|Oregon State Bar Bulletin NOVEMBER 2010|
Thoughts on Sustainability, Mentoring and Access to Justice
By Kathleen A. Evans
In my last column (August/September issue 2010) I discussed the Board of Governors’ focus on ensuring that member fees are used in the most effective ways. In addition to cost savings, we are committed to advancing sustainability. We have set a number of projects in motion that advance both goals. In this column I will explain those projects as well as a new mentoring program we are exploring in partnership with Chief Justice Paul De Muniz.
Saving Money and Trees
Not surprisingly, given the work we do, the bar has historically been a big user of paper. In recent years we have been migrating toward electronic communications, as have many lawyers and law firms. In the beginning we heard a lot of complaints from lawyers who did not appreciate electronic communications. More recently, we have heard as many or more complaints from members who want us to quit wasting paper. The board’s challenge has been to advance cost savings and sustainability goals while still meeting the needs of a diverse membership. Here are some of the decisions we have made as a result:
First, beginning with next year’s dues cycle, for which notices begin going out in December 2010, all dues notices and reminders will be sent via e-mail. If you don’t have an e-mail address on record with the bar, simply log in to your account on the OSB website to update your record. If you don’t have an e-mail address — or if you want to set one up specifically for bar correspondence — there are many free e-mail providers on the web such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo that you can use. If we have an e-mail address on record for you by Nov. 15, you will receive your annual fee notice through e-mail. The new requirement to provide an e-mail address is in Bar Rule of Procedure 1.11, which was adopted by the Oregon Supreme Court and takes effect Jan.1, 2011.
Second, we will be changing the way we print and distribute membership directory information. The 2011 Directory will not include the 300-plus “white pages” of the members’ names and addresses. That reason is several-fold: the member information is out of date as soon as it is printed and becomes all the more so during the year; we find the change a proactive sustainable and environment friendly practice; the online directory is the most-frequented page on the bar’s web page; new features for the benefit of the members will be added to the online directory to make it even more user-friendly; and it is cost savings for the bar’s budget. In its place, all members will receive a resource directory, mailed with the January issue of the Bulletin, which will include everything that was in the membership directory except the white pages.
We know that members put a high value on the directory, so we considered our options carefully. Ultimately we chose the approach we did to save money, advance our sustainability goals and retain some options for our members who prefer print products.
Even though the bar will not print 19,000 directories with white pages, those white pages will be available to the member in a printed format at any time. The bar’s website will have a button in order to click and print those white pages at one’s own office; alternatively, the same directory can be printed by any commercial printer, such as Kinko’s. The bar also is considering a contract with a major print service where the member can go and get the white pages printed. Also, if there is a demand, the member can have the bar print the white pages, bind them and sent to the members, at a charge equal to the cost of printing and mailing the white pages. How all this unfolds depends on members’ interest in the printed white pages.
After an initial adjustment period, most who move to the web directory, me included, find it far superior to the print version. I can locate a telephone number or address there quickly. It is easy to block and copy the e-mail address and send my message to an e-mail address I know is correct. The website directory is updated every business day, unlike the once-a-year print directory that is outdated by the time it is printed. The impressive traffic count on the website is evidence that I am not alone in changing the way I do business.
Third, we have decided to continue selling print versions of our legal publications for at least another year. We considered discontinuing them, since sales are likely to decline sharply once all active members have unlimited access to the online BarBooks library. However, when previous book purchasers were recently queried, a significant number of members believe they will want, and be willing to pay a reasonable fee for, print books. Therefore, we have decided to offer print books on a pre-order basis, which will allow us to contain costs by printing only what is needed. For additional savings, all future publication marketing will be done via e-mail and notices in the Bulletin, replacing printed mailers.
The bottom line is this: We are trying to be responsible with members’ dues and use current technology to save natural resources, while still providing members an option for print materials if they find they still want a paper version of what is available online. While this balancing act may not satisfy everyone, I hope we can agree that the goals are good ones.
Learning to Be a Lawyer
The issue of how law students transition to the legal profession has long been a concern of bar leaders and other professionals. Many elements of a successful law practice are difficult to address in a law school setting, leaving new lawyers with a steep learning curve as they launch new practices. In 2009 the Oregon Bench & Bar Commission on Professionalism learned of an innovative new lawyer training program implemented in Utah and Georgia to much acclaim and opened a discussion of adopting a similar model in Oregon.
Earlier this year, I met with Chief Justice De Muniz to discuss common issues and concerns. As it happened, the chief had also heard about the rise of formal mentoring programs in other states and was enthusiastic about pursuing an Oregon model. Accordingly, I appointed a task force chaired by Eugene attorney and former OSB president Gerry Gaydos. The chief justice is a member, along with bar leaders from a variety of practice types and locations. Members of the Professionalism Commission and the Board of Bar Examiners also serve, along with representatives from the Professional Liability Fund, the Multnomah Bar Association and Oregon’s law schools.
Nothing has yet been decided and many details are still unsettled, but at this stage the court and bar appear poised to adopt and implement a program for incoming lawyers beginning in May 2011. The program would assign an experienced mentor to most newly admitted Oregon lawyers. Together they would establish a set of tasks, some required and some elective, to be completed during the new lawyer’s first year of membership in the OSB. During this first year, the new lawyers would be fully licensed to practice law, and the renewal of their licenses for their second year would depend upon successful completion of the training program. We will have a system in place to apply for extensions for new lawyers who are unable to complete the program due to extenuating circumstances. Lawyers admitted to Oregon from other states who have two years of practice experience would be exempt. Mentors will receive training and MCLE credit for their participation.
The task force expects to present recommendations to the board at its November meeting and retreat. Because of publication timelines for the Bulletin, by the time you read this we will almost certainly have more details and information available.
I also encourage all bar members to engage fully in their respective communities to play a role in maintaining a judicial system that is open and accessible to all Oregonians. Our state is facing one of its worst fiscal crises ever. The already thinned-out court budget is in peril, which threatens clients and community members we deal with every day. District attorneys and public defenders expect big reductions in funding for our public safety network, and the filing fee revenue currently dedicated to legal services programs is also in danger. It seems that so many institutions of our community are facing daunting budget realities, and every constituent has passionate advocates. But as officers of the court we have a role in relaying the message that without a functional judicial system, many other institutions — from businesses to families to public safety networks — are vulnerable. Follow the details of how your local court is handling budget shortfalls. Talk to your local legislators, business owners and community leaders. Call your legal aid office and volunteer your help. Let’s be leaders within our communities to ensure we don’t lose the great progress our bar and courts have made over decades of working hand-in-hand for the greater good.
In my four years on the Board of Governors, I have been greatly impressed by the commitment of so many wonderful volunteers. I thank all of you I have met with around the state for your professionalism and collegiality. My travels to events in other states has shown me how accomplished and forward-thinking our state bar really is, thanks to the vision of prior leaders. However, I have no doubt that the good we have achieved would not have been possible without our amazing staff, a dedicated and hard-working group of professionals, both at the bar and at the PLF. Finally, I am so grateful that I was privileged to serve with my fellow board members; their friendship, support and hard work made these four years a joy.
It has been a great honor to serve as president. I will turn over the gavel to Steve Piucci, our next president, with a final thought that I know he will appreciate — and honor: “Don’t screw it up!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathleen A. Evans, the 2010 Oregon State Bar president, is a Salem attorney, focusing her practice on estate planning and administration and business planning. Feedback to this article and the topics mentioned are welcome by e-mail at email@example.com.
© 2010 Kathleen A. Evans