|It was my first working day as president of the State Bar. I flew from Orange
County to San Francisco and appeared for the first time as the new bar president at the
new bar offices, excited about the coming year, century and even millennium.
words to greet me were, "What are you doing here?"
The question probably concerned the timing of my visit, but it did get me to thinking
about larger thoughts.
What am I doing here as president of the State Bar?
And indeed, "What is the State Bar doing here in California?"
These questions parallel another question frequently asked over the last two months:
"Why would anyone want to be president of the State Bar of California at this
uncertain moment of transition?"
These important questions demand an answer.
Like most lawyers, I respect and appreciate the third branch of our government. It is
the branch that resolves disputes, punishes crimes and protects our constitutional rights.
Despite its importance, the third branch of our government is abused and battered, and
needs to be supported and improved.
Judges are limited in their power to support and improve the justice system, and the
legislative and executive branches often lack the necessary expertise in the area. Bar
associations therefore loom large in the process of supporting and improving our justice
system. And nowhere is there a state judicial system or bar association with more
potential to impact our legal system than here in California.
I am told that one out of eight attorneys in this country are members of our State Bar.
I did the math, and if we stack the lawyers of California one on top of each other they
would reach the Enterprise in earth orbit.
Laid out head to foot, we would extend from Malibu to Mexico.
It is essential that California and its many lawyers play an important part in issues
confronting the judicial branch. At the change of the millennium, the issues range from
MCLE to multi-disciplinary practice proposals to issues of admission and reciprocity to
issues of access.
And all these issues arise in our country's most diverse state at a time of changing
technologies and markets. What an opportunity and challenge!
Under the great leadership of Marc Adelman and Ray Marshall, we have come through years
of crisis. During my year as president, I hope to continue reforming the State Bar of
California so that we can fulfill our important mission to improve the system of justice.
In the process, we will remember that with our power comes the duty to act responsiby.
As our members, our critics and recently even some courts have stated, we cannot take
action inconsistent with the views and interests of all our members.
Our mission is vitally important, but it is a limited mission. Recent history has shown
that if we take action beyond our limited mission, our ability to take any action is
So, why am I here and why is the State Bar here? It is to reform the State Bar and
fulfill our mission to improve the quality of legal services to the people of the State of
I hope you will participate in this challenging opportunity.