Friday, August 27, 2004
Executive Director Rich Walch to Leave LACBA in January
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Rich Walch, who has worked for the Los Angeles County Bar Association for almost 27 years and served as its executive director since 1984, will leave the organization in January to work as a consultant to nonprofit organizations, he said yesterday.
Walch, 54, said he will join a consulting firm currently operated by his wife. Walch Consulting provides leadership coaching, strategic planning and best practices guidance for nonprofits, including corporate and other foundations, he explained.
He declined to identify current or prospective clients of the firm, but stressed the move is not a step toward retirement.
“I’m not slowing down,” Walch declared.
Appellate lawyer Robin Meadow of Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland in Los Angeles, the group’s immediate past president and a current member of its Executive Committee, said LACBA will miss Walch and predicted success for him in his new role.
“I think anyone who gets the benefit of his advice is going to be very lucky,” Meadow said, describing Walch as being “at the top of his game” after more than 20 years as the administrative leader of country’s largest metropolitan bar association.
LACBA President John Collins of Collins Collins Muir & Stewart in Pasadena said he first learned of Walch’s plans about two weeks ago. The Executive Committee was informed Tuesday and plans to meet on Thursday to discuss replacing Walch, Collins said.
“I was shocked and very sorry to see it happen,” Collins said. But both Collins and Meadow said that board members had been generally aware for some time that Walch was considering a career move sometime before he reached retirement age.
“Certainly everyone was surprised that it was now, because you hoped that someone like Rich would never leave,” Meadow commented.
“It’s his decision and our loss.”
Collins said LACBA would probably consider both members of its current staff and outsiders in the search for a replacement.
“I can’t say that that’s going to be quick,” he said.
One likely candidate is the group’s assistant executive director and general counsel, W. Clark Brown, Collins said. Walch was general counsel before becoming executive director.
But Collins noted that Brown has been with LACBA for less than two years. Walch was general counsel for five years before moving up to the top spot.
Collins called Walch “extremely talented” and “very politically astute,” adding:
“He’s been a tremendous leader. He’s kept me out of a lot of trouble.”
Meadow said that while Walch “definitely put his stamp on the organization, and there is no question we’ll miss him,” the group is well situated to deal with a change in leadership.
“One of the things Rich has done is to build an organization with a stellar staff in which people really know their jobs and can keep things moving,” Meadow explained, adding:
“I would not say that I’m worried about it.”
He characterized Walch as a “unique personality with an extensive knowledge of the Los Angeles legal community and the organization” and “really an amazing human being.”
“I don’t think of the bar as a place without Rich Walch....He was the one never-changing constant, someone that bar leaders could always turn to, just for wise counsel.”
Walch, a graduate of UC Berkeley and USC Law School, worked for a Beverly Hills law firm for about a year after earning his law degree before joining LACBA as directing attorney of the group’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service. He became general counsel the next year.
Walch said the “dramatic changes” in law practice during the past two decades have required similarly dramatic changes in LACBA’s role.
“There’s much more of a financial bottom line orientation to the practice of law,” he observed. “People have less time and expect more and more value for their dues dollars.”
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company