This week you received a blast email from the State Bar of
(SBA) President. And as one
colleague replied: "The Bar’s
approach to the current dispute is not simply about improving the practice of
law or helping the public, although Bar leaders may sincerely hold that
opinion. It is advocating an institutional self-serving position in what has
become a political and ideological dispute. Let’s take the high road and
give the pro-voluntary folks a fair shot to make their case." Arizona
Unfortunately, the SBA has so far been unwilling to let the other side be heard on a fair and equal footing. With all its advantages, it keeps presenting a one-sided misleading message. Here at least is one rebuttal.
A non-authorized independent advisory periodically informing members about proposed State Bar of Arizona plans, programs and rule amendments that impact them and their practices.
November 5, 2015 Report
Rebutting the Message from the State Bar of
Fellow Members of the Bar:
"Your Bar and, more broadly, your professional independence are under attack by factions that would allow the Legislature to regulate the practice of law in
Response: The SBA President is correct. This issue concerns "your professional independence." Currently, you don't have any. No other
House Bill 2629 introduced last session had no provision "that would allow the Legislature to regulate the practice of law in
As for lower costs to practice: lawyer regulation fees paid to the respective state supreme courts average $210 in the 18 voluntary bar jurisdictions that regulate lawyers without conditioning the practice of law on bar association membership.
In sum, the "false or misleading claims" are being made by self-interested stakeholders. And by controlling the means and access to communicate with all members, they're ensuring you only hear their side of this debate. Ask yourself: For what reason?
Not to mention that those instruments of communication have been bought and paid for by all members.
"In terms of efficiency, the Bar is as lean and efficient as ever. Not only has the Bar cut its budget and staff size in recent years, but did you know that, as of 2011, the vast majority of consumer complaints to the Bar are handled by a simple telephone call? This allows staff to spend greater time on more serious charges. You will not find a more efficient self-regulatory agency than the State Bar of
Response: Just two years ago, the current SBA President joined 10 other governors to vote against a 13% dues increase, then deemed unjustified given the Bar's cost inefficiencies; unreliable fiscal discipline; and a projected $4.1M surplus. The increase was rammed through just the same, along with a 33% increase in membership fees; MCLE late compliance fees; and MCLE late filing fees. In-house counsel fees went up by $55 and pro hac vice fees also went up. And though the state bar says it cut expenses last year by $300,000, or 2% of a $15M budget, when the dues increase is fully implemented, incremental bar revenues will top $1.09M.
As for lawyer discipline: when it comes to borrowing from other states, the SBA followed Colorado when it revamped its disciplinary system in 2010 on Colorado's purported "best in class" lawyer disciplinary regime. Arizona, however, did not completely adopt the
"As far as member benefits, I've learned that our Bar provides many free or subsidized, low-cost benefits that I'd never noticed. The following is just a partial list. How many are you aware of?"
Response: The long list of SBA programs and services is very much like the long list of programs and services offered by state bar associations in the 18 voluntary bar jurisdictions. The SBA likes to mislead its members by conflating the existence of a mandatory bar with the availability of their programs and services.
If lawyers in the 18 voluntary jurisdictions want to take advantage of their voluntary bar association's programs and services, they do so by choice, not compulsion. Consequently, the voluntary bar associations in those states take a free-market approach. They incentivize membership by creating a value proposition of programs and services lawyers want and are therefore willing to pay for.
"And then there is our Bar's service to the public, which enhances the practice of law and the image of lawyers in
Response: The reality isn't speculative. It is evident in the many years history of 18 voluntary bar states. Some of these voluntary state bar associations are among the oldest state bars in the nation. They enjoy robust memberships. They offer a diverse panoply of programs and services members want and are happy to pay for. They, too, offer programs that enhance the practice of law and the image of lawyers. They also promote access to justice.
For example, see the Tennessee Bar's Access to Justice page: http://www.tba.org/access-to-justice
And the New York State Bar's "Law, Youth and Citizenship Program" at: http://www.nysba.org/classroom/
And the full-fledged pro bono legal services initiatives started in 1966 by the Ohio State Bar at: http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/oslsa/about
And the Iowa Bar's young lawyer mentoring program: http://www.iowabar.org/?page=ISBAMentorProgram
Or see the Maryland Bar's fee dispute resolution services: http://www.msba.org/committees/fee-disputes/
And see the Minnesota Bar's government relations initiatives, free of Keller restrictions, which provides "the collective, persuasive voice of the legal profession at the Capitol." http://www.mnbar.org/public/government-relations#.VjqZGSsYyzl
"Our Bar's mission is to improve the profession and serve the public. While there is always room for improvement, changes being discussed at the Legislature will create chaos with no discernible benefit."
Response: The Bar wants to serve as both regulator and trade association. This is an inherent conflict of interest. It cannot serve both the public and lawyers. The "discernible benefit" we need is improved public protection by eliminating the trade association function from an organization that regulates its own industry. The "discernible benefit" we need is enhanced professional independence for lawyers. The "discernible benefit" we need is protected lawyer First Amendment rights. The "discernible benefit" we need is a voluntary professional association free of conflicts of interest. The "discernible benefit" we need is a SBA with the free-market opportunity to sell membership on the merits not by coercion. The "discernible benefit" we need is the same option lawyers have in 18 voluntary bar jurisdictions, which is the option to pay only the costs of lawyer regulation that protects the public.
"All I ask of you is that you become informed on this important matter, look carefully at the people on both sides and consider their biases and motives, and let your state representatives and senator know how you feel."