California Bar Journal
spacer.gif (810 bytes)


spacer.gif (810 bytes)
A long struggle finally pays off
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
President, State Bar of California
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Ray MarshallAt 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 field.

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 community.

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.

spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Travails of the bar fee bill

Oct. 11, 1997 - Gov. Pete Wilson vetoes SB 1145 which would have authorized bar dues of $458 for 1998

Jan. 14, 1998 - State Bar seeks urgency legislation to fund bar in AB 1669 (the Hertzberg bill), which would have authorized dues at $419 for 1998 and $399 for 1999

Spring 1998 - Competing bills (one to abolish the bar, another to reduce dues to $316 in 1998 and $272 in 1999) vie with the Hertzberg bill

May 1998 - Bar gives nearly 500 employees notice of impending layoffs on June 26, 1998

June 26, 1998 - With the unraveling of any compromise in Sacramento, nearly 500 State Bar employees are terminated and most bar services are shut down

July-November 1998 - Bar limps along with a staff of less than 200 and almost no disciplinary or member services, but brightens at the election of a new governor

December 1998 - Supreme Court intervenes and orders special assessment of $173 to be paid by every active attorney to resuscitate the bar's discipline system

January 1999 - A new bill (eventually SB 144, Schiff) which would set attorney fees for most bar members at $395 begins to take shape in Sacramento

August 1999 - After wending its way through both houses and their committees in Sacramento, the dues bill is sent to Gov. Davis