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State Bar president welcomes ABA Annual Meeting to San Francisco

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
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Welcome to one of the world's most beautiful cities. The State Bar of California recognizes the American Bar Association's long commitment to the importance of the third branch of government, the rule of law, access to justice and diversity within our profession. This commitment mirrors the State Bar's own mission statement, carried this year on every member's bar card: "To preserve and improve our justice system in order to assure a fair and just society under the law."

The State Bar of California President, James Herman

As the largest mandatory bar in the world — our 194,000 members comprise more than one out of every six lawyers in the United States — the State Bar of California is proud to welcome the members of the largest voluntary bar in the world to our headquarters city. I am proud to be a lawyer and I know you share that pride. Our gathering here in San Francisco is an affirmation of the importance of the rule of law to our society.

Our State Bar Board of Governors is keenly interested in our long-term relationship with the ABA. Earlier this year, we met with President A.P. Carlton and members of your board on issues of mutual interest and appointed a permanent State Bar-ABA working group to continue our dialogue. I am personally grateful for the support I have received from the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the training available from the Bar Leaders Institute. Both have given me the opportunity to meet bar leaders from all over the world and share leadership strategies.

As we gather from the far corners of the world and the nation, we face grave challenges within the judicial branch. The "perfect storm" of declining judicial branch resources in the face of increasing public needs is gathering. California, for example, has experienced two years of budget cuts that threaten many of the access to justice programs implemented over the last several years. At the same time, the California Commission on Access to Justice recent report, "Pathways to Justice," found that 72 percent of low- and moderate-income Californians are unable to afford basic legal services. Our bench and bar, led by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, have rallied to the cause.

We know California is not alone in this dilemma and applaud the leadership of President Carlton on this issue. This is a nationwide problem. Our profession is at its best in responding to a crisis. We must work together not just to survive the storm but to turn the tide.

We are proud of Joanne Garvey, a former member of our board of governors, who will receive a Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award in recognition of all her good work on women's legal issues. We know you all share diversity as a core value of the profession. I also congratulate your many award winners and of course am particularly proud of those recipients who practice law in California.

We trust your time in our beautiful Bay Area will improve your quality of life and bring you renewed energy and commitment when you return home. I invite each of you to enjoy San Francisco and the surrounding area to the fullest while focusing on the important issues facing your practice and our profession.

I look forward to meeting you.

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