Apply to serve on a bar committee
One attorney was looking for an opportunity to improve the justice system and
make public policy changes that benefit both attorneys and the public. A solo
practitioner and a corporate lawyer both wanted to network and meet with members
of the bench and the legislature. Some were interested in mentoring. Many others
simply wanted to expand their knowledge in their practice areas. There are many
reasons why attorneys volunteer to serve on a State Bar committee, commission
or board, but one reason that stands out is an opportunity to help better the
If you are looking for a chance to make a difference, the State Bar currently
is seeking applicants for some 200 positions on more than three dozen State
Bar committees, commissions and boards for the 2005-06 committee year. Would-be
volunteers have a wide range of options, from committees dealing with access
and fairness issues, to executive committees focused on particular areas of
the law, to a commission that evaluates judicial nominees for the governor.
Some committees require special qualifications.
The application deadline is Feb. 1. Those appointed to the 2005-06 positions
by the State Bar Board of Governors will begin their terms next Sept. 11. Most
appointments carry a three-year term.
The board seeks a diverse mix of attorneys and public members from various
backgrounds and fields of practice. Applicants must be willing to volunteer
their time, expertise, experience and perspective. Limited means should not
deter an attorney from applying for a position. While volunteers are not paid
for their services, they are reimbursed for approved travel expenses such as
mileage and airfare.
Nor should attorneys hesitate about applying to the same committee more than
once. Often, there are simply too many qualified applicants for a limited number
of positions, and many committee members are not selected the first time they
apply. Committees normally have from three to five vacancies each year. Following
are brief descriptions of the committees, commissions and boards seeking volunteers:
AND FAIRNESS COMMITTEES focus on attorneys from diverse backgrounds
including ethnic minorities, women, attorneys with disabilities, senior lawyers,
and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender attorneys. The Committee on Ethnic
Minority Relations, Committee on Legal Professionals with Disabilities, Committee
on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, Committee on Women
in the Law and Committee on Senior Lawyers all seek greater involvement of underrepresented
attorneys in the administration and governance of the State Bar’s programs
and activities, as well as increased diversity in the legal profession. Depending
on the committee, members may conduct MCLE presentations, write articles, participate
in membership surveys, network on a state and national level, develop and implement
strategic initiatives, plan seminars or develop public service programs, in
addition to attending regular committee meetings.
THE COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION
OF JUSTICE studies and reports recommendations on proposed changes in
civil procedure, court rules and administration, rules of evidence and other
matters having an impact on the administration of justice in the California
civil courts. It also evaluates and, in some cases, prepares amendments to proposed
court rules and state legislation. In addition, committee members prepare court
rules and affirmative legislative proposals. Applicants must be attorneys with
at least three years of California civil practice experience and must have an
e-mail address. Meetings are monthly and members may attend via telephone conference
THE COMMITTEE ON ALTERNATIVE
DISPUTE RESOLUTION analyzes and comments on proposals relating to alternative
dispute resolution (ADR). This committee also drafts proposals for the board
of governors’ consideration, conducts educational programs and identifies
issues concerning ADR and the practice of law, the administration of justice
and access to justice.
THE COMMITTEE ON APPELLATE
COURTS reviews proposed changes to the rules of court affecting appellate
courts. Committee members also have the opportunity to review and comment on
proposed legislation affecting appellate court operation and appellate practice,
and to participate in presenting MCLE programs at the State Bar Annual Meeting.
The 16 members of the committee are drawn from such diverse sources as appellate
court research staff, defense and prosecution offices handling criminal appeals,
law faculty, law firms and solo practitioners.
THE COMMITTEE OF BAR EXAMINERS
examines applicants who take the first-year law students’ examination
and the bar examination. The 19-member committee also recommends qualified applicants
to the California Supreme Court for admission to the bar. In addition, it accredits
California law schools, registers unaccredited and correspondence law schools,
and studies proposed changes related to the admission to practice law in California.
Applicants must be attorneys in active practice who are not currently employed
as a law school administrator or professor or associated with a bar review company.
THE COMMITTEE ON DELIVERY
OF LEGAL SERVICES identifies, develops and supports improvements in
the day-to-day delivery of legal services to poor and middle-income individuals
in California. The committee also serves as a resource to the board of governors
on legal services issues and relevant legislation. In addition, committee members
work to encourage attorneys to provide pro bono legal services to indigents.
THE COMMITTEE ON FEDERAL
COURTS studies, recommends and reports on proposed changes in the rules,
procedures and practices of the federal courts in California. By meeting with
federal court judges and representatives throughout the state, committee members
seek to understand the key issues concerning the federal judiciary. The committee
also works to enhance relations between the State Bar and federal courts statewide.
