Press Release


Bob Young

For Release:

January 11, 2021

CWCI Announces the Passing of Former General Counsel Michael McClain

Oakland, CA – It is with deep sorrow that the staff and the Board of Directors of the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) announce the passing of Michael McClain, who served as the Institute’s General Counsel from 1995 to 2016.  Prior to joining the CWCI staff, Mike worked at Industrial Indemnity in San Francisco and during that time served as Chair of the Institute’s Legal Committee.  Mike was a consummate professional who was highly respected within the workers’ compensation community, and his easy-going manner, compassion, and wit made him a cherished friend to many.  One of those friends was attorney Michael Marks, who wrote the following tribute to his good friend, which we would like to share with you.

Michael James McClain

A Life Well Lived – A Man Deeply Loved

The Workers’ Compensation industry in California, and a large circle of family and friends, have lost an irreplaceable friend and a major thought leader.  Michael McClain, who was General Counsel for the California Workers’ Compensation Institute for 21 years until his retirement in 2016, passed away peacefully on January 9, 2021 in Ashland, Oregon, with his loving wife Kathleen at his side. 

His law career began in 1977 when he graduated from University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.  He often said that he and his then wife flipped a coin to see which one of them would have to go to law school to better their futures … and he lost!  That loss was a huge gain for many people.

Michael spent his legal career in the workers’ compensation field and rose to the pinnacle of the industry as General Counsel at the California Workers’ Compensation Institute in 1995.  Thoughtful, compassionate, soft spoken and unassuming, Michael’s intelligence commanded respect. 

Michael’s influence was felt in every corner of the workers’ compensation community.  In the years he spent as an attorney for injured workers, he improved hundreds of lives that had been impacted by a life-changing work accident. When he transitioned to working for employers and insurers, he brought his experience and compassion to an otherwise cynical and conservative industry, standing as an example for colleagues to emulate. 

The countless attorneys, claims people, regulatory agencies, legislators, lobbyists and policy makers he worked with all welcomed his thoughtful and calmly presented analytical input (even though they might have disagreed).  The statewide annual legal seminars Michael organized and presented for decades were a huge success from all perspectives.

On Michael’s watch, the workers’ compensation system underwent several comprehensive overhauls that improved the system for both injured workers and employers/insurers.  In each, Michael was a major contributor, actively participating in helping write legislation, and subsequently contributing to the implementing regulations.  After each reform, the Institute then undertook to press supporting legal positions by filing legal briefs with the Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court, addressing nearly every significant reform and major legal issue in workers’ compensation … and being on the winning side of nearly all of them.  Those appellate decisions stand as a lasting tribute to his leadership.  For his contributions, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Workers’ Compensation Section of the State Bar of California in 2015.

Michael worked diligently to be a whole person, with interests including law, cuisine, baking, literature, theatre, travel, friendship, and love.  We will all miss him dearly.

Mike’s wife Kathleen has asked that those who wish to acknowledge him consider a charitable donation to a local food bank.