more. The California Guide to Opening and Managing a Law Office is your personal executive team.

The California Guide to Growing and Managing a Law Office addresses what can be both a lawyer's most rewarding and challenging professional experience. The goal of this book, is to make it less challenging and more rewarding. It picks up where book one, “The California Guide to Opening a Law Office”, left off, exploring the challenges of growing a law practice in detail.

Available in State Bar Sections Bookstore:

C. Webinars

Webinars offer participatory credit and can be heard after their live air date - at your convenience.

  1. Link to MCLE Calendar of EventsA good source for webinars is the CLE Calendar in the California Bar Journal, showing all of the upcoming webinars from all of the Sections, as well as in-person programs.

6. In Person

A. Come and see us in Anaheim at the State Bar Annual Meeting

State Bar Annual Meeting

The State Bar of California 88th Annual Meeting
October 8-11, 2015
Anaheim, California

We're pleased to announce the return of the Annual Meeting to Anaheim in October 2015. The 2015 Annual Meeting will showcase a robust education agenda.

The Solo and Small Firm Section will be presenting a good selection of programs at the event!

B. Save Money with CEB

CEB Discount Program for Section MembersContinuing Education of the Bar, California (CEB) is extending some special discount offers to our section. As a member of the Solo and Small Firm Section, you're eligible for:

  • 10% off selected CEB print or online books
  • A rebate on your section dues that can be applied to the cost of a CEB Gold CLE Passport or a CLE program ticket

A complete list of the products eligible for a discount is available on a CEB web page accessible through our Members Only Area. Information about the section dues rebate program can be found on the CEB Web site.

Contact Us

Solo and Small Firm Section
The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
FAX 415-538-2368

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