Knowing that he is an attorney with nearly a decade of legal experience, it may come as a surprise that Cameron Cloar-Zavaleta is as comfortable in the cockpit as he is in the courtroom. Cameron worked as a pilot for Mesa Air Group in Phoenix, Arizona before embarking on his legal career. In fact, it was his love of aviation that led him into law. “I started to do a lot of volunteer work for the Air Line Pilots Association, and discovered quickly that I had a passion in resolving problems,” he says.
Since becoming an attorney, Cameron has worked for major law firms and as counsel for several airlines. He is currently Director and Senior Attorney, Litigation for Alaska Airlines. Cameron’s legal career took off when he attended the Lavender Law® Conference and Career Fair as a law student in 2007. He spoke with several different firms at the Career Fair until he found the perfect fit. “I had a short OCI interview with Nixon Peabody at LavLaw and met two partners from different offices, and that led to an interview when I got back to San Francisco,” he recalls. He took a position at the firm as a summer associate and returned full-time after graduating from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2009.
Cameron was drawn to Nixon Peabody as an opportunity to stay connected to his roots in the airline industry. “They had a special practice in aviation related litigation. Because of my background I was drawn to that; it was a unique opportunity that I could not pass up,” he says. “It was a very natural fit.”
After spending five years practicing litigation at Nixon Peabody, Cameron decided to move to Dallas to work in-house at American Airlines. He enjoys working in-house because it allows him to combine his legal experience with his love for the airline business. “You’re involved with the client and you really feel what the client feels. You understand firsthand the stress, anxiety, and hope – all those things that go along with disputes and deals,” he says. “Plus, you are involved in some of the most interesting aspects of the airline business.”
Cameron has become an expert in aviation law. However, throughout this journey he has continued to attend Lavender Law® as a way to learn from people who specialize in a variety of different legal fields. “I’ve gone back to LavLaw many times,” he says. “I enjoy the CLE panels on issues that I run into in my daily work, as well as the panels that are much more focused on our cause, fighting discrimination and bettering the lives of LGBTQ people.”
Last year, Cameron spoke on a panel with a diverse array of legal professionals, from counsel for solar companies to firm attorneys. “The panel addressed new technology and how that’s changing the business and law practice,” he recalls. “Big data, robotics, and then me from the airline standpoint.”
Despite the variety of professional experiences, career paths, and interests among the attendees, Cameron says the Lavender Law® Conference offers a rare opportunity to meet and network with LGBTQ and ally legal professionals from all corners of the legal profession. “You have an instant connection with everyone you meet there, which you may not have when you go to other conferences and bar association events,” he says. “You’ve likely experienced many of the same things in your personal life. You can instantly relate to them. It’s a connection that you have at a different level and it is refreshing.”
After several years, Cameron also looks forward to the Conference as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues that he has met over the years at LavLaw. “I see folks that I’ve known since law school, but we’re all practicing and doing different things,” says Cameron. “I’ve also moved away from San Francisco and many lawyers I know from San Francisco attend the conference each year, so that adds to my experience. It’s a reunion you can count on every year.”
Cameron says that anyone attending Lavender Law® can benefit from the networking opportunities. “Law is a people profession where much of your success can be about who you’ve met and the relationships you cultivate,” he says. Just this week, Cameron called a friend he met at LavLaw to learn from his experience in practicing before a specific judge that was assigned to one of Cameron’s matters. For law students and young lawyers attending LavLaw for the first time, Cameron offered a few tips:
- Prepare and Attend with a Plan. Make the most of your time by researching the firms and lawyers you are most interested in connecting with. If you know someone attending, ask if they can help connect you to their network. It’s a busy conference, so working to secure introductions before you arrive will help you make the most of your time.
- Don’t Be Shy. Finding the right moment to introduce yourself, or an icebreaker that doesn’t feel awkward, can be tough. Try not to worry about that. Be yourself and interested in the conversation, and the rest will take care of itself. It is most important to not pass up an opportunity to meet someone new.
- Stay in Touch. Before you leave the conference, make sure you have contact information for the new people you’ve met. If you can, make plans to connect again. Find reasons to follow-up and continue to develop your new relationships.
We are excited to see Cameron at the next Lavender Law® Conference in Philadelphia on August 7-9, 2019!