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Four vie for bar presidency

Four of five eligible third-year members of the State Bar Board of Governors announced last month they are seeking the presidency of the organization. Vivian Kral of San Mateo, Russell Roeca of San Francisco, Windie Scott of Sacramento and John Van de Kamp of Los Angeles will compete in a May 22 election to become the bar's 80th president.

The candidates bring both divergence and agreement about issues facing the bar, and despite very different backgrounds, they have in common long histories of leadership. Improved services for members, keeping bar dues low and effective communication are common themes among the candidates.

Roeca, Scott and Van de Kamp were elected to the board in 2001. Kral was elected in a special election in December 2002 to replace now — San Mateo County Judge Marie Weiner.

Vivian Kral

Vivian Kral, San Mateo

While on the board of governors, Kral served as president of the Conference of Delegates, maintaining a difficult schedule. She also was a judge pro tem in the bar's discipline operation for four years, president of California Women Lawyers and is active in the San Mateo County Bar Association.

"I'm very passionate about the bar and what the bar does," says Kral, a solo family law practitioner. The only way she can continue her service to the bar, she says, is by being president.

Kral believes the key issues continue to be keeping bar dues down and maintaining an effective discipline system. "I realize we have projects we'd like to do and we'd like to pay our employees more, but our members want us, more than anything, to keep our dues down," she said.

As chair of the Volunteer Involvement Committee, and in her earlier bar work, Kral has emphasized an open-door and inclusive profession. She wants to re-establish a stronger tie between the bar's sections and the board of governors, reinstituting a direct line of communication that she believes was severed in recent streamlining moves.

Russell Roeca

Russell Roeca, San Francisco

Effective governance, a goal urged on the State Bar during recent years by the governor, legislature and Supreme Court, has been Roeca's focus during his three-year term. "From a sheer practical standpoint, it has been mandated repeatedly over the last 10 to 15 years that we put into place a strategic plan," he said.

"There's finally one in place. It works from the top, with an operating plan, all the way down to committees and sections so they understand the importance of creating work plans to determine if they're meeting their own strategies. We're finally creating a system whereby we have effective planning and allocation of resources."

Roeca says it's important for the board to focus on bar members, viewing them and the public as customers. To that end, he has been involved in a search for non-dues revenue and says in the face of diminished budgetary constraints, "we need to be proactive in how we finance our processes."

As part of a family of lawyers — his mother and two brothers — Roeca said he is proud of the profession that has been good to him. He also believes that with both big and small firm experience — he currently works in a five-lawyer firm — he understands well the concerns of the state's attorneys. He fulfills his self-imposed obligation to give back to the community by also serving on the San Francisco Fire Commission.

Windie Scott

Windie Scott, Sacramento

When Windie Scott was elected to the board three years ago, she ran on a platform of improved communication between the bar and its members, and she said that platform remains today. She said she fulfilled her promise to improve communications by holding district meetings every year and doing public outreach for State Bar events like the forums for senior citizens throughout the state.

"Rather than just say, 'Like us, like us, like us,' we actually did something to make (the public) like us," Scott said.

Her years of bar involvement position her well to lead the bar, Scott said. And her familiarity with longstanding issues also would support a presidency, she believes. "Certain things will always be around, although in different flavors," Scott said. "There will always be a desire among members for accountability. They want to make sure whatever the amount (of dues) it serves its purpose of administration of justice. I don't think it's the numerical amount they care about, but they want to make sure it does what it's supposed to do."

A government lawyer her entire career, Scott currently works as a policy director for Controller Steve Westly. She says that government experience and her contacts in Sacramento can benefit the bar, which depends on the legislature for its annual funding authorization. "I know the layout," Scott said. "I've always been positioned in places where I'm very familiar with legislators and political notables."

Scott also has served as president of the Sacramento County Bar Association, Women Lawyers of Sacramento and the Wiley Manuel Bar Association.

John Van de Kamp
Van de Kamp

John Van de Kamp, Los Angeles

Intimately familiar with Sacramento is John Van de Kamp, who spent eight years there as attorney general from 1983-91. He also served as district attorney of Los Angeles and as a federal public defender. "I think I can be helpful to the bar," he says. "I'm known around the state as a public figure and I think that helps." He described himself as a harmonizer who can work well with other board members and plans to devote himself fulltime to the job if elected.

Van de Kamp ticked off a laundry list of issues he believes are important: public protection, providing member services, keeping dues low, access to justice programs and making the bar more relevant and helpful to members. He'd like to improve the quality of MCLE courses and provide services or programs that offer purchasing discounts. "It could be any kind of product a lawyer needs, where you might have advertisers willing to tap into our particular audience."

Currently of counsel with Dewey Ballantine LLP in Los Angeles and president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, Van de Kamp will leave the latter position in July, "clearing the decks workwise." He also has a long list of civic activities on his resume.

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