Archive for the ‘Your friendly state bar.’ Category

Christmas nears. Visions of sugar plums and tamales dance in some heads, including mine. So imagine my dismay on news that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had interdicted 450 carefully wrapped tamales at the Los Angeles International Airport on November 2nd. ¡Ay, caramba!

Deemed “illegal” contraband, the corn husked pork and corn meal comestibles were seized from a Mexican traveler’s luggage. Once destined for holiday feasting, the tamales were instead impounded, the traveler fined, and the tamale treats consigned for ceremonial destruction under CBP supervision. Sometimes you can’t have your tamale and eat it, too.

tamales meal #6 | by Tricia Wang 王圣捷

Tamales and mandatory bars.

This tamale-for-cake variation of the age-old idiom brings me to the other reason for this post. Whether tamales, cakes or even mandatory state bar associations, you can’t always have your cake and eat it, too. In other words, you can’t or shouldn’t try to have two incompatible things like mandatory bar associations who claim to be both public protection regulators and trade associations for lawyer interests. By doing so, they fail to heed the ancient proverb, “No man can serve two masters.”

By mere happenstance, just the other day I posted here about past lawyer dissension in Washington State. In 2012 by referendum, Bar members overcame opposition from their Bar to roll back dues by 25%.

It appears that Washington lawyer brethren and sistern are again restless with their state bar. It’s the long-running kerfuffle between Washington Bar leadership and its Practice of Law Board (POLB). The dispute is over access-to-justice and regulating the unauthorized practice of law (UPL), which are supposed to be the core missions of the POLB.

The genesis of this current brouhaha may be the September 1, 2012 state supreme court rule change that authorized non-attorneys designated as Limited License Legal Technicians who met defined educational requirements to advise clients on family law matters. The Bar’s Board of Governors consistently opposed the rule change as did many members. Well, the squabbling finally boiled over last month and triggered the mass resignations of nearly the entire POLB membership.

To air their grievances, the former POLB members released an 11-page letter written to the Washington Supreme Court where they decried the bar association’s “long record of opposing efforts that threaten to undermine its monopoly on the delivery of legal services.” They also accused Washington Bar Executive Director Paula Littlewood of pursuing “a campaign to eliminate the Practice of Law Board.”

Recognizing the inherent conflict of interest between a trade association beholden to member interests and a mandatory bar that pays lip service to public protection, the former POLB members also wrote “Independence from the Washington State Bar Association was necessary to ensure that the Board’s mission could be advanced free from undue influence by the state’s largest trade association of lawyers.”  See “Board members quit, blast Washington State Bar in fight over UPL, legal technicians.”

As for myself as we approach yuletide, it’s time to keep calm and eat tamales.

____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ___________________________________________________________________PPhoto Credits: Contraband tamales at LAX, US Custom and Border Protection photo;”tamales meal #6,” by HI TRICIA! 王 圣 捷 at Flickr via Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license; Tamales mexicanos 25-dec-2004 Pixeltoo 22:32, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC) at Wikipedia, public domain; tamale meal at morguefile.com.

Read Full Post »

bartender | by ken ratcliff

Read Full Post »

Portrait of the Artist Looking Unimpressed (day 27) | by Drab Makyo

Scientists at the University of London concluded last year “that the key to happiness is having low expectations.”

But did it really take scientists to reach that conclusion? Among others, the late novelist Olivia Goldsmith previously cornered the sentiment when she wrote, “The secret to true happiness is a combination of low expectations and insensitivity.”

Nonetheless, such aphorisms are helpful particularly for State Bar of Arizona members managing their low expectation happiness with their mandatory membership Bar.

Indeed, when mentoring law students and especially new lawyers, my oft-used lawyer happiness advice remains, “Remember, the State Bar is not your friend.” How else to interpret the Bar’s chest-pounding proclamations that its primary mission is to protect the public from its members?

Low-value smiley-face offers.

But thanks to successive blast emails the past weeks announcing new member ‘benefits,’ Arizona lawyers continue confounded. When it’s not acting like the guardian of the public weal, the Bar plays at being a professional association pretending to represent and advance the interests of Arizona lawyers.

Just the same, the Bar’s latest emails announce commercial discounts that barely trip the excitement meter with conventional discounts off products or services.

pfft! | by mat_walkerAlthough addressed from the Bar’s well-paid CEO, they’re undoubtedly creatures of low-level administrative staff and pitch stuff like insurance; share filing software; and most recently, virtual receptionist services. Each email was trapped by my spam filter and relegated to the junk folder. But that’s not to say the low-value affinity marketing discounts weren’t bereft of low expectations.