THE COMMITTEE ON GROUP INSURANCE
PROGRAMS studies proposals for new programs and changes to existing
programs in the various State Bar-approved member group insurance programs (accidental
death and disability, disability income/extra overhead, life, long-term care
and workers’ compensation). It also counsels and advises the board of
THE COMMITTEE ON MANDATORY
FEE ARBITRATION oversees the mandatory attorney-client fee dispute arbitration
program established by the Business and Professions Code and the State Bar’s
mandatory fee arbitration department. Committee members, who include arbitrators
and staff administrators from local bar fee arbitration programs, also have
the opportunity to comment on amendments to fee arbitration statutes and to
recommend changes to the State Bar Rules of Procedure, guidelines and minimum
standards. In addition, the committee, which is responsible for drafting the
State Bar-approved sample fee agreements, breaks up into teams to work on projects
involving research, writing and editing.
THE COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL
RESPONSIBILITY AND CONDUCT addresses matters involving professional
ethics and provides education and guidance to California attorneys regarding
their ethical duties. The committee’s advisory opinions address questions
submitted by individual attorneys, local bar associations and the State Bar
Board of Governors. The committee — comprised of attorneys and public
members — also makes recommendations regarding changes in the State Bar
Rules of Professional Conduct and advises the board of governors on laws and
regulations regarding professional responsibility.
THE COMMITTEE ON STATE BAR
APPROVED PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE oversees the bar’s professional
liability insurance program and makes recommendations for change. It also counsels
and advises the board of governors. In addition, the committee strives to stay
attuned to the needs of California attorneys and consumers, and works to reduce
the number and severity of attorney malpractice claims through education.
THE SECTION EXECUTIVE
COMMITTEES oversee each of the State Bar’s 16 sections, which
address specific segments of the profession. Each executive committee directs
the policies and affairs of the section, works with the board of governors and
supervises the section’s activities. The sections vary in the amount of
time devoted to legislation, legal education, practice issues and public education.
For appointment, an applicant must be a member of the section and each member
must have both a fax and an e-mail address.
The sections seeking new executive committee members include: Antitrust
and Unfair Competition Section; Business Law Section; Criminal Law Section;
Environmental Law Section; Family Law Section; Intellectual Property Section;
Inter-national Law Section; Labor and Employment Law Section; Law Practice Management
and Technology Section; Litigation Section; Public Law Section; Real Property
Law Section; Solo and Small Firm Section; Taxation Section; Trusts and Estates
Section; and Workers’ Compensation Law Section.
THE CALIFORNIA COMMISSION
ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE explores ways of improving access to civil justice
for Californians living on low and moderate incomes. This 24-member commission
— comprised of lawyers and judges, as well as academic, business, labor
and community leaders — played a key role in establishing a $10 million
Equal Access Fund for civil legal services to the indigent. In seeking to improve
access to the courts, the commission works closely with the Judicial Council.
THE CEB GOVERNING COMMITTEE
is a joint committee of the University of California and the State Bar of California.
It reviews and approves CEB’s annual publishing and educational program,
strategic objectives, annual budget and recommendations from the director on
the overall operation of CEB. Unlike other State Bar committees, members serve
two-year terms and the terms of incumbents may be renewed. For 2005, the terms
of two attorney incumbents expire.
THE CLIENT SECURITY FUND
COMMISSION oversees the Client Security Fund (CSF), which reimburses
clients who have lost money or property due to theft or an equivalent dishonest
act committed by a California attorney acting in a professional capacity. This
seven-member commission — which includes at least three public members
— determines whether applications to the CSF should be paid or denied.
It also makes recommendations for changes in rules and the claims process.
THE LEGAL SERVICES TRUST
FUND COMMISSION administers the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program
and the Equal Access Fund. The commission seeks attorney and public member applicants
who are committed to the delivery of legal services to the poor and are sensitive
to the needs of low-income communities. No employee or independent contractor
acting as a consultant to any agency which is a potential recipient of funds
under the Legal Services Trust Fund Program can be appointed to the commission.
THE CALIFORNIA BOARD OF LEGAL
SPECIALIZATION administers the State Bar of California Program for Certifying
Legal Specialists with the assistance of specialty advisory commissions. The
12-member board also provides policies and guidelines for the certification
of specialists, develops tests and legal education programs and advises the
board of governors. At least three members must be non-lawyers and the attorney
applicants must be specialists in their field.
THE ADVISORY LAW COMMISSIONS
to the California Board of Legal Specialization advise and assist the California
Board of Legal Specialization in the administration of its certification programs.
They pass upon certification and re-certification applications, prepare specialist
examinations, accredit programs and providers of continuing legal education,
and otherwise assist the Board of Legal Specialization. There is a nine-member
advisory commission for each of the following specialties: Appellate Law;
Bankruptcy Law; Criminal Law; Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law; Family
Law; Immigration and Nationality Law; Taxation Law; and Workers’
Compensation Law. At least one member of each commission must be a non-lawyer
and each attorney member must be a specialist in that field.
For further information on available positions, visit the State Bar’s
Web site at calbar.ca.gov. Select link to Committees
and Commissions. Or contact the bar’s appointments office at 415-538-2299,
or the committee’s staff liaison by calling the phone number listed in
the committee’s description at the Web site.