California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - April 1999
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Legal specialist exam set Aug. 19
Sullivan to take reins at Stanford Law School
Only two appointed members remaining on State Bar board
Legal services board has five vacancies
Davis taps Michael Kahn
State Bar honors Justice Mosk with Witkin Medal
Board tentatively approves budget based on dues of $384
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If it distracts, so be it
Let's cut back on jury service
Limit bar to admissions and discipline
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From the President - Door to justice must be open
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Letters to the Editor
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Law Practice - Preparing for a successful mediation
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Appointments - Apply to serve on a bar committee
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Legal Tech - DSL speeds up Internet - at a reasonable price
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New Products & Services
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MCLE Self-Study
Taxes and long-term care
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Trials Digest
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Ethics Byte - Fiduciary duties basis for all rules
Attorney nabbed at State Bar offices for soliciting murders
Attorney Discipline
Ethics for the 21st Century - A canon for the future
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Public Comment
Gersick appointed interim bar chief
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honed in the foreign service, the organizational history of over a decade working in bar programs and administration, and the firm commitment to reshape and re-engineer the State Bar as we rebuild."

Gersick, who joined the bar in 1985, will have his hands full with organizational initiatives already under way: passage of a fee bill in Sacramento, reinstating the discipline system, moving into a new building in San Francisco, negotiating a new contract for employees and the overall restructuring of the bar.

"Given the reduced level of funding we expect, the need to restructure is obvious and the commitment is universal," Gersick said.

On the legislative front, he began traveling to Sacramento to meet with lawmakers last month. The message he brings emphasizes a streamlined, more efficient bar which is "different from the image many have in their mind," he said.

Gersick said he hopes to survive the coming year with "my optimism undaunted and my sense of humor intact."

A graduate of Yale University, Gersick received his law degree at Hastings College of the Law and practiced law in San Francisco before spending four years in the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily as a foreign service officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy in South Africa.

Former board member and San Diego journalist Peter Kaye said of Gersick, "Through all the months of turmoil, Jeff consistently remained the good guy."

Steve Nissen is leaving the bar to join Gov. Davis' staff after 16 months at the helmImmediate past president Marc Adelman said, "He's a wise choice," calling Gersick "as knowledgeable about the State Bar as anyone can be."

Nissen, 48, became a special assistant to Gov. Gray Davis March 20, overseeing innovation in government projects in Sacramento.

Nissen, who became executive director two weeks after former Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the bar's dues bill, presided over a turbulent 16 months marked by layoffs of more than 500 employees and unsuccessful efforts to assuage hostile lawmakers in Sacramento.

Although he said "nobody could be satisfied" with the past year and a half, Nissen feels confident that he began to lay a foundation for a leaner and more efficient organization.

He concentrated most of his attention on simplifying the bar's budget to make it more understandable and restoring trust between the bar and the legislative and executive branches in Sacra-mento. He also began the task of restructuring the bar to "deliver our product better, more efficiently and to reflect a changed way of doing business."

"I like to think I helped lay the foundation that preserved the organization through the most tumultuous time in its history," Nissen said.

"I hope the reorganization will fill in some more building blocks for a better and less expensive organization."

Two months after joining the bar, Nissen ordered 45 layoffs, designed, he said, "to get our house in order." When no accord was reached on the fee bill, the bar was forced to lay off almost 500 more employees, an action Nissen described as "extremely painful."

At the same time, he was moving to simplify the bar's budget, long a target of critics who charged there was little accountability for how funds were spent.

As part of that effort, he began to reorganize the staff from the standpoint of enhancing bar services and accomplishing its work.

Helen Zukin, a Los Angeles attorney who chairs the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, said she thinks Nissen's move to the Capitol will help the bar's political fortunes.

"He's made every effort to restore the trust and communication necessary between the bar and Sacramento," she said. "He continues to move to positions where his intellect and experience can only help the lawyers of this state."

Nissen will earn $92,150 in his new job, compared to his $197,500 annual salary at the bar.

Another longtime bar employee, Clothilde V. Hewlett, 45, was named undersecretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency by Davis last month.

Hewlett has worked in the bar's admissions office since 1991. She was an assistant district attorney in San Francisco prior to joining the bar. She will earn $101,211 in her new post.