Little or no value to members.

Its own member surveys continually affirm most Bar members find these commercial offers wanting. In fact, the latest Arizona Bar member survey results announced last November are consistent. As many as 75% of respondents regard the Bar’s member discounts as having little or no value.

Car rental and office supply discounts or reduced prices on overpriced hotels? Most impressive — said no one, ever.

And even when the discounts involve law-related products and services, they aren’t singularly exclusive to a compelled membership association. Virtually all voluntary, optional-membership state bar associations offer similar commercial discount ‘benefits.’ See, for instance, the long list of “Member Benefits” provided by the voluntary membership Iowa State Bar Association.

Dog played with his food. | by BuzzFarmers

“I can’t let go of the excitement.”


Sadly, cutting bar dues or offering free continuing legal education didn’t pass the membership benefit threshold. That’s totally understandable — not when the Arizona Bar can instead tilt our excitement meters with 5% discounts on long-term care insurance.


Truly the negotiations to wrest the tremendous discounts from the grip of marketers must have been mano a mano.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/ChicagoCourtroomSpitoon_retouched.jpgNot since its lame “finish the ballot” contest (without as far as I know, bothering to announce a winner) has the Arizona Bar stirred so many spittoons of salivated anticipation.


Photo Credits: “Portrait of the Artist Looking Unimpressed” by Madison Scott-Clary at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution;”Dog played with his dog food,” by BuzzFarmers at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “Unimpressed” by Kirk Strauser at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “pfft!” by mat Walker at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Chicago courtroom scene with spittoon at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Read Full Post »

Samoan man in Hawaii | by foot fingers

Voluntary is ‘mo bettah.’


 Voluntary bar jurisdictions:

  1. Have a longer history than mandatory bar jurisdictions. The so-called integration movement didn’t start until 1913. That’s when the now defunct American Judicature Society‘s Herbert Harley motivated by the goals of overcoming low voluntary membership rolls; increasing revenues; reducing fragmentation; and enhancing professionalism; adopted bar unification as part of the Society’s law reform movement. According to research by Professor Theodore Schneyer, “voluntary state bar memberships in the 1920s included only 10% to 30% of the bar.” Parenthetically, predating the creation of the American Bar Association by 4 years and besting the New York State Bar Association by 2 years, the Iowa State Bar Association was formed in 1874 and claims to be “the oldest voluntary state bar association in the United States.” 18 jurisdictions in the U.S. are still voluntary. And to this day, voluntary bar membership in Iowa approaches 90%;
  2. Scandalized | by CarbonNYC [in SF!]Tend to have lower overall costs to practice; See Fact Check;

  3. Accomplish the public-protection goals of regulating discipline, managing bar admission, ensuring ethical standards, and registering lawyers, without integrating an existing bar association because these objectives are subject to statute or court rule and are not the responsibility of an integrated bar. For example, virtually every state in the country has in place court rules or statutes prescribing caretaker regulations when a lawyer disappears, dies, or is declared incompetent. And the same holds true for client protection funds, which likewise exist in both voluntary and mandatory bar jurisdictions. (The State Bar of Arizona makes much of its own lawyer caretaker conservatorship program although it budgets a mere 0.206% of a $14.5M budget to further buttress the purported necessity of a mandatory bar by virtue of having the program. But as of June 1, 2015 like almost every state in the country, Arizona has no rule requiring an attorney to designate a successor/surrogate/receiver in case of death or disability. A Rules Petition, however, was submitted in January but the matter was continued);

  4. Avoid the conflicts of interest between lawyers and the public. Voluntary state bar associations are autonomous private professional associations that unlike compulsory bar associations serve the interests of their voluntary members. They do not function like public agencies or regulatory bodies that subordinate member interests in favor of what mandatory bar leaders define as ‘the public good.’ And also unlike mandatory bar associations, the financial self-interest of voluntary associations is tied to a value proposition. Lawyers will refuse to maintain consensual membership in an association where the financial cost exceeds the value received;

  5. Without the Keller restrictions imposed on mandatory membership bar associations, voluntary state bar associations amplify the legal profession’s legislative voice in the lawmaking advocacy process. See, for example, Minnesota State Bar Government Relations and the Illinois State Bar Legislative Affairs Department;

