California Bar Journal
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A conference call for more money
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The State Bar Conference of Delegates serves a vital function for all Califor-nia attorneys with respect to the debate and potential legislative implementation of hundreds of resolutions in virtually all fields of law.

Last year, with legislation enacted requiring the Conference of Delegates to be completely self- funding, the conference’s executive committee decided to request $3 as a voluntary contribution from State Bar members to support its work. That amount appeared on the 2000 State Bar dues statement.

There were a number of reasons we chose $3. First, we wanted to emphasize how minimal a portion of the overall bar budget had been needed to support the conference. A contribution of $3 by every State Bar member would have assured the conference of adequate funding to resume an operating level like that before the veto of the bar dues bill three years ago.

We also were concerned about helping to keep the overall bar dues payment, with a conference contribution, to less than $400. We could not know how broad the support base for the conference would be, e.g., the actual number of attorneys who would make the contribution. We are grateful that, as of March 30, approximately 24,000 attorneys from all over the state supported the conference with their contribution, which amounted to approximately $75,000 to fund our work this year.

In 1999, we had developed a bare-bones budget that requires a minimum of $240,000 to support a part-time lobbyist, a full-time executive director, minimal reimbursement for expenses to our voluntary committee members (resolutions and calendar coordinating committees) and the costs which necessarily accompany the year-long process of receiving and distributing resolutions.

Diane WasznickyHowever, from a practical perspective, we must budget based on the “dues” contributions, not on speculative additional amounts we might raise through other fundraising efforts, including the State Bar Foundation (to date, we have only raised approximately $20,000 this way and have had to spend nearly one-half of that on “fund-raising” costs assessed by the foundation). The remaining foundation funds will be spent to educate State Bar members about the conference and the service we provide to both the attorneys and citizens of the state in order to expand the size of our support base (e.g., the number of attorneys willing to make the “dues” contribution).

This is the harsh reality we faced when deciding whether to keep the “dues” contribution at $3 for the coming year.

Our skeleton (less than bare-bones) budget developed by the executive committee in April is based on the limited monies available from the dues contributions and our share of the 1999 annual meeting revenue. At $117,000, this budget is substantially less than the bare-bones budget of $240,000.

The largest sums are devoted to salaries for staff ($25,000) and a part-time lobbyist ($28,000), with most of the remainder devoted to travel and lodging expenses for the resolutions and calendar coordinating committees. There is no money allocated for executive committee expenses, and minimal amounts for supplies and miscellaneous expenses.

At our July meeting, the executive committee decided it has no choice but to increase the dues contribution from $3 to $10. We are communicating this decision to you, our colleagues, in advance of the dues statement to give you the background information upon which our decision was based. We hope that by not requesting $20 to $30 per attorney that we really need to adequately fund the conference’s work, you will each appreciate our attempt to keep the contribution amount as low as possible, will continue to contribute and will urge your colleagues to do so also.

Quite frankly, if more attorneys don’t voluntarily make the $10 contribution, we will not be able to fund a full-time lobbyist, a full-time conference executive director or any of the other things we absolutely need to function effectively in the future. We are forever grateful for the support we have received for our volunteer work for the good of this profession and our state. We urge you to share this article with other colleagues to increase the understanding of the voluntary work of the conference and an appreciation of the costs associated with that work.

Diane Wasznicky is chair of the Conference of Delegates Executive Committee.