California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - September 1998
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Need info about bar members? Look on the net
Western State law school wins provisional approval for ABA accreditation
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You Need to Know
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From the President - A privilege gone awry
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In defense of opinion
Thomas can think as he chooses
Time to drain the 'BOG'
Let's build a stronger forum
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Letters to the Editor
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - 10 reasons to ignore 2000 problem
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New Products & Services
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Law Practice - When mediating, let your imagination run loose
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MCLE Self-Study
The Internet and Global Implications
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics Byte - 'He said, she said' rule for sex
Attorney disbarred after investing client's assets
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Annual Meeting
Did you know these Monterey Peninsula facts?
Scenic, legal visions on the menu
Four vie to lead embattled State Bar
11 seek five seats on bar board
District 2: Three-way race in capital and environs
District 4: Unopposed in San Francisco, Albers is ready
District 7, Office 1: 3 seek southern seat...
District 7, Office 2: ...and also in Los Angeles...
District 3: Two-way race develops in South, East Bay region
District 7, Office 2: ...and also in Los Angeles...
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DISTRICT 7, Office 2: Los Angeles.

James D. Otto

The State Bar should get back to basics, streamline its operations and communicate better with the average member, says Los Angeles attorney JAMES D. OTTO.

"I think the State Bar needs to get back to the basics and hopefully we will eventually get a dues bill to allow the bar to do that," he says. "It needs some leadership and a change in focus, no matter what happens."

The managing partner of Cum-mins & White enjoys the en-dorsement of the Breakfast Club, a powerful Los Angeles attorney group which traditionally influences election to the board.

He said the bar needs to become more cost-effective and less bureaucratic, foster professionalism, try to bring job satisfaction back to the legal profession and ensure an independent judiciary.

The discipline system, Otto believes, should resolve meritless claims quickly and vigorously enforce serious complaints.

Otto said board members sometimes communicate only with bar activists and fail to consider the needs and opinions of the majority who do not interact with the bar. "The bar needs to go out and see what its members want out of the bar and to have better communication with those people," he said. "It should be doing things to try to address and fulfill the needs of the average lawyer."

Otto, 47, is a trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and chair of three committees, and he serves as a LACBA delegate to the Conference of Delegates.

He also is a member of the State Bar's business law section task force on complex litigation, the International Association of Defense Counsel, the American Bar Association, the Defense Research Institute, and the Los Angeles Superior Court Committee on Complex Litigation.

Otto and his wife have two sons, 8 and 10, and he coaches their baseball and basketball teams. In his spare time, he also enjoys swimming and wine-tasting.

A graduate of San Diego State, he received his law degree from Northwestern University law school and has been a California lawyer since 1974.

Robert K. Steinberg

Los Angeles attorney ROBERT K. STEINBERG says that in spite of the legislative impasse over the bar's future, he just can't see California without a State Bar.

Without intervention by the Supreme Court, which Steinberg believes should step into the dispute, he thinks the legislature will re-fund the stumbling organization during the next session, and he'd like to be on board to help with the restructuring.

The discipline system should be separated from the bar, Steinberg says, because lawyers cannot effectively regulate lawyers. "My personal belief is that administrative law judges or the attorney general should hear discipline matters," he said.

The 61-year-old civil and criminal litigator also wonders where the dues go. "All you get now is the California Bar Journal," he said. "Most members feel they would really like to be participants instead of the bar being a separate entity that looks at them."

This is Steinberg's third run for a board seat; he was unsuccessful in 1995 and 1996. But without the Breakfast Club's endorsement, he's not optimistic about his chances.

Publicly reproved by the bar in 1989 after pleading no contest to contempt of court for refusing to answer a question under oath, Steinberg has had a colorful career that included an unsuccessful run for mayor of Los Angeles in 1969.

He is a member of the bar's criminal and family law sections, serves as an arbitrator and mediator for the State Bar and the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and is an advisory member of the Federal Sentencing Commission.

Steinberg belongs to several other legal organizations and is involved with the Special Olympics, Rebuild L.A. and the Simon Weisenthal Holocaust Center.

A graduate of UCLA, he earned his law degree from Loyola Law School. His son, daughter and son-in-law are lawyers. "I wish we had one doctor in the family," he says.