Alameda County
Bar Association

Should the California State Bar be Voluntary? 

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Voluntary vs Unified?

The next meeting of the Governance in the Public Interest Taskforce, there will be discussion on the organizational structure and functions of the California State Bar. Currently, we have a ‘unified’ bar with two stated roles: 1) protection of the public and 2) advancing the legal profession. All of us must be members of the State Bar in order to practice in California.

A debate has begun on whether state bar organizations should be ‘de-unified’, to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest between attorneys and the public, to simplify structures, and to make funding of the discipline system more transparent. Under this proposal, attorney discipline would move and become an agency of the Supreme Court. Some continue to question whether requiring membership complies with First Amendment principles of freedom of association. Others argue that mandatory bar dues are a “tax” that lawyers have little say on how is spent.

On the other hand, many argue that unified bar organizations best serve the public interest by providing programs which improve the quality of the legal profession, and by supporting the community’s efforts to achieve an accessible and responsive legal system. A large unified bar has the resources to implement long-term programs that smaller bars could only dream of implementing. California already has many successful local bar associations which meet the specialized needs of attorneys throughout the State, is there a need for a statewide voluntary bar?

Are you interested in more information on the pros and cons for a mandatory or ‘unified’ bar? Check out this article written by the ABA, Mandatory vs. Voluntary: Which State Bar Is Better?

Invitation to participate

You are invited to attend the coming hearings of the State Bar’s Governance in the Public Interest Task Force. They are planning two (2) hearings in April. The first is scheduled on April 4 from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (later if necessary) at the San Francisco offices, 180 Howard Street, 4th Floor, Board Room. The second will take place on April 25 at the Los Angeles offices, 845 S. Figueroa, 2nd Floor, Board Room from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (later if necessary).

The following link will take you to the Governance in the Public Interest Task Force web page, which contains past agendas and background materials. Check out the agenda from December 9, 2015 for a list of topics up for discussion.

Questions about the meeting? Please contact:

Francisco Gomez | Managing Director Planning and Administration | Acting Secretary, Office of the Executive Director.  Tel No. 415.538.2170 |