X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Andrea Van de Kamp didn’t know what to make of the stocky, gruff-looking guy who strolled into her Los Angeles office about 30 years ago as the new chairman of the Coro Foundation. Van de Kamp � a well-known Democrat and then-executive director of the foundation, which trains young adults to become government leaders � knew Sheldon Sloan was a solid Republican. But that was it. “I didn’t know Shelly Sloan from a hole in the wall,” Van de Kamp recalls. “And he didn’t know me.” It wasn’t long, though, before Sloan, who becomes president of the State Bar of California this week, had won Van de Kamp over. “He has a terrific sense of humor and he is very quick,” Van de Kamp says. “And we absolutely bonded and have been genuinely good friends ever since.” That’s saying a lot. Van de Kamp is the wife of John Van de Kamp, who was the Democratic state attorney general for eight years and nearly won the party’s gubernatorial primary in 1990. The two are Democrats’ Democrats, the vanguard of liberal causes. Even so, both have nothing but praise for Sloan � a lobbyist, former municipal court judge, high-stakes attorney, Hollywood insider and proud grandfather. Sloan will be sworn in as the 82nd State Bar president on Saturday during the organization’s annual meeting in Monterey. At age 70, he will be the oldest president in State Bar history. He succeeds personal injury lawyer James Heiting, a partner in Riverside’s Heiting & Irwin who has served since September 2005. Sloan, of counsel in Los Angeles’ Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, could be an eye-opener as president. He’s a walking contradiction. He can be laid back, but deeply incisive. Argumentative, but open to change. Extremely funny, but equally serious. Right or wrong, the first impression of Sloan is that of a curmudgeonly fussbudget. He’s direct in his comments, pointed in his questions, and quick to bite back if offended. A shouting match with another State Bar governor in 2004, in which each accused the other of hogging discussion time, is near legend. “Shelly tells it how it is,” Andrea Van de Kamp says. “And he doesn’t back down.” Sloan says it’s not only his nature to speak bluntly and honestly, but also crucial to his job as a registered lobbyist representing government agencies and business interests. “Your word is your bond,” he says. “I say what’s on my mind, but I’m straightforward about it.” Being blunt, though, doesn’t mean Sloan can’t be a teddy bear, too. He’s a doting dad and granddad who’s puppy dog loyal to friends, and is known as the “Great Pooh-bah” in his social circle. Longtime friend Roger Kozberg, director of L.A.’s KCET-TV, says Sloan’s the guy people turn to in times of need. “You always knew if Shelly gave you a piece of advice, it was good for you,” Kozberg says. “It wasn’t necessarily good for him.” Sloan also brings a slap-on-the-back friendliness to his work. “He has a consensus style in forming leadership and support for ideas and organizations,” says Douglas Martin Jr., vice president of government affairs for Novato-based Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., who has seen Sloan in action in Sacramento. “He has affability and genuineness and he knows how to be a friend as well as a professional colleague.” Even in his political beliefs, Sloan can play both sides of the fence. A flag-waving patriot, he sent out e-mails earlier this year seeking DVDs for the troops abroad, and asking everyone on his message list to fly American flags at half-staff in memory of the 9/11 attacks. He’s an unabashed backer of the Bush administration � “They’ve made some mistakes, but I think they’re sincere” � and has few doubts about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He’s also a strong law-and-order type who backs the death penalty. But Sloan, a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., during the era of Democratic Attorney General Robert Kennedy, lays claim to some liberal leanings. He’s pro-choice on abortion and champions civil rights, and while he opposes same-sex marriages, he supports civil unions. “To Republicans, I’m a RINO,” Sloan says, “and to Democrats I’m probably a right-wing conservative.” The apparent contradictions don’t bother friends and acquaintances, even those such as Martin who don’t share Sloan’s political convictions. “Unlike others in this country,” Martin says in a not-so-subtle jab at Bush, “Shelly is a uniter and not a divider.” BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD Sloan, who’s Jewish, was born in Minneapolis on Christmas Day of 1935 to a housewife mom and a dad who had just gotten his surgical degree in Hungary. He has one older sister. “There were mostly doctors in our family,” Sloan says. “But I just never wanted to be a doctor. I saw the seamy side of it, and just didn’t want to do it.” He says he didn’t think much about the law, either. But since the Vietnam War was looming, he decided it was “a good idea to get a deferment and go to law school” after getting a business