The following was originally published in Connect Magazine.

The elegant Renaissance Resort and Spa, located in the quiet, yet welcoming, Coachella Valley community of Indian Wells, was the site of this year’s much-anticipated and well-attended CAI-sponsored California-centric legal educational conference.  For those readers who may not already be aware of, or familiar with, the conference known as the Legal Forum: California Communities, is an event sponsored by CAI (Community Association Institute), the largest organization in the country whose primary organizational objective is advocating on behalf of homeowner associations located  here in the United States, as well as a multitude of common interest communities world-wide.

Having taken place this past Oct. 21st , this year’s event marked the seventh time that CAI has brought the conference to California homeowners and managers, and the first time it has been presented in the Coachella Valley.   In past years the event has taken place in San Diego, Temecula, Long Beach (twice), Irvine (twice) and now adding the CV to its list of venues.  The challenge, as always, was to continue the tradition of presenting nothing less than world-class, value-added legal educational sessions to those who had invested the time, energy and finances to take part in this once-a-year event.  I’ll let you know my thoughts at the end of this article.

The actual hosting of the Legal Forum, as has always been the case in the past, falls on the capable shoulders of the Executive Directors of CAI’s eight California chapters, along with CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee, and deals with community association legal issues that are then the focus of a special one-day event designed for community managers, association board members and other interested homeowners.

This year, and again as in the past, the Forum was divided into two categories of session-types, with one being ideally designed for community association volunteer leaders (board members and homeowners), and the second targeting community managers who are tasked daily with managing our common interest communities.   No matter which category attendees preferred, there was no shortage of sessions available for them to attend, and to learn from.

In the category designed for association volunteer leaders, there were sessions that dealt with subjects ranging from Short-term Rentals to everything you wanted to know about Drones, as well as subjects like Social Media and Internet Presence in Associations.  

Running concurrently and for the manager-types in attendance, there were sessions that were unquestionably California-specific when it comes to the latest trending topics dealing with association law.   Topics that included learning how to Maximize Directors and Officer Liability Insurance Coverage for claims against Managers, Directors and even volunteer committee-members were presented and discussed, along with topics such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Guide to HOA Law,  as well how to correctly identify Defamation and What to Do About It.   No doubt that there were sessions that were designed to appeal to just about every attendee-type that was there, and the “good news” was that each and every session was presented by extremely qualified and capable presenters who themselves were acknowledged experts in their fields.

As an added bonus, the keynote address was an enlightening presentation by Dawn Bauman, CAE, Senior Vice President Government & Public Affairs, Community Associations Institute, entitled Community Next: 2020 and Beyond   Envisioning the Future of Community Association Living, in which she described for the audience the results of CAI having embarked upon an initiative to forecast the future of community associations, by engaging fifty volunteer stakeholders and subject matter experts from around the world for a year-long deep dive on issues related to community association governance, management public policy, and external influences.   The audience listened attentively to what she had to say, and left the session with a greater awareness of what life in associations just might look like for the next generation of residents.   Fascinating stuff?   You bet!

And, of course, what would a well-managed conference be without the supportive industry business-partners, who represented the variety of experts that each and every association relies upon to make sure that all goes well within their communities, whether its the landscapers, the painters, the general contractors, the bankers, the pool specialists, the fence-builders, the security-providers, the attorneys, the reserve specialists, the insurance carriers and all the other service providers we all rely upon to keep things running smooth and hassle-free.   They were at the Forum as well, and offered their services and products for those in need of them, and in a professional way that spoke volumes about how much they care about how they are portrayed within this industry.  In other words, they were all ‘class-acts’ in their presentations.

Our California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) also participated in its annual role of creating a warm climate for encouraging donations targeted for use in continuing advocacy efforts on behalf of California common interest communities, with their fundraiser event that took place the evening before.  With the “Rat Pack” as its theme, we were treated to several amazing reincarnations of Frank, Dean, Sammy, Marilyn making their presence felt, and even Anne-Margret was “in the house”.   All in all, the committee proved again, that when it comes to fund-raising, few do it better.   And this year was no exception.

Wrapping up, I’m drawn back to the title of this article and what my thoughts are on whether or not CAI was successful in keeping the tradition alive.  Not enough can be said about how well this year’s Legal Forum was managed, and equally not enough can be said about the elevated enthusiasm expressed by those who were in attendance.   Having had the opportunity to speak with several of those who were there, I was left with an unmistakably-positive impression that this year’s Legal Forum was not only the best-attended one in its so-far brief seven-year run, but it was also the most informative (based on the variety and content of the sessions offered) Legal Forum that the California Communities has been offered.  Did it keep the tradition alive, of providing superb sessions?  Yes!   Did it keep the tradition alive, of providing nothing less than the cream-of-the-crop in speakers and presenters?  Absolutely!   And, did it keep the tradition alive, of providing to those in attendance an exceptional return on their investment of participating in the Legal Forum?   You Betcha!  Did the chapter Executive Directors do an outstanding job of managing the event?   But, of course!  And lastly, did the attendees, both community association volunteer leaders, as well as managers, leave with invaluable knowledge that they could use immediately?  No question about it!   They came, they learned, and they left ready to employ a refreshed and ample amount of knowledge that can and will make all their future endeavors for improving the quality-of-life within their association-living that much easier…….

robert-riddick-cmaRobert Riddick, CMA

Robert is the current President of Sunnymead Ranch PCA, and past GRIE-Chapter President. He is a past Chair of the CAI National CAVL committee, and past National Board of Trustees member.  He is also a past member of the GRIE-Chapter Board of Directors, and currently serves as the CAI-GRIE chapter CLAC Liaison, as well as its LSC Chair.  He is also currently serving as a Board member for the  CAI Foundation for Community