Where does the bar go from here?

Staff Writer

... Continued from Homepage

Towery said the bar needs to listen to both its members who voted to dump the mandatory association and to the "significant number" who voted against abolition with reservations. They have two major complaints: the bar is too bureaucratic and does not spend dues efficiently, and the bar is unresponsive to its members.

Towery already has pledged that the bar will seek a dues decrease of $20 next year as a result of recent cost-cutting. He promised more belt-tightening.

And the plebiscite forced the bar to communicate with the state's lawyers as never before. Towery personally traveled from rural northern California to the urban southern regions of the state to meet with members of local and private bars.

President-elect Thomas Stolpman said the bar will continue its communication efforts and urged attorneys to "tell us their issues and give us their solutions."

He said it will not be "business as usual" during his presidency. "While the majority of lawyers have stated they do not want to abolish the bar, we have a tremendous amount of work to do," Stolpman said. "In light of criticisms leveled at the institution, we intend to devote a major portion of our efforts to making the bar more responsive to the lawyers of California."

Stolpman said he will fight any effort by the legislature to reduce dues by $40, as suggested by plebiscite author Sen. Quentin Kopp I-San Francisco.

Citing the heavy vote in the plebiscite election and the 65-35 percent margin opposing abolition of the mandatory bar, Stolpman said, "I call upon the legislature . . . to give us the freedom with the dues bill to continue to do a good job."

Another plebiscite?

The legislature, however, may be asked to revisit the plebiscite question.

San Francisco attorney Peter Keane, who has for years urged that the bar be junked, says legislation may be introduced either calling for another plebiscite or directly abolishing the bar.

"We'll let the dust settle and let people really understand the enormity of the defeat for the bar."

He promised action within a year.

Stolpman, who made better communication a key issue in his campaign to become bar president, said bar executives are going through a "total quality management" program which will be extended to the Board of Governors and other personnel.

Although the bar disciplines and regulates attorneys, he says it still needs to define its "customers," determine their needs and find ways to meet them.

"We're good regulators but not necessarily good listeners," he said.

Herb Rosenthal, longtime executive director of the bar, said the organization has an obligation to continue existing programs, increase communication with members and shape programs to meet their concerns.

"Our obligation is to do our jobs better and do them in a customer service way," he said.