|Oregon State Bar Bulletin OCTOBER 2010|
From Our Archives
The following letter was published in October 1935, in the very first issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin. It heralded the creation of the Oregon State Bar as an “integrated” bar, succeeding the former Oregon State Bar Association, a voluntary organization that traced its roots to 1891.
Legislation to create the mandatory bar had been introduced in the 1933 legislature, but failed. Opponents complained that a compulsory bar would impose unwarranted governmental restrictions, or that it would put lawyers “on the same level as plumbers and barbers.” Others complained about the proposed dues ($5 per year, later reduced by legislative act to a less penurious $3 per year).
Two years later, convinced a mandatory bar would enhance the profession and serve the public, the legislature approved the bar act, and a bar was born. The Board of Governors first met on September 10, 1935, in the Supreme Court Building in Salem. The new Bulletin commenced publishing the following month.
Happy 75th Anniversary, Oregon State Bar!
The integrated bar is now organized and functioning, but its success will depend upon the interest taken in its work and the services rendered for it by every lawyer of the state. There is no magic in an integrated bar; its officers are no wonder-workers, and the duty of the lawyers to it is not completed by the payment of membership fees.
Without desiring to indulge in heroics, or to suggest that the lawyers of Oregon should look upon themselves as a band of battling heroes enlisted in a holy cause, I want to impress again upon the profession the fact that the Oregon State Bar was organized for definite purposes to achieve definite results. To attain these results requires more than expressions of goodwill toward the organization and the payment of fees. What is needed is active cooperation, willingness to serve, and an unselfish devotion of time, thought, and effort.
Raising the standards for admission to practice, requiring every lawyer to observe the decencies of professional life in his relations with his clients, with his brother lawyers, and with the courts — these things will obviously improve the administration of justice. To that end every lawyer of the state should make himself a committee of one to see, first, that he himself fully complies with both the letter and spirit of the code of professional ethics, and, second, that every member of the bar does likewise.
But that is not all and it is not enough. The law, substantive and procedural, is a human institution and its administrators, the judges and the lawyers, are human beings subject to the faults and deficiencies of men. He who asserts that neither the law nor its administration needs correction is as far from the truth as he who criticizes and rails at all courts, all lawyers, and all laws.
While the legal profession should hold zealously to all that time and experience have demonstrated to be essentially and fundamentally sound, yet with equal zeal and with open minds it should proceed to search out and propose remedies for those weaknesses, both in substance and practice, which every thoughtful man knows exist.
The Board of Governors asks every lawyer to give thought to these problems and, irrespective of his membership on any committee, to submit his ideas and suggestions to the Board, that they may be referred to the proper committee for consideration.
Just insofar as the legal profession aids Oregon to rid itself of antiquated, cumbersome, and unsatisfactory methods of ascertaining the truth in controversies and in applying the law to the facts, just to that degree will the Oregon State Bar justify its existence; and just to that degree will the public repose fuller confidence in the legal profession and the courts.
The man who entertains fear as to the integrity of lawyers, or feels that litigation does not result in the administration of justice, avoids both the lawyer and the court. These fears can be removed, and the bar has the brains and ability for the task. The trouble is, as Mark Twain remarked about the weather, “Everyone criticizes it, but no one does anything about it.”
The problem is ours — let us all bend our efforts to its solution.
Robert F. Maguire, President, Oregon State Bar