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The bar is looking for a few good volunteers

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. 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 profession.

If you are looking for a chance to make a difference, the State Bar currently is seeking applicants for about 175 positions on more than three dozen bar committees, commissions and boards for the 2007-08 committee year.

“Participation on a State Bar committee or commission provides a unique perspective not to be gleaned from local bar activities,” said Jo-Ann Grace, chair of the board of governors’ Volunteer Involvement Committee. “The interplay with colleagues from different geographic areas provides insigh ts as to the various ways local legal communities resolve issues endemic to their particular population. It can be financially beneficial as well, by increasing your visibility. More importantly, it helps improve our legal profession.”

The application deadline is Feb. 1. Appointees will begin their terms Sept. 30; most appointments carry a three-year term.

The board seeks a diverse mix of attorneys and public members from various backgrounds and practices. Applicants must be willing to volunteer their time, expertise, experience and perspective. Limited means should not deter an attorney from applying. 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.

Among the committees seeking applicants are:

  • Courts/administration of justice committees that review proposed changes in civil procedure, ADR, appellate and federal rules, procedures and practices, as well as comment on proposed legislation.
  • Insurance committees, which act as counsel to the board on insurance matters and oversee the bar’s member group insurance programs, including life, AD&D, disability, long-term care, workers’ compensation, and professional liability.
  • Regulatory committees such as the Committee of Bar Examiners, Committee on Mandatory Fee Arbitration, and Legal Specialization commissions, which are established by statute and oversee mandated admission, arbitration and certification programs.
  • The newly established Council on Access and Fairness, which is devoted to increasing diversity in the legal profession.

The application form and detailed committee information is available at calbar.ca.gov (select left-menu links to Attorney Resources and to Committees and Commission). Or request an application by calling 415-538-2299 or faxing 415-538-2255.

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