not glamorous or exciting to the outside world, the State Bar has been
transforming itself over this past year in a way that will make it
work better for its members and be more efficient and understandable
to all people who transact business with the bar.
Known in the "organizational world" as
governance, the bar's board has tackled the challenging issue of how
best to govern itself: how to structure its committees, how to channel
issues and projects through to completion, and how to ensure that the
process is open and accessible to bar members and the public.
This has been a long and evolving process, one
that has been underway since the days following the bar's fiscal and
political crisis which began in 1997. Former board member David Roth
got the ball rolling, and former board presidents Andy Guilford and
Tom Stolpman, along with many other board members and justice system
representatives, have contributed significantly to a collective effort
to take stock of the bar's focus and restructure its organization.
Your current board continued the dialogue and
made the final decision to put a new structure in place. While we've
had spirited debates about the whys and wherefores, over the
theoretical methods to adopt and the roles that individual board
members will eventually play, we have not been bashful in exploring
our options and then altering a system that no longer worked
effectively for our organization.
The most important aspect of the new governance
structure is that the bar has its eye on the future. For the first
time in bar history, we have developed a strategic plan to help us
meet the expectations of our members, the public, other branches of
government and other justice system partners. With the plan, we are
setting goals and strategies for dealing with six long-range issues:
admissions, regulation and discipline; member services; equal access
to justice; stakeholder relations; leadership and accountability; and
Our entire board meeting in May will be devoted
to planning to implement these goals through our new governance
structure. And the structure itself is one of the most important parts
of our transformation.
In the past, issues were pretty much assigned to
one of the board committees. That committee was presented with all the
background and research material, received a staff recommendation and
then thrashed out a position. Sometimes financial concerns weren't
taken into consideration, and often the majority of the board members
who were not on that particular committee had little knowledge about
the issue they were being asked to vote on.
The new system does not "buttonhole" or
"silo" an issue into one part of the bar. Instead, board members
will be looking at the issue with regard to all aspects of the bar
from the vantage point of five key committee viewpoints: Regulation,
Admissions & Discipline; Planning, Program Development &
Budget; Stakeholder Relations; Member Oversight; and Board Operations.
By the time an issue
works its way through the process to a full board vote, each board
member should be fully apprised of all the components of the issue.
Under this structure, no good idea will be
adopted just because it sounds good. If a good idea isn't
affordable, the bar will have to figure out how to finance it or the
idea will have to wait. In a nutshell, this is our ultimate goal: to
be more efficient and to be accountable.
This is a new era for the bar. This board, with
the help from many others who care about the State Bar's future and
who had experience working through a different form of governance,
made tough decisions to put in place a new process that requires a lot
more work from our staff and from both our elected and public board
But we believe it is worth it because it will
benefit all of the people who work with the bar. We hope many of you
will come to our meetings and see it work.