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No perks, no pay; just satisfaction

By Vivian L. Kral

Vivian L. Kral
Kral

Wanted: California attorneys; all ages, backgrounds, practices; responsible; committed; ready to make a difference in the legal profession. Salary: none. Perks: none. Benefits: satisfaction guaranteed. All applications reviewed. To apply now: click on www.calbar.ca.gov to find State Bar appointments vacancies.

OK, so you stumbled over salary and perks. You weren't exactly thinking about giving up your valuable, and most likely increasingly shrinking time, for free.

Especially for your State Bar, the one that collects your dues, sets the ethics rules and then makes sure you follow them.

But think again. This is an opportunity unlike any other. Twenty-three years ago I answered a similar call when my employer suggested that I get involved in the San Mateo County Bar Association. It was no earth-shattering decision: most of the members of my firm were involved in the Santa Clara bar, so I happily complied by heading in a different direction, my home county.

The calls have been coming ever since, and I can't tell you how fulfilling it has been to answer them. Within the San Mateo County Bar Association, my interests have included fee arbitration, mediation and client relations.

Meanwhile, I became active in the California Women Lawyers (I was the president in 1996), then the (now former) State Bar Conference of Delegates, with the privilege to serve last year as the first chair of the now-independent Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations. At the same time I ran in a special election to serve from District 3 on your board of governors.

These are just a handful of my obligations, and it sometimes is terribly time-consuming. Yes, some Saturdays I'm not sure where I am or where I'm supposed to be, or when I'll get my work done. Yes, sometimes you really do think it would be nice to get some compensation for all of this effort.

But then again, you really do: the rewards of serving and contributing to the advancement of your profession, your colleagues and the public cannot be put into words.

Over these past two decades, I have made lifelong friends. I also have made countless professional connections that are invaluable in my everyday practice.

If you become involved in bar work, you will truly find the ultimate in "networking." Virtually all of my referrals come from attorneys I know through my local bar associations or from former clients, and virtually all of the referrals I make are to attorneys I have met through my bar activities.

Developing such a wide network, whose experience and professionalism is known first-hand, brings a comfort level that no one out there slogging on their own can replicate.

At the same time, the volunteer work is fulfilling in itself. Whether your focus is on the delivery of legal services, administration of justice, judicial candidate review or specific areas of practice, your service on State Bar commissions, committees and other entities will enable you to share your personal expertise in the development of plans and legislation, and at the same time you will learn a tremendous amount in return from your volunteer colleagues. This is knowledge shared and absorbed that, over time, is priceless.

And it can come from the simple act of getting involved. I won't begin to list the numerous possibilities for your service here. You can find more information on current vacancies on page 8 of this newspaper and, once again, on our Web site at www.calbar.ca.gov.

I did forget to mention that, if your service requires travel, you will be reimbursed for expenses. Technically, that doesn't count as a perk. But I can assure you, if you do take this opportunity to get involved, your service and your new array of contacts will perk up your practice and open your eyes wider to our wonderful profession.

Go ahead: Answer that call today. It will take your life as an attorney, like mine, in a new and exciting direction.

• Vivian L. Kral is a vice president of the State Bar Board of Governors, chair of the board's Volunteer Involvement Committee and immediate past chair of the board of directors of the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations.

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