|Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2007|
Reflections on the Year
By Albert Menashe
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as president of the Oregon State Bar. My personal goal this year has been to meet face to face with as many bar members as possible. I have had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of great lawyers across the state, visiting 28 of 29 local bars and many committees and sections of the bar. These visits have proven to me that Oregon lawyers are every bit as knowledgeable as any New York lawyer, and demonstrate a commitment to professionalism that any other state bar would envy. I have been as impressed as I am grateful for the hundreds of hours of volunteer time our members devote to making our organization one of the best in the country.
As I complete my service on the board, I want to share with you some highlights of the past year. First, after years of research and planning, OSB operations will move into a new facility in January. The Professional Liability Fund will be housed in the same location, which will offer state-of-the-art conference facilities for CLE seminars and other events. The current bar center in Lake Oswego, which was purchased in 1986 for $2 million, sold this year for $8 million. This sale, along with lease income, has made it possible to invest in the new building with no need for an increase in member fees. A series of open houses will be held over the next year to acquaint bar members with the new building.
In service to our members (and future members) we established a task force to examine the admissions process, proposed admissions reciprocity with Alaska, and made ORPC 5.5, relating to multi-jurisdictional practice, permanent. Bar sections and public affairs staff sponsored a large package of law-improvement bills through the legislative process — one bill died, two were voluntarily withdrawn and the other 22 have been signed by the governor. Probably of most interest to many members was the implementation of a new record-retention policy for bar records. One result of the new policy is that unfounded complaints against bar members are no longer retained indefinitely.
This has been a great year for access to justice efforts in Oregon. The bar’s new loan repayment assistance program offered financial assistance to seven bar members with substantial student loan debt who are pursuing public interest careers. The board has approved, and the Oregon Supreme Court is considering, a rule change to allow in-house counsel licensed in other states to assist Oregon clients referred through certified pro bono programs. Also, the bar’s Pro Bono Committee has created a new tool for law firms: an interactive webpage at http://www.osbar.org/probono/policy that firms can use to create a customized bono policy.
A top bar priority for 2007 was support for the Oregon Judicial Department. We devoted substantial volunteer and staff efforts to legislative work in support of the department, helping to secure the first salary increases for state court judges in over six years and the creation of a commission to review the needs of state court facilities. We also continued public outreach and education programs on judicial independence and judicial selection.
The year has not been without its challenges. The board continues to work on modifying the existing MCLE requirement for elimination of bias credits in a way that satisfies members and the Oregon Supreme Court. Also, some changes made to the Affirmative Action Program caused concern that the bar’s commitment to diversity and the AAP was somehow diminished. Nothing could be further from the truth. The board is deeply proud of Oregon’s position as a national leader in its diversity efforts, and its commitment to the AAP is firm and unwavering.
Indeed, creating a diverse bar is clearly critical to the success of our profession in the future. The topic will be a feature of a major effort next year — to host a national-caliber conference to explore the futures of the legal profession and the judicial system. We hope the conference puts Oregon in a position to build on its reputation as a bar that is ahead of the times.
On a final note, I want to thank all of you for the remarkable professionalism, dedication and intellect you bring to your service to the bar and to communities across Oregon. I’ve always been proud of my colleagues around the bar, but never more so than after spending four years so fully engaged with every facet of what our profession is giving to the people of our state. I thank you, and I look forward to continuing my service to you, to our bar and to Oregon.
© 2007 Albert Menashe