  6. Jen, kissing the First Amendment goodbye? | by jasoneppinkProtect lawyer First Amendment rights without infringing on free speech and an individual’s freedom not to associate, which in the case of mandatory bar jurisdictions, results in the individual being compelled as a condition of earning a living in their profession, to contribute to an association which uses those fees to conduct activities to which that individual objects;

  7. Avoid recurring litigation over the use of compulsory dues for ideological activities; Most recently, see Fleck v. McDonald;

  8. Offer programs and services that favorably compare and even exceed those offered by mandatory state bar associations, including law office management practice services; insurance programs; reduced-cost and free CLE; Find-a-Lawyer member directories; Access to Justice initiatives; job hunting resources; Sections and Committees; lawyer referral services; Publications; Young Lawyer Divisions; Legal Research like Fastcase and Casemaker; Mentoring programs; leadership development programs; Annual Meetings; high school mock trial programs; community pro bono; ethics opinions and practice resources and even online practice tools. (Instead of making a good faith effort to ascertain the scope, content and quality of programs, services, and activities conducted by voluntary bars, mandatory bar proponents prefer to hide behind patent nonsense to justify compelled association);

  9. Are no different from mandatory bar associations in offering lawyer assistance resources to assist lawyers with problems with alcoholism, drug abuse and mental or emotional disorders. See, for instance, the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyer and Judges Assistance Program;

  10. Do not increase costs to the public since lawyers pay 100% of the costs of lawyer regulation in every U.S. state and territory. It is completely fallacious for mandatory bar proponents to spuriously claim that a mandatory bar has to be preserved because their programs and services could not be duplicated by a voluntary bar or that the elimination of a mandatory bar would place burdens on taxpayers. 


Photo Credits: Samoan man in Hawaii, by Steve Bozak at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Jen, kissing the first amendment goodbye, by Jason Eppink at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Scandalized by David Goehring Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

Read Full Post »

(1) there’s no empirical support that mandatory continuing legal education enhances lawyer competency or professionalism and;

(2) the state bar has a financial interest in CLE marketing.

Read Full Post »

Pants on Fire | by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com“States that have voluntary bar associations by and large do not have lower overall bar dues,” says a footnote in the Draft Report posted by the Arizona Supreme Court’s State Bar of Arizona Mission and Governance Task Force. “They charge both a mandatory regulatory assessment and separate voluntary bar dues, which together often exceed the annual membership fee in the State Bar of Arizona.”

Sounds well and good — but too bad for the Kool-Aid guzzlers, it doesn’t pass a fact check.

Caricatures 14You can read the Draft Report here and find the above-mentioned quote at the bottom of page 13.

Fact-checking the Bar.

After the better part of a year, you’d think the Task Force would have spent a little more time fact-checking and getting its story straight. Or maybe like George Costanza, it just believes it — so it must be true.

Certainly, there’s a lot in the Task Force Report upon which to take exception, not the least being the conflated mythology again fluttered out on frayed wings that only a mandatory bar can “ensure professionalism and competence” and that only a mandatory bar can protect the public from its lawyers.

Night Shift 31This, of course, ignores the robust lawyer regulation and disciplinary regimes in 18 voluntary state bar jurisdictions. It also wrongs and misconstrues the panoply of membership benefits provided by voluntary bar associations, to name a few, like Ohio’s, Iowa’s, Colorado’s, New York’s, and Illinois.’

Indeed, many if not all the voluntary bar association programs and benefits rival and even exceed the programs, activities and services offered by the compulsory State Bar of Arizona.

And yet, the Arizona Bar likes to pretend that only mandatory bars make available client protection funds; offer law office management and lawyer assistance programs; provide continuing legal education courses; present annual bar conventions; publish monthly bar magazines or support ethics hotlines. Begging the question, the Draft Report shamelessly proclaims,These invaluable services will cease to exist with the demise of the integrated bar because no voluntary bar in Arizona offers them.”

Instead, see what happens in jurisdictions with voluntary bar associations, for example, check out: Ohio and Iowa and New York and Colorado and Illinois. Lawyers in those jurisdictions choosing to join their state’s voluntary bar associations don’t take a back seat to anything offered by the mandatory State Bar of Arizona.

Twain's Men's Room | by bump


morguefile.com photo

It takes two hands to put out this whopper.

As for the whopper about how both a mandatory regulatory assessment and separate voluntary bar dues, which together often exceed the annual membership fee in the State Bar of Arizona,” the facts are set out in the chart below.