degree from UCLA. He got his J.D. from the University of Southern California Law School in 1961. Talks with Sloan invariably shift away from work, though, and to family and friends � what he calls the true center of his life. Sloan’s been married for 18 years to Shelby Jean Kaplan Sloan, a successful property manager and real estate developer who’s a regent at L.A.’s Loyola Marymount University and president of the Los Angeles Zoo Commission. They met many years ago on a tennis court. An accomplished player, she “stole a tournament from me,” Sloan says, by having her doubles partner lie low while she walloped him and his partner. The Sloans live with a collie named Stormy in a 98-year-old, six-bath, seven-bedroom ranch house in a wooded Pacific Palisades neighborhood about a mile from the ocean. They have three grown daughters and one adult son, and there are more than a few Hollywood connections. Son Stephen is a film editor and his wife is an executive vice president of production for Lions Gate Films. Daughter Jennifer is married to actor Jim Belushi. Photos, including those of the couple’s five grandsons and four granddaughters, cover the home’s walls and tables. And toys strewn around the floor attest to the recent presence of kids. “I’m pretty easygoing,” Sloan says. “What makes me happy is being with my grandchildren.” It’s in this relaxed setting that Sloan, on a late summer morning, explains what kind of president he hopes to be. While he has already proposed an initiative to ensure civility within the profession, Sloan says he mostly intends to focus on completing projects already on the drawing board � such as his predecessor’s ongoing effort to diversify the profession. “I’m goal-oriented,” Sloan says. “That’s one of the reasons I don’t want to start a lot of projects as president � because they tend to languish when people leave.” He also plans to delegate many of his duties � “I’ll take my share of the responsibility and give some speeches” � and give the board’s vice presidents more of an opportunity to stand out. State Bar staff will be pleased to hear that Sloan plans to keep his hands out of the organization’s day-to-day operations. “The job of the Board of Governors and the president is not to run the Bar,” he said. “It’s to set policy.” Longtime friend Howard Johnson, a New York businessman whose wife is the ambassador to Jamaica, says that doesn’t mean Sloan won’t be on top of things. “Put it this way,” Johnson says. “Nothing escapes him. He’ll be competent and decisive and will definitely add to the history and the future of the Bar.” HOW IT WORKS IN SACRAMENTO Sloan served one year in the early 1970s as a municipal court judge on the L.A. bench, but didn’t like the work and bailed out. Jerry Brown was governor at the time, and Sloan says it was obvious he wasn’t going higher anytime soon. Sloan doesn’t talk much about his subsequent legal career, and his resume leaves some years blank. But lobbying at Lewis Brisbois keeps him busy wheeling and dealing between L.A. and Sacramento, while giving him plenty of time to keep a hand in politics. He says he can’t get directly involved in campaigns because of a 2000 ballot proposition that prevents registered lobbyists from donating. But he can suggest who others should support. “I have clients who have money,” he says, “and they ask me who to give money to.” Sloan’s legislative and political connections are impressive. At one time, he was chairman of a committee that helped recommend federal judge nominees for Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. Sloan’s friends include Tom Campbell, a former Republican congressman from Santa Clara County and the current dean of UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business; Mike Roos, a Los Angeles consultant and former speaker of the California Assembly; and Republican state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, who’s currently running for attorney general. Martin, of Fireman’s Fund, says Sloan’s high-powered connections and down-home manner helped pass tax reform legislation important to the insurance industry. He also helped secure funding for a sheriff’s team that recovers stolen cargo containers in L.A.-area ports. “He wants to get things done,” Martin says, “and knows how to get people together to get things done.” Those kinds of skills are invaluable for a State Bar president intent on having good relations with Sacramento. “These guys have our purse strings,” Sloan says, noting that as a lobbyist he’s “been running bills” through the Legislature for years. “Communication is very important and access is very important,” he says. “You have to understand how it all works.” Sloan has promised his wife he’s done with State Bar work after his year as president, but he’s not ready to retire altogether. “What am I going to do? Play golf?” he says. “Seventy is younger these days than it used to be. I just think you need to keep working as long as you can.” But he’ll definitely make time for the grandkids.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.