Vol. 28, No. 11
CBA President's Message to Members
Assisting Members in Practice Management and Development
by Bart Mendenhall
When I wrote my article on community service, I mentioned that you would hear more from me about lawyers in politics later. Then, Ann Mygatt told me she was thinking about the same thing for her article, and I told her to have at it [28 The Colorado Lawyer 53 (Oct. 1999)]. Little did I know that she would write with such passion. I had forgotten how much fun politics can be when you truly have a cause you believe in. Lawyers tend to be competitive by nature (and training), and it's that much more fun when you are excited about what you are doing.
After many years at the political game, you occasionally get frustrated at the process, just as we sometimes do with the legal process. I have sometimes been known to claim, in one of those moments of frustration, that involvement in politics is a matter of self-defense. I have little patience for those who whine about what the "politicians" are doing, but who show little inclination to get involved. People who did nothing more than vote in the last election don't get much sympathy from me.
Since Ann left me little to say about politics, I am going to take the rest of this article to respond to a member who took offense at my article about community service [28 The Colorado Lawyer 13 (Sept. 1999)]. While I don't agree with the author's conclusions, what I take to be the underlying premise of the letter is a legitimate and important position, and one I agree with. For your review, the relevant portion of his letter follows:
. . . Your article "The Case for Community Service," . . . is in my view yet another example of lawyers bashing lawyers. Why is it that when a Colorado lawyer is elected to some position within the organized bar, he or she feels obligated to preach to other lawyers regarding "public service." Carving a living as a lawyer is difficult enough (and is getting tougher) without having our own so-called representatives constantly sermonizing us from high horses and ivory towers.
Dear Annoyed: Easy, boy, easy! Please don't take me so seriously. Just because I "preach" community service doesn't mean you have do it. Follow your own beliefs and instincts. If you don't believe in community service, by all means don't do it; although I do maintain that your community service, or lack thereof, affects the way the public views lawyers in general, and you in particular. To be sure, competent and honest representation is a factor in that perception.
The underlying current in your letter relates to the importance of making a decent living before you can indulge in service. While you appear to disagree with the idea that community service will help you make that living, I agree that it is important that we all make that decent living, whatever it may be.
One of the most important functions of the CBA is our assistance to members in practice management and development. All of the other services we provide to the members and the public don't mean much if we can't make a living, collectively and individually.
Not only should we provide direct assistance with practice management, but we should represent the interests of the members in trying to make legal services more cost-effective to the public. Our survey of the members about the effects of Rules 16 and 26 is a good example. This survey has been completed recently, and was provided to Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs at the September 23 CBA Board of Governors meeting. We hope this information will help the Court revise these Rules to allow more cost-effective resolution of cases. This will benefit both the bar and the public.
In addition, we have asked the Court to review the reciprocity admission Rules, to level the playing field for Colorado lawyers who seek admission in other states. Currently, Colorado admits the highest number of lawyers on motion of any jurisdiction, save the District of Columbia, but we do not have true reciprocity with many states.
If you visit the local software store and see all of the legal self-help software, you can't help but realize that the public is looking for more inexpensive ways of obtaining the legal help they need. Correctly or not, they don't think they can afford us. We need to look at ways to help the public, at a price they can afford. The unbundling of legal services and the multi-disciplinary practice of law are two, yet untested, attempts to accomplish this end. Whether these will be acceptable remains to be seen, but they both deserve careful scrutiny.
Finally, we have to recognize that we have chosen to practice in a state that can only be described as "saturated" with lawyers. The author of the letter above lives in a community I could only describe as "super-saturated." We have traded income for lifestyle. As someone once said, you have to take the difference in scenery.
I seek your thoughts and suggestions. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact me through the CBA: (303) 860-1115 or (800) 332-6736.
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