The data concerning optional voluntary state bar association membership dues was obtained from readily available public online information from voluntary state bar jurisdictions. The attorney registration fee information comes from state court websites although since the Arkansas Supreme Court fee registration information was not publicly accessible, it was confirmed by a licensed Arkansas lawyer.




click to enlarge

The fees in the chart are the full fee maximums for lawyers practicing past the entry-level graduated fee periods. Newbie lawyer fees are typically discounted.

No MCLE in Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts.

And then take note of something else not mentioned in the chart. While the breathtaking $945.00 combined regulatory assessment and separate voluntary bar dues appear to make Connecticut a high cost to practice jurisdiction, the overall cost to practice is still lower than in Arizona. Why? Because unlike Arizona, Connecticut does not have mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE). This saves Connecticut lawyers anywhere from $600 to $1000 per year versus what Arizona lawyers pay to satisfy the annual 15 hour MCLE requirement.

The same is true of Massachusetts with its sizeable $761.00 combined regulatory assessment and separate voluntary bar dues. Massachusetts does not have a MCLE requirement. Nor does Maryland, which at $280.00 for both regulatory assessment and voluntary bar dues must be the lowest cost to practice jurisdiction in the United States.

Comparing overall costs to practice.

Work World 14The bottom line is two-fold: One, in voluntary bar states, lawyers can elect to pay only their court-mandated regulatory registration fees and forego joining a voluntary state bar association. This automatically reduces their overall cost to practice as compared to Arizona.

Two, the exact opposite is true of the Task Force’s claim that Arizona’s bar dues are often exceeded by the combined regulatory assessments and voluntary bar dues in voluntary bar jurisdictions. Lawyers in states that have voluntary bar associations pay lower overall bar dues, in some instances much less than the current and still escalating annual membership fee in the State Bar of Arizona, which hits $520 per year on January 1, 2018.


Photo Credits: “Pants of Fire,” by Mike Licht at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution ; Twain’s Men’s Room, by Robert Occhialini at Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

Read Full Post »

So Friday afternoon the Arizona Supreme Court’s Task Force on State Bar of Arizona Mission and Governance posted its draft report to the sound of one-handed clapping. Anyone inclined to read the report can visit the court’s webpage.

But since the proverbial die is cast, it makes no difference that after-the-fact comments are being solicited from the hoi polloi.  Any remarks from the naked unwashed will be just in time to be too late and as inessential as a take-a-penny, leave-a-penny tray on a 7-11 counter.

The state high court will do as it pleases and it will please to keep the status quo: a compulsory state bar — just as the Task Force recommends. The rest of the recommendations are much ado about not much, such as recommending a smaller cast of characters now called “trustees” instead of “governors” to oversee policy-making and operations. As previously reported here and here, the Task Force, its report and recommendations will remain largely cosmetic and so inconsequential as to have a thimbleful’s worth of relevance to members.

Integrated not compulsory.

morguefile.com photo

The Task Force prefers dressing up the compulsory nature of the official state organization to which all attorneys must belong and where pay-to-play is the required precondition to earn a living as lawyers. Rather than “mandatory” or “obligatory” or “compulsory,” like state bar elites elsewhere, they’re partial to innocuous modifiers such as “integrated.” Other favorites include, “incorporated” or “organized” or “unified” to describe their state organizations — anything to disguise the fact that unlike physicians, architects, CPAs, dentists, engineers and tattoo artists, only lawyers are singled out for compelled dues-playing professional state association membership for ‘the privilege’ of earning a living in their chosen profession.


The work of the Task Force has been mostly below-the-radar. This is typical of a state bar that treats transparency like Arizonans treat the amount of window tinting used to shield themselves from the desert sun. Unsurprisingly, one year after its creation, the odds are good most Arizona lawyers know little if anything about the Task Force. And now, they’re asked to comment about something they know little to nothing about.

morguefile.com photo

The final draft report was kicked off with a video, which I watched while wrapping up my Friday afternoon work. I’ve yet to read the 116-page report. All the same, surprises? Expect none — unless the Task Force’s risible consultation with the California State Bar counts as one.

For now, here are a couple of needed clarifications after watching the announcement video:

1) Contrary to the Task Force’s assertions, voluntary state bar jurisdictions like New York, Indiana, Illinois and Colorado amply demonstrate that lawyer regulation and discipline are not dependent on the existence of a compulsory bar. In those voluntary bar states, the state supreme courts handle those functions.

morguefile.com photo

The State Bar of Arizona, however, would like nothing better than to continue perpetuating an absurd mythology that lawyers can’t be regulated or disciplined or the public protected without a compulsory membership bar association. New York, Indiana, Illinois and Colorado and 14 other states beg to differ. Those voluntary bar jurisdictions have robust regulatory and public protection programs in place without tramping on First Amendment associational freedoms.

