|At last - after nearly 12 months of hard work, creative thinking, compromises,
negotiations, blood, sweat and tears, we finally have given birth to a new structure for
the State Bar.
The new fee bill, approved by the Assembly and Senate last month,
reflects the bar's response to concerns raised by our members, the legislature and the
public, and provides for a new, more efficient and responsive organization.
Some of the highlights of the fee bill, effective Jan. 1, 2000, include a dues
reduction to a maximum of $395 for active law-yers, a decrease in minimum continuing
education requirements from 36 to 25 hours every three years, self-funding of the
Conference of Delegates and the State Bar sections, an annual audit and limitations on
State Bar lobbying activities.
Right now, I like to think of the bar as a company with a proud and impressive history,
recognized as a leader in its field and forced by circumstances to restructure its
organization and re-engineer its operation. The outmoded machinery is gone, and we are
rebuilding, learning along the way how to respond to the ever-changing legal marketplace
and re-examining the role of lawyers in society.
Some of the things we face in the coming years include the myriad issues raised by the
concept of multi-disciplinary practices, the ongoing debate surrounding minimum continuing
legal education (MCLE) and addressing President Clinton's call for diversity in the legal
We will be a different organization in 2000.
Although fewer dollars will be available and we will be operating with a reduced staff,
the State Bar of California remains the best in the nation because of the scope of
services still provided and its continuous commitment to the core values of the profession
and its members.
As I write this, we are faced also with the tentative decision in Brosterhous v. State
Bar, which addresses a bar of the past - 1989 rather than 1999. The key issues in the
Brosterhous case, brought about by a group of attorneys challenging the bar's allocation
of mandatory dues, have been resolved with our new fee bill and internal reforms.
I am very thankful for all the guidance and direction we received from Sen. Adam Schiff
and Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg and members of their staff. I can't tell you the number of
hours they put into crafting this legislation and the constructive criticism they offered
us (which we took to heart). And thanks also to longtime bar supporter Assemblywoman
Sheila Kuehl and her staff for all her work protecting the interests of the legal
When history looks back, this will be considered a watershed year for the State Bar.
I only can hope that we remain true to the values, ideals and spirit that we worked so
vigorously to protect in the fee bill that will carry us into the new century.
I am very proud of SB144. I won't say that it will satisfy everybody - it's not a
panacea - but with this bill we have met our goal of preserving our integrated, mandatory
bar while instituting fundamental reforms.
It has taken a year, but the struggle was well worth it.