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Bar committee members sought

One attorney was looking for an opportunity to improve the justice system and make public policy changes that benefit both attorneys and the public. A solo practitioner and a corporate lawyer both wanted to network, to meet with members of the bench and the legislature. Some were interested in mentoring.

Many others simply wanted to expand their knowledge in their practice areas. There are many reasons why attorneys volunteer to serve on a State Bar committee, commission or board, but one reason that stands out is an opportunity to help better the profession.

If you are looking for a chance to make a difference, the State Bar currently is seeking applicants for some 200 positions on more than three dozen State Bar committees, commissions and boards for the 2003-2004 committee year.

Would-be volunteers have a wide range of options, from committees dealing with access and fairness issues, to executive committees focused on particular areas of the law, to a commission that evaluates judicial nominees for the governor. Some committees require special qualifications.

The application deadline is January 31. Those appointed to the 2003-2004 positions by the State Bar Board of Governors will begin their terms Sept. 7, 2003. Most appointments carry a three-year term.

The board seeks a diverse mix of attorneys and public members from various backgrounds and fields of practice. Applicants must be willing to volunteer their time, expertise, experience and perspective.

Limited means should not deter an attorney from applying for a position. While volunteers are not paid for their services, they are reimbursed for approved travel expenses.

Nor should attorneys hesitate about applying to the same committee more than once. Often, there are simply too many qualified applicants for a limited number of positions, and many committee members have not been selected the first time they applied. Following are brief descriptions of the committees, commissions and boards seeking volunteers for the 2003-2004 term:

The ACCESS AND FAIRNESS COMMITTEES focus on attorneys from diverse backgrounds including ethnic minorities, women, attorneys with disabilities, senior lawyers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered attorneys. The Committee on Ethnic Minority Relations, Committee on Legal Professionals with Disabilities, Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, Committee on Women in the Law and Committee on Senior Lawyers all seek greater involvement of underrepresented attorneys in the administration and governance of the State Bar's programs and activities, as well as increased diversity in the legal profession.

Depending on the committee, members may conduct MCLE presentations, write articles, participate in membership surveys, network on a state and national level, develop and implement strategic initiatives, plan seminars or develop public service programs, in addition to attending regular committee meetings.

The COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE studies and reports recommendations on proposed changes in civil procedure, court rules and administration, rules of evidence and other matters having an impact on the administration of justice in the civil courts. It also evaluates and, in some cases, prepares amendments to proposed court rules and state legislation.

In addition, committee members prepare court rules and affirmative legislative proposals. Applicants must be attorneys with at least three years of civil practice experience.

The COMMITTEE ON ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION analyzes and comments on proposals relating to alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This committee also drafts proposals for the board of governors' consideration, conducts educational programs and identifies issues concerning ADR and the practice of law, the administration of justice and access to justice.

The COMMITTEE ON APPELLATE COURTS reviews proposed changes to the rules of court affecting appellate courts. Committee members also have the opportunity to review and comment on proposed legislation affecting appellate court operation and appellate practice.

In some instances, the 16-member committee - which currently includes appellate court research staff, appellate criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, law firms and solo practitioners - may initiate legislative and rules proposals in these areas.

The COMMITTEE OF BAR EXAMINERS examines applicants who take the first-year law students' examination and the bar examination. The 19-member committee also recommends qualified applicants to the California Supreme Court for admission to the bar.

In addition, it accredits California law schools, registers unaccredited and correspondence law schools, and studies proposed changes related to the admission to practice law in California. Applicants must be attorneys who are not currently employed as a law school administrator or professor, or associated with a bar review company.

The COMMITTEE ON DELIVERY OF LEGAL SERVICES identifies, develops, and supports improvements in the day-to-day delivery of legal services to poor and middle-income individuals in California. The committee also serves as a resource to the board of governors on legal services issues and relevant legislation. In addition, committee members work to encourage attorneys to provide pro bono legal services to indigents.

The COMMITTEE ON FEDERAL COURTS studies, recommends and reports on proposed changes in the rules, procedures and practices of the federal courts in California. And by meeting with federal court judges and representatives throughout the state, committee members seek to understand the key issues concerning the federal judiciary. The committee also works to enhance relations between the State Bar and federal courts statewide.

The COMMITTEE ON GROUP INSURANCE PROGRAMS studies proposals for new programs and changes to existing programs in the various State Bar-approved member group insurance programs (accidental death and disability, disability income/extra overhead, life, long-term care and workers' compensation). It also counsels and advises the board of governors.

