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Volunteer for a State Bar committee, make a difference

If you are looking for a chance to make a difference, the State Bar currently is seeking applicants for approximately 200 positions on more than three dozen committees, commissions and boards. 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 committee addressing questions of professional responsibility and conduct, to legal services committees working with day-to-day delivery of legal services to poor and middle-income individuals.

The application deadline is Feb. 1; most appointments carry three-year terms that begin Sept. 26, 2010.

Board of Governors Vice President Paul Kramer, who chairs its committee on member services, encouraged attorneys to volunteer. “It’s a great opportunity to network and meet people outside your normal circles from throughout the state,” he said. Kramer first joined the Public Law Section executive committee in the early ‘90s and eventually became chair of the Council of Section Chairs, where he was exposed to the board of governors and “became interested enough to run.”

“We pride ourselves on being a member-oriented bar and that requires the members to pitch in,” Kramer said, adding that volunteering offers personal satisfaction as a result of “a whole bunch of little things,” including providing useful resources for the state’s attorneys.

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.

Among committees seeking applicants are:

  • Courts/administration of justice committees which review proposed changes in civil procedure, ADR, appellate and federal rules, procedures and practices, as well as comment on proposed legislation governing these issues.
  • Insurance committees, which act as counsel to the board of governors on insurance matters and oversee the bar’s member group insurance programs, including life, AD&D, disability, personal, auto and homeowners, 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 of the State Bar.
  • The Council on Access and Fairness, which is devoted to increasing diversity in the legal profession.

The application form and detailed committee information are available at the State Bar’s Web site at calbar.ca.gov (select left-menu links to Attorney Resources and to Committees and Commissions). Or request an application from the bar’s appointments office by phone 415/538-2299 or fax 415/538-2255.

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