Henderson, a 1997 scholarship recipient, believes that
contributions to the foundation continue to have an impact through the recipients. For the
past two years, shes interned as a legislative project coordinator in the
governmental affairs office of the Judicial Councils Administrative Office of the
Courts. She recently passed the California bar examination. And some day, she says, she
hopes to work in education policy. You help someone who helps someone else,
she said, and your generosity is magnified.
This past year, attorneys showed unprecedented generosity to the
foundation. For the first time, a suggested donation amount ($50) was printed on the bars
fee statement, and attorney contributions jumped from an average of $25,000 a year to
nearly $900,000. Corporate donors also make contributions. But the unexpected windfall
from some 17,000 attorneys both heartened and astonished foundation supporters.
In response, the foundation solicited a survey to ensure that
attorney contributors realized that such donations are optional and to find out their
reasons for donating. What the survey concluded was that the vast majority chose to
donate, and more than three-quarters did so because it was the right thing to do
or because of their commitment to foundation programs.
law student Beth Caldwell, a recent scholarship recipient, sees long-term benefits in
contributing to the foundation. I think that by investing in education, not only in
the classroom but by allowing students to participate in a lot of volunteer activities,
she said, youre directly contributing to the training of the next generation
of lawyers who are committed to public service.
As an undergraduate sociology major, Caldwell never considered
becoming a lawyer. But while working in a methadone clinic and a community-based violence
prevention program after college, she said, she discovered a real need for legal
Now in law school and a masters degree program in social
welfare, Caldwell still finds time to regularly counsel elementary school students whove
witnessed murders or whose parents are in prison. And recently she organized a Know
Your Rights workshop for high school students. In addition to scholarships, the
10-year-old foundation distributes grants to law-related education and public service
programs that, for example, assist domestic violence victims and provide parolees with
Another option appearing on the fee statement is a suggested $10
contribution to the Conference of Delegates. After Gov. Pete Wilsons 1997 veto of
the bars funding bill, the legislature required the conference to become
self-supporting. Now operating on a shoestring budget, the conference solicited $3
donations on last years fee statement. Although about 28,000 attorneys contributed,
the return fell far short of the funding needed to staff the conference and reinstall a
full lobbying program, says conference chair Laura Goldin.
Conference supporters say the decades-old institution provides a
unique opportunity for individual attorneys who see shortcomings large or small
to trigger changes in the law. Annually, some 600 delegates from more than 100
local and specialty bar associations statewide gather to debate and vote on proposed
legislation. Delegates then seek bill authors for some of the approved proposals
and shepherd them through the legislature. Longtime delegates cite glowing examples of
making a difference through the conference.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). As a conference delegate, she became so involved in
the legislative process that she finally ran for an Assembly seat and won. (She recently
was sworn into the Senate after six years in the Assembly.)
In the early 1980s, Kuehl said, she and six fellow delegates from the
Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles managed to shape, present and get
passed virtually every important piece of domestic violence legislation. Kuehl
acknowledges that other organizations were seeking change as well. But she believes the
backing of the conference as a statewide, representative body helped her
delegations efforts in the legislature.
As a delegate, Kuehl traveled to Sacramento for the first time. After
watching legislative committee meetings for many hours, she said she began to think,
I can do this.
Now, from the perspective of a legislator, Kuehl views the conference
as very, very useful. She notes the shaping and negotiating that goes into a
conference resolution and the attorney delegates who provide expert testimony to
legislators. She believes its important to contribute to the conference, she said,
because otherwise, attorneys have no organized voice in the legislature on this
great panoply of issues considered by the conference.
In the past, critics have targeted the conference for what they view
as the groups liberal political positions. Supporters, however, stress that the
conference primarily focuses on nuts-and-bolts issues aimed at improving laws.
They point out that Gov. Wilson, a critic of the conference, actually signed dozens of
conference resolutions into law.
Wall, a San Diego Bar Association delegate who describes himself as a middle-of-the-road
Republican, has seen the conference evolve over the past 25 years. He portrays it as
a valuable institution in which attorneys from diverse backgrounds and perspectives gather
to exchange ideas. Its very broadening, said Wall, a former conference
Soon after becoming a delegate in the early 1970s, Wall drafted a
legislative proposal to give trial judges the power under the Code of Civil Procedure to
determine which issues should be tried first in a case. The resolution won conference
approval, was introduced as a bill and became law, he said.
That really fired me up, recalls Wall, a partner with
Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps. Its made a significant difference in
the administration of justice.
Membership in one or more of the State Bars 16 special
sections, which focus on particular practice areas and issues, is another option listed in
the fee statement. With roughly 59,000 members, the sections provide educational programs,
publications, web sites and opportunities for shaping legislation. Longtime members insist
that the networking opportunities and the chance to be kept up-to-date in ones
particular practice area alone warrant membership.
Francisco attorney Jonathan Rivin initially joined the Real Property Law Section in the
early 1980s for the educational programs and the California Real Property Journal. Around
1990, he joined the finance sub-section to help build his law practice and become a more
skilled attorney. Now, as section chair, hes experiencing additional benefits.
I think that it has brought in particular clients, said Rivin, a partner at
Dudnick, Detwiler, Rivin & Stikker. Its been good for my personal
reputation, and I think its reflected well on the firm.
One of Rivins three partners also is active in a section.
With the two of us being so active, its put the firm in a position that small
firms dont usually attain, he said.
Mateo attorney Marie Hogan, in-house counsel at Bay View Capital Corporation, first joined
the Business Law Section more than a decade ago in order to work on its Uniform Commercial
Code Committee. Hogan, whose practice involved the code, relished the idea of helping to
improve it. You have a chance to, frankly, shape the law, she said. So
it was very enticing.
Hogan, a former co-chair of the council of State Bar sections,
believes that some 15 to 20 areas of the law would not be regularly updated or improved
without input from the sections.
Hogan also points out that several sections, such as the law practice
management and technology section, dont focus on a particular area of practice.
Instead, she said, they provide benefits and education that would be of interest to
a lot of practitioners.
After the 1997 veto, the sections, too, were made self-supporting.
Initially, the sections saw a dip in membership and volunteer morale. Two disbanded.
However, section leaders say membership and morale now seem to be on the upswing. Says
Rivin: Theres been a real resurgence of interest and energy.