The COMMITTEE ON MANDATORY FEE ARBITRATION oversees the mandatory fee arbitration program established by the Business and Professions Code, and the State Bar's mandatory fee arbitration department. Committee members, including arbitrators and administrators from local bar fee arbitration programs, also have the opportunity to comment on legislative proposals, and to recommend changes to the State Bar's Rules of Procedure, guidelines and minimum standards.

In addition, the committee, which is responsible for drafting the State Bar-approved sample fee agreements, breaks up into teams to work on projects involving research, writing and editing.

The COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND CONDUCT focuses on questions of professional ethics. The committee's advisory opinions address questions submitted by individual attorneys, local bar associations and the State Bar Board of Governors.

The committee - comprised of attorneys and public members - also makes recommendations regarding changes in the State Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct, and advises the board of governors on laws and regulations regarding professional responsibility.

The COMMITTEE ON STATE BAR APPROVED PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE oversees the bar's professional liability insurance program and makes recommendations for change. It also counsels and advises the board of governors. In addition, the committee strives to stay attuned to the needs of California attorneys and consumers, and works to reduce the number and severity of attorney malpractice claims through education.

The SECTION EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES oversee each of the State Bar's 16 sections, which address specific segments of the profession. Each executive committee directs the policies and affairs of the section, works with the board of governors and supervises the section's activities. The sections vary in the amount of time devoted to legislation, legal education, practice issues and public education. For appointment, an applicant must be a member of the section.

The sections seeking new executive committee members include: Antitrust and Unfair Competition Section; Business Law Section; Criminal Law Section; Environmental Law Section; Family Law Section; Intellectual Property Section; International Law Section; Labor and Employment Law Section; Law Practice Management and Technology Section; Litigation Section; Public Law Section; Real Property Law Section; Solo and Small Firm Section; Taxation Section; Trusts and Estates Section; and Workers' Compensation Law Section.

The CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE explores ways of improving access to civil justice for Californians living on low and moderate incomes. This 23-member commission - comprised of lawyers and judges, as well as academic, business, labor and community leaders - played a key role in establishing a $10 million Equal Access Fund for civil legal services to the indigent. In seeking to improve access to the courts, the commission works closely with the Judicial Council.

The CEB GOVERNING COMMITTEE is a joint committee of the University of California and the State Bar of California. The committee reviews and approves CEB's annual publishing and educational program, strategic objectives, annual budget, and recommendations from the director on the overall operation of CEB.

Three of the four State Bar appointments must be attorneys; two of the attorneys must also be in active practice and represent the interests of the State Bar sections. Members serve two-year terms, and the terms may be renewed.

The CLIENT SECURITY FUND COMMISSION oversees the Client Security Fund (CSF), which reimburses clients who have lost money or property due to theft or an equivalent dishonest act committed by a California attorney acting in a professional capacity.

This seven-member commission - which includes at least three public members - evaluates CSF applications and determines payment of funds. It also makes recommendations for changes in rules and the claims process.

The LEGAL SERVICES TRUST FUND COMMISSION administers the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts program and the Equal Access Fund. The commission seeks attorney and public member applicants who are committed to the delivery of legal services to the poor, and are sensitive to the needs of low-income communities. No employee or independent contractor acting as a consultant to any agency which is a potential recipient of funds under the Legal Services Trust Fund Program can be appointed to the commission.

The CALIFORNIA BOARD OF LEGAL SPECIALIZATION administers the State Bar of California Program for Certifying Legal Specialists with the assistance of specialty advisory commissions. The 12-member board also provides policies and guidelines for the certification of specialists, develops tests and legal education programs, and advises the board of governors. At least three members must be nonlawyers, and the attorney applicants must be specialists in their field.

The ADVISORY LAW COMMISSIONS to the California Board of Legal Specialization advise and assist the California Board of Legal Specialization in the administration of its certification programs.

They pass upon certification and re-certification applications, prepare specialist examinations, accredit programs and providers of continuing legal education, and otherwise assist the Board of Legal Specialization.

There is a nine-member advisory commission for each of the following specialties: Appellate Law; Criminal Law; Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law; Family Law; Immigration and Nationality Law; Personal and Small Business Bankruptcy Law; Taxation Law; and Workers' Compensation Law. At least one member of each commission must be a nonlawyer and each attorney member must be a specialist in that field.

For further information on available positions, visit the State Bars web site at Select the link to Committees and Commissions. Or contact the bar's appointments office at 415-538-2299, or the committee's staff liaison by calling the phone number listed in the committee's description at the web site.

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