Apples and oranges.

Ev Williams | by Christopher.Michel

2) Captain Obvious needs to point out that voluntary bar states are by plain meaning, “voluntary.” Unlike Arizona, lawyers can choose to pay their respective supreme courts only for lawyer regulation and discipline — and forgo joining a voluntary state bar. So what’s the point of comparisons between the cost to practice in Arizona with that of voluntary bar states where membership is optional? Why make comparisons between jurisdictions that seem to share a common denominator such as payment of lawyer registration fees while ignoring the fact that the jurisdictions are distinct from one another.

Besides, in virtually all instances, lawyers practicing in voluntary bar states have lower costs to practice than in Arizona — a fact the Task Force prefers Arizona lawyers not know. Instead, the Task Force speciously plays the false analogy game.

morguefile.com photo

A more accurate comparison is to only compare the court-mandated lawyer registration fees for regulation, discipline and client protection among the jurisdictions. After all, lawyer regulation and discipline are the core public protection functions and ought not to be freighted with the bureaucratic surplusage tacked on by mandatory bar associations for non-mandatory programs and activities. Otherwise, it’s all so much nonsensical claptrap, although the apples and oranges comparisons are conveniently self-serving.

Apples and apples.

morguefile.com photo

Take the voluntary bar state of Indiana, where the supreme court charges $180 per year for regulation and discipline. Membership in the voluntary Indiana bar association is $280 (6+ years of practice). Total cost to practice in Indiana is $460 if an Indiana lawyer also saw fit to join the voluntary bar. Otherwise, the cost to practice in Indiana is a $180 registration fee payable to the Indiana Supreme Court. This is a lower cost to practice than Arizona, which is currently $475 but increasing to $520 by January 1, 2018.

morguefile.com photo

Or take Illinois where lawyers pay the court an annual registration of $382, which includes regulation and discipline but is also larded with mandatory payments to the Lawyers Trust Fund ($95) for pro bono legal aid; Lawyers Assistance Program ($7); Commission on Professionalism ($25) and Client Protection Program ($25). Voluntary membership dues in the Illinois State Bar Association run from “Free” in year one to a cap of $320 in year 20. Certainly, if you combine both the court registration fees and voluntary bar association membership dues, the total cost to practice in Illinois of $702– far more than what lawyers pay in Arizona.

But what the task force conveniently omits is that there’s more than meets the eye concerning membership in voluntary bar jurisdictions. Membership in the voluntary Illinois State Bar Association also entitles members to 15 hours of FREE CLE per year. If you factor what Arizona lawyers pay for CLE, which can run upwards of $600 per year (15 hours X $40 average), the total cost to practice in Illinois is far lower than Arizona.

Registration desk sign | by NHS Confederation

And in Connecticut, another voluntary bar state that on paper looks higher than Arizona with an attorney registration fee of $665, of that amount, $565 is a separate tax that goes to the State of Connecticut Department of Revenue Services — not to the court for lawyer regulation and discipline. Meantime, membership in the voluntary Connecticut State Bar Association runs zero in year one up to $280 for admittees prior to 7/10/10. The total, excluding the $565 state tax, is less than $400 assuming a Connecticut lawyer also opted to join the voluntary bar. Otherwise, they would just pay the hefty $665 annual fee.

In Colorado, lawyers pay an annual attorney registration fee of $325 to cover regulation and discipline. Membership in the Colorado Bar Association is voluntary. New lawyers pay $100 per year and so-called senior lawyers licensed 8+ years pay $230 annually. Assuming Colorado lawyers wanted to belong to the voluntary bar association, their total annual fees would total $555.

Payment | by GotCredit

Finally, in the voluntary bar jurisdiction of New York, the attorney registration fees of $375 payable to the court are biennial, i.e., due every two years. This amount includes $60 to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection; $50 to the Indigent Legal Services Fund; and $25 to the Legal Services Assistance Fund. However, New York lawyers wanting to belong to the voluntary state bar association pay $275 annually if they were admitted prior to 2006. This means that on an annualized basis, New York lawyers pay $462 if they chose to join their voluntary state bar association along with payment to the court for regulation and discipline. This is still less than what lawyers in Arizona pay.


Photos: Registration desk sign, by NHS Confederation at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution;Ev Williams by Christopher Michel at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution, Payment by GotCredit at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers