my year as president comes to a close, I'd like to look back with
you on the work of your State Bar. The staff of the State Bar, led by
executive director Judy Johnson, together with countless volunteer
hours given by the members of the board of governors, have done much
this past year to benefit the public and the profession.
Dues and don'ts
For the first time since 1995, the State Bar
received bipartisan support in both houses for a two-year dues bill.
This bipartisan support shows that the legislature recognizes that the
bar is going in the right direction. Larry Doyle, our lobbyist,
deserves accolades for his work on the bill.
We cut your dues by 30 percent. This was made
possible because Judy Johnson has been keeping a tight rein on the
Our members have demonstrated that they believe
we are going in the right direction. More than 85 percent of the
membership made a voluntary contribution to help the bar's lobbying
efforts on behalf of the profession. Members gave over $700,000 to the
Foundation of the State Bar to support its effort to eliminate bias in
the practice of law and more than $140,000 to support the conference
The bar settled all of its major litigation.
These settlements eliminate the cost of these matters, puts the past
behind us and allows the State Bar to keep its focus on the future.
We hired Mike Nisperos Jr. as our new chief
prosecutor. Mike represents a new direction for the discipline system.
He brings to the office a commitment both to tough prosecution when
appropriate and to giving a second chance to attorneys who are willing
to work for it.
The ABA has conducted a complete review of our
discipline system and has provided a report to the chief justice.
The state auditor credits the State Bar with
improving the discipline system and being better stewards of
The bar exam
Our Committee of Bar Examiners, with the help of
Jerry Braun, is taking a hard look at reducing the bar exam from three
days to two. This would both help to keep down the cost of the exam
and impose less on the time of applicants for the bar. If it can be
shown that a two-day exam is as valid as a three-day exam, that is
where the bar appears to be headed.
Building for the future
We all owe a debt of gratitude to incoming
president Karen Nobumoto for her fine work promoting diversity in all
our committees and sections. The board of governors adopted a policy
statement committing the bar to work on improving diversity in our
profession. As a step toward that goal, we will build the census
information that will allow us to track the diversity of our
The board has undertaken significant work in the
area of ensuring access to justice by working with the Judicial
Council to begin to make it more possible for attorneys to
"unbundle" their services. Thus, when a client wants an attorney
to work on only a portion of a given problem, the attorney will be
able to do so without worrying about malpractice exposure for missing
some issue that the attorney would have seen had he or she worked on
the entire matter. This will lead to more work for attorneys and lower
costs for consumers.
Our committee on multidisciplinary practice
issued its report recommending that the State Bar pursue an
experimental MDP program. MDP's are common in Europe and appear to
be coming our way. This report puts California on the path toward
building more opportunities for our profession.
Pursuing the work started long ago by the State
Bar's futures commission, former president Andy Guilford has been
working hard on the chief justice's multijurisdictional practice
committee. The committee's recent report recommended making it
easier for in-house counsel and legal services attorneys to practice
nationally. This is an important first step toward the long-term goal
of making it possible for attorneys to easily practice nationwide.
The board of governors, responding to the
recommendation of special master Justice Elwood Lui, and with the
support of the chief justice, has committed itself to reforming its
The board voted to restructure MCLE to eliminate
credits for so-called stress reduction courses. Not a big deal, but a
sign of progress.
Well, friends, my four years of service on the
board of governors has certainly been interesting. My term started
with the governor's veto of the dues bill. The bar had to lay off
more than 500 people. Our then-president Marc Adelman spent the entire
year trying to build support for the bar in the legislature while he
held together the few survivors of the veto. His successor, Ray
Marshall, led the successful fight in the Supreme Court for
court-ordered partial refunding of the discipline system. Then his
successor, Andy Guilford, led the effort to rebuild the bar and was
successful in obtaining a dues bill.
My year has seen the State Bar build on the rock
solid foundation laid by these wonderful people. We have steered a
middle course, both keeping our eye on the core duties of the bar as
well as moving forward in areas where our members agree we should be
going. My goal has been to leave to my successor, Karen Nobumoto, a
State Bar that has moved from recovering from the past toward building
for the future.