California Bar Journal
spacer.gif (810 bytes)


spacer.gif (810 bytes)
For something completely different
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
President, State Bar of California
spacer.gif (810 bytes)

Palmer Madden, President, State Bar of CaliforniaTruth be told, for the last three years, the board of governors has necessarily had only one focus: the survival of the State Bar. The veto of the dues bill created chaos. More than 500 valued employees had to be fired. Then, for over a year, the State Bar struggled along with minimal staff. Finally, after the Supreme Court ordered some funding and the Legislature passed the dues bill, the State Bar began rehiring. Well, at long last, all of that is now behind us. Under Judy Johnson’s leadership, we have filled most of the staff positions and the bar is up and running. This means that for the first time in a long time, the board of governors can now turn its attention to steps that the State Bar should be taking to improve our profession.

In light of the change in circumstances, the board has reorganized itself to allow it to address policy issues. In the past the board’s agenda has been so filled with the details of running a $75 million organization that it has not been able to find the time to address important policy issues. The board decided last year that it should remove itself from the business of micro-managing the State Bar so that it can direct its attention to policy issues. In order to accomplish this goal, the board had to find time so that it could educate itself and deliberate about policy issues. To make time for this education and deliberation the board decided to commit over 80 percent of its meetings to a focus on policy issues. 

Having created time that will allow it to consider policy issues, the board then identified possible policy issues. We canvassed the board and staff for a list of policy issues that might be considered by the board. Among the issues that were identified as calling for attention are topics such as multi-jurisdictional practice, multi-discipline practice, MCLE, membership services and the like. At its planning meeting, the board decided that the policy issues it wants to focus on first include investigating what steps the State Bar can take to increase access to justice and the diversity of attorneys in our profession. Most importantly, the chief justice and the special master, Justice Elwood Lui, have both called for the board of governors to take a hard look at how it runs itself so that the board can migrate further from micro-management towards a “board governance” model. The board embraced the suggestion of the chief and Justice Lui, deciding to devote time this year to considering how to restructure itself.

In sum, the board has set its course for the coming year. The board is going to leave management of the day-to-day affairs of the State Bar to our professional staff so that the board can focus on policy. I have high hopes that this new focus will enable the board to make more significant contributions to the improvement of our profession.

Palmer Madden can be reached at