Monday, June 16, 2008
State Bar Proposes Holding Annual Meetings Outside California
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The State Bar is soliciting public comment on a task force’s recommendation that the Board of Governors consider a proposal to allow the State Bar to hold its annual meeting outside of California, a spokesperson confirmed Friday.
The organization said it will accept public comments until July 9 on the proposal, which would remove from the State Bar’s bylaws a requirement that the annual meeting be held in California, and vest the Board of Governors with authority to approve any proposed, out-of-state meetings.
The spokesperson said that the State Bar was seeking members’ thoughts on the proposal as part of an attempt to boost attendance at the annual meeting.
Title 6 of the Rules of the State Bar of California provides for the meeting to be held within May 1 and December 1 of each year, at a place to be determined by the Board of Governors at least 60 days prior to the meeting, except in the case of war or other national emergency. However, it currently specifies that the meeting must be held “within the State of California.”
Only Four Cities
Explaining that only four California cities—Monterey, Long Beach, Anaheim and San Diego—can currently logistically accommodate the meeting given the ratio of meeting rooms required to available sleeping rooms, and that Los Angeles and San Francisco pose certain logistical obstacles that make them unworkable as an annual meeting destination, the spokesperson said that the State Bar wanted to “test the waters” after a survey of registrants at the 2007 meeting indicated that the majority viewed such a move favorably.
She said that the proposal was not a reflection on the four cities capable of accommodating the meeting, and that the State Bar had not yet considered any out-of-state cities for the meeting because it was “too premature” and because there was “no burning desire to go out of state.”
The spokesperson also said, under the proposal, that no out-of-state meeting location would be booked until the board—which would be involved “every step of the way”—gave its approval, and that it would not have any fiscal or personnel impact until such time as a decision was made about changing the location, at which point the cost would be “thoroughly examined.”
However, she did speculate that one possible outcome the proposal, if adopted, would be to allow the State Bar to hold joint conventions with attorneys in other states.
State Bar President Jeffrey L. Bleich told the MetNews that he was “not against” the proposal because it “merely creates the authority” for the Board of Governors to hold the meeting outside the state.
But he said he did not know whether he would support the exercise of such authority, noting that there could be problems with participation in an out-of-state meeting, and that many California attorneys might prefer that the economic benefits associated with the meeting flow to California, rather than another state.
Bleich said that the current de facto limitation of locales for the meeting to four might have created “a little venue fatigue” on the part of attorneys, and commented that participation at the annual meeting has “plateaued” in recent years.
In 2007, approximately 3,700 members attended the annual meeting, an increase from 2006.
Noting that he had recently spoke to a gathering of the Canadian Bar Association in San Francisco and that other state bar associations had successfully held out-of-state meeting, Bleich said such a meeting “might work in some circumstances.”
He said the proposal had been advanced so the State Bar could find out what members thought before committing to “the same old destinations” for meetings occurring during and after 2012.
The State Bar confirmed yesterday that all annual meetings have been booked until 2012, including the 2011 meeting, which will take place in San Diego.
However, both Bleich and the State Bar spokesperson rejected any idea that the proposal was part, or a reflection of, a plan to stop holding the annual meetings altogether.
“I have no sense that people want to phase out the annual meeting,” Bleich said, adding the State Bar simply wants “to find a way to rejuvenate it.”
Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations Executive Director Laura Goldin told the MetNews that her organization currently had not taken a position on the proposal, but said that officers would be meeting today by conference call.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Bar Association indicated that her organization similarly has not yet adopted a position.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company