California Bar Journal
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Apply to serve on a bar committee
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When Orange County attorney Scott Wylie first joined a State Bar disaster assistance committee years ago, he was simply looking for a way to help victims of the Loma Prieta earthquake. But the experience was so worthwhile, he says, that he has been volunteering service to one State Bar committee or another ever since.

Today, a decade later, he serves on the State Bar Board of Governors. And he is quick to offer reasons why fellow attorneys - solo practitioners and corporate lawyers alike - should consider applying to a State Bar committee, commission or board.

"It provides an opportunity to improve the justice system and make public policy changes that benefit both attorneys and the public," said Wylie, the director of clinical and externship programs at Whittier Law School. "It's a great opportunity to network, to meet with members of the bench and the legislature. It's a great way to obtain mentoring and expand your knowledge in practice areas."

And for Wylie, one reason stands out: "It is part of every attorney's obligation to help better the profession."

Currently, the State Bar is seeking applicants for some 200 positions on more than three dozen State Bar committees, commissions and boards. 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. For most, the application deadline is Feb. 1. 

Those appointed to the 2002-03 positions by the board of governors will begin their terms in October. Most carry a three-year term.

Wylie, who chairs the board's appointments committee, stresses that the board is seeking 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. However, Wylie said, 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, Wylie said.  

Following are brief descriptions of the committees, commissions and boards seeking volunteers for the 2002-2003 term:

The ACCESS AND FAIRNESS COMMITTEES focus on the under-represented attorney - the lawyer who is, for example, an ethnic minority, gay, lesbian, transgender or a senior lawyer. The Committee on Ethnic Minority Relations, Commit-tee on Legal Professionals with Disabilities, Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, and Committee on Women in the Law all seek greater involvement of under-represented attorneys in the administration and governance of the State Bar's programs and activities. Members may conduct MCLE presentations, write articles, participate in membership surveys, network on a state and national level, plan seminars or raise funds, in addition to attending meetings. The Committee on Senior Lawyers works to address issues concerning senior lawyers by providing information and education.

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. Members must have 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 22-member 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. Members can review and comment on proposed legislation affecting appellate court operation and appellate practice. In some instances, the 16-member committee 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. It accredits California law schools, registers unaccredited and correspondence law schools and studies proposed changes related to the admission to practice law in California.

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 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 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, health, 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 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 14 attorneys and two 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 belong to the section. 

The sections seeking new executive committee members include: Antitrust and Unfair Competition Section; Business Law Section; Criminal Law Section; Environmental Law Section; Estate Planning, Trust and Probate 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 Section; Solo and Small Firm Section; Taxation Section; and Workers' Compensation Law Section.

The CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE explores ways to improve 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 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 evaluates CSF applications and determines payment of funds. It also makes recommendations for changes in rules and the claims process. For 2002, the commission has three public member vacancies.

The COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL NOMINEES EVALUATION evaluates judicial candidates for the governor.  The commission cannot nominate or appoint judges. It does, however, investigate candidates, send out evaluations, contact respondents who provide a "not qualified" rating and share its findings with the governor. The application deadline is Jan. 22. Those appointed to the commission must attend a three-day orientation meeting in May; their 2002-2003 terms begin on June 1.

The LEGAL SERVICES TRUST FUND COMMISSION administers the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts program and the Equal Access Fund. The commission seeks applicants who are committed to the delivery of legal services to the poor and are sensitive to the needs of low-income communities.

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 11-member board also provides policies and guidelines for the certification of specialists, develops tests and legal education programs and advises the board of governors.

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 and accredit programs and providers of continuing legal education. There is an 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.

For further information on available positions, visit the State Bar's web site at Or contact the bar's appointments office at 415/538-2299, or the committee's staff liaison by calling the bar's main number 415/538-2000.