Staff Writer

Board approves releasing member list for plebiscite

Making an exception to its current policy, the Board of Governors voted at its January meeting to allow the release of the bar's membership list at a reduced fee for the sole purpose of providing information about the upcoming plebiscite.

John McGuckin, chair of the board's Administration & Finance Committee, said that since the passage of SB 60, the bar has received requests for the membership list to distribute information regarding the plebiscite.

SB 60, authored by Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco), directs the bar to poll its members on the question of whether or nor the State Bar should be abolished. Results of the vote, which will be held in May, are to be presented to the state legislature by July 1.

Current board policy restricts the release of the membership list and providing plebiscite information did not fall into an approved release category. The exception will be in effect Feb. 1-June 30.

The list provided will include names, bar numbers, addresses and telephone and fax numbers of all active members of the State Bar.

SB 60 also directed an audit of the State Bar and McGuckin told the board that six auditors have begun work in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He said he anticipates their work will continue through the next few months, but no specific date has been set for the final report.

Practical training

The liveliest exchange among board members occurred over the issue of the role of law schools in providing practical legal training for students.

The board was asked to approve several resolutions dealing with recommendations from the Commission on the Future of the Legal Profession and the State Bar. Two of the resolutions encouraged law schools to provide more hands-on training opportunities for their students, a concept which was enthusiastically greeted by board members. However, the reality of its implementation met with skepticism.

Public member Wendy Borcherdt said she has met with several deans of law schools through the years and has been dismayed by their "total inflexibility" and "arrogance" for the academic side of law.

Borcherdt warned board members that the resolutions would not be embraced by law schools and that their expectations should be minimal. "I thought the president of the United States and God had authority," she said, "but they are certainly behind law school deans."

Discussing the dearth of client relations courses available to law students, board member Leon Goldin agreed that getting law schools to make any changes at all was futile. "The rest of the world has changed, the practice of law has changed; maybe it's time for law schools to make changes also," he said.

In the end, the board approved a resolution directing the State Bar to encourage and assist laws schools in providing "professionalism education" beyond current requirements.

The board also reaffirmed its opposition to a proposal to split the federal 9th Circuit Court district. Tom Stolpman, chair of the Courts & Legislation Committee, said proponents of the idea "would split a banana" out of the current district, isolating California and Hawaii, and placing all other western states from Alaska to Arizona into a separate unit.

Stolpman said members of his committee felt the proposal was a political move and not economically efficient.

Newspaper's progress

The California Bar Journal returned $240,117 to the State Bar's general fund at the close of 1995, according to Dean Kinley, editor and general manager.

In his report to the board's Communications & Bar Relations Committee, Kinley said that figure was up from $145,000 at the end of 1994, the Bar Journal's first year of operation, and in addition to the $181,000 subsidy returned in February 1995.

"It was a very good year," said Kinley, adding that the paper has become cost-effective for the bar as more sections and departments use it to disseminate information.

Judy Johnson, the bar's chief trial counsel, congratulated Kinley on the Bar Journal's success, but told the committee she has heard many criticisms of the newspaper.

She said the Bar Journal is perceived as "anti-lawyer" and "the headlines and captions attack the legal profession."

Committee member Stolpman concurred and Leon Goldin suggested that more scholarly articles be published. "It might be a great help to raising the prestige of the profession," he said.

The 2-year-old Bar Journal has won five awards and by the end of 1995 had received more than 28,000 MCLE tests.

Volunteers sought

The State Bar is seeking a volunteer attorney to serve a three-year term on the newly created Discipline Audit Panel. The DAP was formed to audit random and targeted discipline cases and will meet about 10 times a year in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Membership in the State Bar is required and accounting and/or management experience is desired. Contact Lynne Geminder, DAP director, State Bar of California, 1149 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, CA 10017; 213/765-1161.