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From the President

A closing statement

By David Pasternak
President, the State Bar of California

David PasternakThis has been a year of challenges and change for the State Bar.

Throughout the year, the bar has dealt with internal and external efforts to change its structure and operations. Its statutory Task Force on Governance in the Public Interest thoroughly vetted potential structural and operational changes in an effort to enable the State Bar to better perform its mission of public protection. After many months of work, that task force released a comprehensive report in early August recommending various changes, but rejecting deunification of the State Bar at the current time. As you may know, a vocal group (which included three of the Board's Trustees) has urged the Bar to deunify now into separate regulatory and trade association organizations.

The year began with a new management team at the bar: Executive Director Elizabeth Parker, Chief Operations Officer Leah Wilson and General Counsel Vanessa Holton. They brought fresh insight and incredible experience and wisdom to the bar, and through their efforts, new financial controls and procedures have been instituted, staff is being energized into a cohesive organization after many years of siloed operations, and the bar is bringing a new level of attention and commitment to its mission of public protection. It has been a special pleasure working with these three dedicated individuals and seeing the changes that are happening at the State Bar.

The year also saw the bar issue a series of four statutorily mandated reports on time: a Spending Plan, a Workforce Planning Report, a Report on the Development of an Appropriate Backlog Goal with an assessment of the staffing needed to achieve it and a Phase I Classification and Compensation Study. At about the same time as the issuance of these comprehensive set of State Bar-generated reports, the bar received another report from the California State Auditor with further recommendations. The State Bar Board of Trustees has embraced the recommendations contained in these reports, and staff is working feverishly to implement their recommendations by year end, as required by last year's fee bill.

Speaking of fee bills, as I write this column in late August, the fate of the State Bar fee bill remains uncertain. To address the possible absence of a fee bill, staff is now developing a petition to ask the Supreme Court to authorize collection of the licensing fees for next year. Although many individuals worked tirelessly on a fee bill this year, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye deserves special mention for her efforts on behalf of the judicial branch and the State Bar, which is proud to be a part of the judicial branch.

This year also saw progress in two areas that are important to public protection: funding for legal aid and refinement of attorney ethical rules. Gov. Jerry Brown approved an additional $5 million for the Equal Access Fund, a State Bar-administered pool of money that finances legal services for low-income people. I want to thank Justice Lee Edmon for shepherding the process of overhauling the California Rules of Professional Conduct, which were last fully revised in 1987. Public comment on 68 proposed amended and new rules continues through Sept. 27.

Many trustees also deserve special mention for their hard work and dedication this year. As always, the trustees were frequently called upon to staff special committees and projects, and surprisingly never declined an opportunity to volunteer for additional work. Special mention must go to Miriam Krinsky, who chaired the Regulation and Discipline Committee; Hernan Vera, who always reminded us about the importance of supporting access to justice; Terry Flanigan, who chaired the Admissions and Education Committee; and Gwen Moore, who chaired the Nominations and Appointments Committee. As for next year, I know that the bar is in terrific hands with Jim Fox as my successor, Danette Meyers as vice president and Jason Lee as treasurer. For all three of them, public protection has long been their full-time job.

The State Bar has some 550 employees. During my time on the board and as president, I have gotten to know many of them, and I thank Kelli Evans, Francisco Gomez, Teri Greenman, Rebecca Farmer, Laura Ernde, Destie Overpeck, Carol Madeja, Pam Wilson and all of the State Bar's other employees for making that special effort to make sure “the trains run on time”— and the president never misses the train.

Finally, I thank all of you for the opportunity to serve our profession and the residents of the state of California as State Bar President this year. Throughout the year, I have received and appreciated kind words of support from many friends and new acquaintances, and I want everyone to know that they were very much appreciated.