A salutary effect of the uproar over the exorbitant city management pay in Bell, California has been the resulting focus on what city managers are being paid by other municipalities. You’ll recall that former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo was drawing down almost $800,000 per year to run the tiny low-income Southern California city. See Finally! “Excessive pay” even lawyers and courts may find conscience-shocking and Spotlight on City Pay Widens – WSJ.com.
An inquisitive cuss.
But being an inquisitive cuss, this also made me wonder about the pay doled out to the executive directors of your friendly state bar associations, particularly the so-called unified or mandatory bars where, to approximate the turn of a phrase, you have to join to play.
Under the Arizona Bar’s audited financial statement, however, what’s disclosed is a “Management and General” expense line number of $2.8M. Total “Program Services” are shown as $4.9M. But at such rarefied air, you can’t sweat details let alone devils. But at least it’s more financially informative than the Michigan State Bar Annual Financial Report.
Of course most folks working for state bar organizations are hardly getting rich. But, as they say in the for-profit arena to justify big paydays, ‘to get top talent, you have to pay for it.’ And so those at the top aren’t likely working under the same compensation constraints as clerks, middle managers and support staff. For example, in the aforementioned 2009 New Mexico Budget Disclosure reflecting the 2008-09 fiscal year, the gross salary and benefits paid the Executive Offices was $521,550.
Yet the private sector has amply evidenced you don’t always get what you pay for. Indeed, studies have shown there’s not much of a causal connection between talent and pay. A CEO compensation study, for example, by Lucian Bebchuk at Harvard Law School examined CEO pay at more than 2,000 companies, Bebchuk concluded that the higher the CEO’s proportion of pay, the less the company was likely to earn in the future. See These CEOs Are Bleeding Your Investments.
Still, in fairness, it’d be good to know how much bar executives make, especially where mandatory bar lawyers are concerned. In Arizona, for instance, lawyers paid $2,672,842 in membership, section and other dues in 2009. For all we know we could be getting one heck of a bargain.
(1) The New Mexico Budget Disclosure references the criteria mandated by Popejoy, as follows “1. Commencing with budget year 1991, annually provide to all State Bar members of New Mexico (State Bar) in accordance with the Court’s findings and conclusions, an accounting of the major categories of State Bar’s expenditures allocating the actual anticipated costs of its activities funded by the mandatory dues; 2. Categorize those expenditures and activities as chargeable or non-chargeable; 3. Present verification by an independent auditor that the charges attributable and allocated to each activity or category of expenditures are accurate; 4. Permit State Bar members the option of paying only such portions of the dues which are to be used for the permissible purpose of regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services available to the people of the State of New Mexico, see Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 1989); 5. Provide a reasonable period of time for the State Bar members to challenge the assessment of chargeable dues or fees once having been provided with adequate information; and 6. Allow for an impartial decision-maker to address unaccepted objections, see Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 29 (1986).”