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Looking for a few good volunteers

When Debra Bowen was a private attorney handling land use and environmental issues, she joined the State Bar’s Public Law Section, eventually serving on its executive committee.  Elected to the state Assembly in 1992, Bowen said her time on the “excom” was “part of what led me to carry a piece of legislation that probably was one of the most important things I’ve done — the bill that put the legislature’s information online.” That measure made it much easier for people interested in the work of the state’s lawmakers to get information.

While Bowen’s experience as a State Bar committee member-turned-lawmaker may have been more dramatic than most volunteers’, she does share with them the allure of interesting work and meeting and networking with many people. “It’s a great way to get involved, particularly for somebody who wants to do something to further the law,” said Bowen, now a state senator.

If you are looking for a chance to make a difference, the State Bar currently is seeking applicants for 150-200 positions on more than three dozen committees, commissions and boards for the 2006-07 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 legal specialization advisory commissions. Some committees require special qualifications.

The application deadline is Feb. 1 and terms, mostly for three years, begin next Oct. 8.

“We are looking for people from all practices, for geographic and practice diversity as well as gender and ethnic diversity,” said Ray Aragon, a vice president of the State Bar Board of Governors and chair of its Volunteer Involvement Committee. “People shouldn’t shy away because they feel they haven’t been practicing long enough or they think other people from their district are volunteering. They should step forward.”

Applicants must be willing to volunteer their time, expertise, experience and perspective. Although 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.

Full descriptions of the available positions are online at calbar.ca.gov (select the left menu link to Attorney Resources and then to Committees and Commissions). Attorneys interested in volunteering also can request an application from the Appointments Office, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105; 415-538-2318.

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