California Bar Journal
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Emerging from a survival mentality
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President, State Bar of California
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Ray MarshallDespite trepidation by many, the State Bar Annual Meeting in Monterey was a great success. In addition to attending the usual, impressive array of CLE courses, seminars and luncheons, many of those who attended tackled the broader issue of the State Bar's future.

In the face of dire predictions about that future, lawyers from across the state, critics and supporters alike, committed themselves in overwhelming numbers to four basic principles:

The State Bar must change;

We will work together to make that change;

Change should take place within the context of a mandatory unified state bar; and

The change must result in a stronger, more efficient and responsive State Bar.

Open forums

In the days following the annual meeting, I have thought a lot about what our members were saying. Despite a very full schedule of activities, more than 70 attorneys took the time to attend two open forums and express their views about the role of the State Bar.

Many were critical of the bar's current mission statement: "Preserve and improve our justice system in order to assure a free and just society under law."

Others agreed with the bar's mission, but disagreed with its implementation. But, to a person, all expressed an overriding interest in helping to reinvigorate and reorganize a newer, better State Bar.

There was in Monterey a sense of unity about the commitment to change. As your president, I share that commitment to change, but at the same time I repeat my personal pledge to do everything I can to maintain a unified bar in California.

The State Bar is a family that must not be torn apart by outside forces. We must, and will initiate the change ourselves.

Many of you have heard me talk about the need for dialogue and communication in the months ahead. The open forums which we launched in Monterey were just the beginning.

Listening, too

The next step took place at the end of October when the board of governors, along with leaders from many segments of the bar, met to create an immediate plan to begin the change. I intend that the bar listen - as well as talk - to our members, and I have laid out a yearlong plan to accomplish that.

We will expand the outreach to our members by creating an ongoing dialogue with leadership teams from the sections, the Conference of Delegates, the Foundation of the State Bar and local bar leaders. We will hold statewide forums, in the north and south, and invite not just attorneys but also the public, opinion leaders and the judiciary.

Our year of communication will be both inward, to insure that our members are truly heard, and outward to insure that the State Bar remains relevant to the larger community within which we function.

Since the governor vetoed the funding bill, the State Bar has been operating in mere survival mode, maintaining a skeletal staff to keep the doors open and supporting a limited number of curtailed programs in a structure that was dubbed "The Ark." The time has come to emerge from that survival mentality. Change already has begun.

Time for reorganization

The board of governors understands the need to continue that change and has begun preparing for important reorganization. We will be a model of efficiency, not just a trimmed-down version of what we once were. We will deconstruct The Ark and construct in its place a newer, tighter vessel that efficiently delivers essential services to our members and the citizens of California.

As we negotiate our way through the waters in the months ahead, as we go back to Sacramento to obtain adequate funding, I extend an invitation to each of you to