Better late than never. But there are possible signs that at least 2 mandatory state bars, are belatedly adopting a gentler if not kinder customer service mission. So-called mandatory, integrated or unified bar associations require membership for lawyers to practice law in their jurisdiction.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence but the timing of this development in Nevada and Arizona comes just months after the California Governor next door, slapped down his state’s bar organization for its continued lax disregard of its members and their monies. See That time of year again. . .rendering to Caesar his annual bar dues.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the second California Governor to take the Cal Bar’s leadership to task on similar grounds. Like Pete Wilson before him, Governor Schwarzenegger sent the bar’s bureaucrats reeling when he vetoed the bar’s fee appropriation request.
Even if Nevada and Arizona’s supposed new direction is just a matter of timing with their Golden State neighbor, it’s a noteworthy development. Unlike California, the bars in Nevada and Arizona are not dependent on their respective legislatures or governors for oversight. But imagine, to start treating their respective lawyers as “customers”! Were I not such a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, I might be tempted believe the utterance, “What a refreshing development.”
Increasing member satisfaction.
In the current issue of the Nevada bar’s public relations mouthpiece, Nevada Lawyer magazine, a report of the bar’s 2009-10 goals begins this way: Last August, the State Bar of Nevada Board of Governors met in Fallon, Nevada for a two-day strategic planning session, designed to help bar leadership identify key short- and long-term goals for our organization, as well as establish concrete methods to reach those goals, which include: • Increasing member satisfaction and engagement by understanding, differentiating and responding to member needs; [emphasis added]. See Your Board of Governors.
A privilege not a right.
Notwithstanding the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, something “granted,” can also be taken away. Unlike, for example, an accused’s 6th Amendment guaranteed right to counsel, lawyers are not so bestowed with a fundamental right to practice their profession. Like driving or wearing spandex, the practice of law is a privilege not a right. And as such, it can be taken away.
Of mandatory bars.
The ABA did a study in 1997 on mandatory bars and their origins. This was reported in its Bar Leader magazine. The first mandatory bar was in 1921 in North Dakota. The original thrust was lawyer regulation. But rather quickly the other more obvious and important reason reared its head, to boost the enrollment of members. If you want people to join an organization, there’s a lot to be said for making membership compulsory!
Or in other words, unlike Field of Dreams, if you build it but they don’t come, make ’em.
Additional details concerning this topic can be found in an interesting 2005 report from Wisconsin, WLJ – Bar experts discuss merits of mandatory, voluntary bars. Quoting from the article: “In 2001, Florida lawmakers considered legislation to alter the state constitution to split regulation of lawyers between the legislative and judicial branches of government, eliminating the bar association’s authority as a unified bar. The measure died in committee, however.
“Then in in 2003, in New Hampshire, a retired lawyer/legislator led the charge to pass a law that would require the bar to conduct a referendum of its membership on the issue of its compulsory nature and be bound by that vote. The next year, the high court there, which had unified its bar in 1968, declared that law unconstitutional as it “encroaches upon inherent judicial authority.” The referendum had already taken place, and the state’s lawyers had voted to keep the bar mandatory.”
Time will tell.
Neither Nevada or Arizona currently have express language in their mission statements postulating any explicit customer service mission of serving members. Time will only tell what develops in Nevada with respect to that bar’s new goals, especially “Increasing member satisfaction and engagement by understanding, differentiating and responding to member needs.”
As for Arizona, that bar is supposedly also moving in the same direction. However, Arizona’s first moves toward that vision of a lawyer-friendlier, customer service oriented bar might give some members pause.
The Arizona Bar is proceeding with a new plan to re-engineer its disciplinary process. I’ll be blogging about this in the future. But in the meantime, for members of the Arizona Bar, imagine their ‘delight’ knowing that their bar’s first foray into a new customer-friendlier mission involves improving how they’re disciplined. See REPORT OF THE ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE TASKFORCE NOVEMBER 2009.
Photo Credits: Arnold Schwarzenegger, by Lon R. Fong at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.