Besides red eyes, sneezing and post-nasal drip, spring also brings state bar board of governors elections throughout the country, including at the State Bar of Georgia, the Washington State Bar Association, the State Bar of Nevada and locally, at the State Bar of Arizona.
Indeed, the past 2 weeks, multiple blast emails from the AZ Bar have overwhelmed inbox besetted members with news of the 2011 Election Candidates and their widely disparate position statements, which range from the banal to the pugnacious.
Now, I’ve never spent much time trying to figure out why anyone would aspire for a job as an institutional overseer. And when it comes to state bars, they’re among the worst instances of bureaucratic infirmity. See, for example, “Inside the tent: state bars and management by rugby scrum.”
But state bar boards of governors aren’t alone in their ineffectuality. Governing boards at all levels have been asleep on the job for so long they give air-traffic controllers a good name. One scarcely has to go far to find instances of non-functioning boards who’ve failed to push-back, oversee or govern.
So why would anyone run for a seat on a state bar’s board of governors? Certainly, there’s the ‘me-deep’ lawyer segment who want to burnish a C.V. or a résumé while feeding a corpulent ego. There are also those who, nurturing a personal grievance, run to give ’em hell.
And then there’s the social-climbing, aggressive networking set who failed to heed Groucho Marx’s famous admonition, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”
Whether by inclination, inertia or indolence, their roles are to ignore constituents, choosing instead to reliably rubber stamp whatever management or the state’s highest court deems salutary to the body politic.
And having failed to accomplish anything during one term in office, like sports fans everywhere, the incumbents’ rallying cry is, “There’s always next year.”
But in fairness, at least in Arizona, not every candidate contesting for a governor’s seat is running for the wrong reasons. Every now and then, hiding like Whac-A-Mole moles, the good-intentioned do run for office to push a contrarian agenda.
They are unlike the cerebrally clueless who run on pabulum like “experience,” “a desire to serve,” “communication” or “demonstrated leadership.” Those candidates think boldness is defined by telling lawyers that CLE is “too expensive” or that they “will never vote for a dues increase.” Wait. I hear the sound of lawyers clapping with one hand.
No, the real renegades are the outsiders calling for structural change. Some advocate doing away with a mandatory bar or eliminating mandatory continuing legal education or for subsuming the bar’s head-slapping consumer protection agency role into a mission to also serve lawyers and promote positive messages about the legal profession. See “Why bar presidents are like beauty contestants“ and also “AZ Bar drafts up 5 year vision but misses the mark.”
Such candidates also ask for long-delayed thorough examinations of state bar financials. They lobby for process improvement and overhead reduction. Some may even ask, “Are deliverables aligned with what members need?”
So regardless of state jurisdiction, a political reawakening is overdue. Time to turn away stale-dated incumbents heavily invested in a shelf life-expired status quo.
And it’s also the moment to reject bar insiders. They believe a laundry-list of past bar involvement credentials them for service to their peers when in reality, it only authenticates their having been co-opted for more of the same.