[Thomas G. Stolpman]  Thomas G. Stolpman 

State Bar efforts work to aid the image of lawyers 

State Bar President Thomas Stolpman responds in this column each month to questions from bar members. To submit questions for the president, please send them to: Ask the President, California Bar Journal, 555 Franklin St., San Francisco 94102-4498; fax to 415/561-8247; or e-mail to

This month's question and Stolpman's response: 

QUESTION: Lawyers always seem to be under attack. What is the State Bar doing to defend the profession and to improve the image of lawyers? 

STOLPMAN: The State Bar's primary mission is to assure the ethical conduct of lawyers. Doing a good job of that is the best way to increase public confidence in the profession. 

Research also has demonstrated that lawyers who are perceived as contributors to society earn the respect of the public. California lawyers volunteer at almost twice the rate of the general public, which is a credit to our profession. 

The State Bar itself offers several public education programs involving youth in which attorneys play a central role. Unfortunately, though, we always need more volunteers. 

Attorneys can be a valuable resource to schools and PTAs, as well as to law enforcement agencies, in helping parents understand the law and in promoting a dialogue with kids both in the classroom and at the dinner table. 

On May 1, Law Day, the State Bar will formally launch an education project with the California PTA to put an informative booklet in the hands of parents throughout the state. 

The booklet is the outgrowth of a survey commissioned by the bar last year to find out how 10-to-14-year-olds view the law. The survey found that young people frequently do not understand the consequences of their actions, particularly if they break the law. We also learned that parents have the greatest impact in affecting youngsters' perceptions of right and wrong. 

Thomas Nazario, a University of San Francisco law professor and expert on children's law, authored this 67-page booklet and guide to juvenile laws in California. 

Another opportunity to volunteer is through Law Works, an award-winning violence prevention program sponsored by the State Bar and the Citizen and Law Related Education Center. 

Started in 1993, this program has grown to 20 middle and high schools. In each of the participating schools, a teacher pairs up with a lawyer to assist students in generating their own ideas for reducing violence. 

Some classes focus on gang problems; others tackle the dangers of child abuse or domestic violence. These solutions are highlighted in presentations by students to legislators in Sacramento each May. The State Bar also has been a catalyst in encouraging the creation of teen courts and serving as a resource to programs throughout the state. 

I have participated in several of these youth programs and found the experience to be personally very rewarding. 

If you want information or can volunteer for either of these programs, call the State Bar's Office of Communications and Public Education at 1-800/445-4LAW. 

In an effort to educate the public about our efforts, I will participate in a satellite media conference on May 15, sponsored by the American Bar Association and Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity in Washington, D.C. 

Our presentation will highlight law-related programs directed at young people throughout the country. This is an area in which the State Bar of California and local bars have excelled. 

Each of us should be proud of these efforts and we should all spread the word that lawyers are contributing to society.