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Community News

Apr. 14, 2010

Sitting in the chambers of Judge Alfred Margolis during a pre-trial conference, Jim Nichols noticed a photo of Margolis in head-to-toe cowboy gear. Both longtime horse owners and avid riders, the two started talking about their mutual interest and thought about putting together a group of lawyers and judges who shared their passion. Nichols and Margolis, now retired, wrangled in a few others, including Nichols’ law partner Kenneth Mueller, for a meeting in Nichols’ kitchen, drafted up a charter and officially formed the Cowboy Lawyers Association. "We wanted something that would be fun, engender camaraderie and allow people to get away from the hustle and bustle," explained Nichols, who served as the organization’s first president. "[CLA] has been around since 1989 and that amazes me." In 2005 Nichols semi-retired from civil litigation firm Bonne, Bridges, Mueller, O’Keefe & Nichols, but currently sits as an arbitrator and keeps his license current, a CLA requirement. The association also requires applicants go on at least two rides with the group before being considered for membership. If approved by the board, the initiated member receives a belt buckle, hand designed by Mueller’s wife Becky Miller, with their membership number engraved on the back. CLA now boasts more than 250 members from all regions of the state. Other past presidents include Gretchen Nelson, who served as the president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association for 2007; Jack Denove, current president of the Italian American Lawyers Association in Los Angeles; and his wife and law partner, Mary Bennett of Cheong Denove Rowell & Bennett. Wilkie Cheong and John D. Rowell, the firm’s other name partners are also active in CLA. The organization schedules about three overnight rides and three day rides each year, visiting trails throughout California. Past rides include Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in San Diego County, Malibu Creek State Park and the mountains of Lake Tahoe. "[CLA] is one of the best things in my life," said Bennett, whose belt buckle is engraved with the number ten. "I’ve made so many friends, and not based on law or business but based on sharing an interest in horses, riding and being outdoors." A visit to the group’s Web site reinforces that sentiment. The homepage invites guests to "drag up a chair and set a spell. We’ve got cowboy coffee on the cook fire." A section called "Poems n’ Such" leads to "Cowboy Lawyer Poetry and Thinkin’s." Photos from past rides show members riding through open meadows and relaxing around a campfire. "It’s a very warm, welcoming group," Bennett added. "It’s the friendships made in CLA that make it so special."

Sitting in the chambers of Judge Alfred Margolis during a pre-trial conference, Jim Nichols noticed a photo of Margolis in head-to-toe cowboy gear. Both longtime horse owners and avid riders, the two started talking about their mutual interest and thought about putting together a group of lawyers and judges who shared their passion. Nichols and Margolis, now retired, wrangled in a few others, including Nichols? law partner Kenneth Mueller, for a meeting in Nichols? kitchen, drafted up a ch...

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