California Bar Journal
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An update on the bar's progress
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President, State Bar of California
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Ray MarshallAs my year as president winds down, I thought it appropriate to apprise members of the status of various developments taking place as we rebuild the State Bar.

This continues to be an exceptionally busy year for the bar. However, I am pleased that we are moving along and accomplishing our long term goals of streamlining the bar's operations and its structure, as well as restoring confidence and credibility with our members, the courts, the legislature and the public.

Here is a list of some of our ongoing efforts:

Fee Bill - The State Bar's fee bill, SB 144, continues to make its way through the legislature. Under the guidance of its authors, Sen. Adam Schiff and Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg, along with the support of Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, the bill won approval from the Senate last month and is now scheduled to be heard by the state Assembly. The bill sets dues for active lawyers at $395 beginning in the year 2000. It also decreases MCLE hours from 36 to 25 every three years. Restrictions would be placed on our lobbying activities and the conference of delegates, and sections would not be funded with mandatory dues.

Discipline System - Thanks to action taken by the Supreme Court, the attorney discipline system is back on track and operating at 65 percent of its former staffing level. With a backlog of nearly 7,000 complaints that amassed during our employee layoff period last year, the discipline staff has instituted streamlining measures to move complaints through the system at a faster pace.

Restructuring - Last year at this time the State Bar was operating with a skeleton crew of 180 employees - a far cry from the 700 employees divided between our offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1997. Today, 350 employees are working to keep the bar functioning. However, some programs such as publication of our "Kids and the Law" parent resource booklets have been eliminated, and we are no longer in a position to offer consumer education pamphlets to the public or for lawyers to give to their clients. In some instances we have reduced or consolidated operations. The former offices of bar relations and legal services have merged to become the office of program development.

New headquarters - The bar's San Francisco office has been relocated to 180 Howard St. in the bustling south of Market Street district. The Franklin Street building was sold to the San Francisco Unified School District, and the new building will allow us to consolidate our three northern California offices and lease additional commercial space to area businesses.

Continuing Education - MCLE continues to be a controversial topic among attorneys. I have appointed a commission to study the issue of minimum legal continuing education. Among other things, I expect the commission will look at the value of MCLE to our members and the public, review continuing education programs in other professions and other states, and examine the cost and quality of the current classes here in California.

MDP - Another current topic in the legal community is that of multi-disciplinary practice. The American Bar Association recently issued a recommendation that lawyers be allowed to partner with professionals from other disciplines. This recommendation is a dramatic departure with existing U.S. law and will be examined in the upcoming months by the State Bar.

Redistricting - Just as the government periodically redistricts political jurisdictions every few years, I have appointed a task force to look into redistricting the state for our board of governors elections. Chaired by board member Paul Hokokian of Fresno, the task force will work to assure equal representation of all members throughout the state.

Volunteers - We have set up a task force on the role of volunteer groups to examine the State Bar's committee structure. Chaired by Clara Slifkin, a member of the board of governors from Los Angeles, the task force will be comprised of both board and staff members. Committee members will make recommendations regarding the most effective use of volunteer groups at the August board meeting in San Francisco.

Sections and Conference of Delegates - With a change in the positioning of the conference of delegates and practice sections within the bar, two new task forces have been set up to facilitate communications with both groups. Board member Andy Guilford of Costa Mesa will chair the conference of delegates task force, while member Jim Seff of San Francisco chairs the sections task force.

As always, I welcome your feedback and input regarding these and other issues affecting the legal community and membership of the State Bar.

In sum, it has been a busy year but we still have much to accomplish in the next three months. With continued leadership by the board of governors and our incredibly hard working staff, we can make it happen.