Monday, November 23, 2015
LACBA President Kiesel Promises:
Sections Will Receive Data on Their Own Finances
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Disgruntled sections of the Los Angeles County Bar Association have been granted a concession by what one section leader has denominated “LACBA Central”: information will be provided to the respective sections as to their own finances—but not the finances of other sections, or the association as a whole.
That was the upshot of a teleconference conducted late Thursday afternoon by LACBA President Paul Kiesel, on the line (via video with some, only audio with others) with section leaders and LACBA officers.
Los Angeles County Bar Association President Paul Kiesel is seen on-screen at tele-conference.
Information has been denied to sections for about two years as to how much their programs have made or lost, with section treasurers unable to present reports on finances. This has been one of the sore points with the units, 12 of which earlier this month formed an interim “Council of Sections” to speak with one voice in opposing what is viewed by some as over-regimentation by the association’s hierarchy.
Proposed Bylaw Change
The catalyst in bringing the sections together was a proposed bylaw change that would conform the bylaws to the current practice—in contravention of an existing bylaw—denying sections any control over their finances. Section leaders on Wednesday night persuaded the Board of Trustees to defer action on the proposal to January so they can have time to study its implications.
The immediate purpose of Thursday’s conference was for Kiesel to explain the proposed revamping of standards for MCLE lectures and other section events. A distribution of the recommended changes was made, by e-mail, earlier in the day.
The standards would slightly change the pricing of section programs, mandated in 2012 without section input.
The discussion sparked Kiesel’s vow to provide information on section finances.
Near the end of the hour-long meeting, Kirk D. Dillman, chair of the Litigation Section, challenged Kiesel’s assertion that the objective was simply to “break even.” Dillman related that his section has been barred from continuing its free brown-bag lunches at the Superior Court, with the court providing space at no cost, if it continued to provide MCLE credit.
Without the MCLE credit, he noted, attendance has plummeted.
Under current standards, for one hour of credit, the section must charge $70 to LACBA members who are not in the section, which would remain unchanged in the proposed revision; $60 to section members, which would drop to $55; and $95 for non-members, which would zoom to $120.
The lawyer, who is a principal in the Los Angeles office of McKool Smith Hennigan, asserted that there are not “$70, 60, $55 worth of costs” to LACBA in the staging of these programs, given that its contribution to the events is merely “having one LACBA person there handing out forms.”
Dillman remarked that the proposition that the organization incurs such expenses “sounds incomprehensible,” and declared:
“Frankly, I don’t believe it.”
He said that he was willing to be dissuaded, but would need to see financials to be convinced.
Sarvenaz Bahar, chair-elect of the Appellate Lawyers Section (the chair of which, Bradley Pauley, coined the term, “LACBA Central” at the trustee’s session) said that in considering a position on the new proposed standards, there is “the necessity for us to have the numbers, the documents, that support the contention that the sections are running at a loss.”
She said that the need to see the financial reports “was repeated a number of times yesterday at the Board of Trustees’ meeting,” remarking:
“I don’t know if the trustees have those numbers.”
The Senior Lawyers Section, through its chair, former LACBA President John Carson—who subsequently came to be chair of the Council of Sections—has asked to see a copy of the financials, but was denied access.
Will Provide Materials
Kiesel assured section leaders:
“We’re going to get you the back-up materials that you need to help you make the decisions that we’re asking you think about.”
“If you feel there’s more material that you need, e-mail me and I’ll do my best to get it to you.”
Then, a question was posed as to whether materials provided to one section would be sent to others, and LACBA Treasurer Michael K. Lindsey, of Steinbrecher & Span LLP, offered the view that it would be “tremendously damaging” to the association to do so. He explained:
“I have seen other organizations fall apart with this sort of thing. We heard last night that the Barristers [lawyers in practice five years or less] are doing a great job, but we don’t really want everybody to recognize that the Barristers are, in essence, supporting certain other sections.”
Kiesel responded, “That’s fine,” and Lindsey said:
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company