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Five throw their hats in the presidential ring

For the first time in nine years, all five vice presidents of the State Bar Board of Governors will seek the bar presidency. The candidates are Paul Kramer Jr. of Sacramento, Bill Hebert of San Francisco, Patti White of San Jose, and Michael Marcus and Rex Heinke, both of Los Angeles.

The new president will work with a reconstituted group of bar executives — currently, the jobs of executive director, general counsel, chief trial counsel and chief information officer are open. The bar also is recovering from Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto of its dues bill and attempting to address his criticisms about inefficiencies. In addition, like all public agencies, the bar is operating in a difficult financial climate, although its fee bill for next year, which has been approved in the Assembly, keeps the dues flat at $410.

Patti White

White, a partner with Littler Mendelson, where she practices labor law, said she wants to implement new governance procedures for the board, a position echoed by Kramer, an administrative law judge with the California Energy Commission. He said he thinks greater transparency has made the board “better informed when asked to make decisions.”

Paul Kramer
Paul Kramer Jr.

Kramer, who has prodded the bar to implement a legal research tool for members, continues to advocate a new online “Find a Lawyer” program, expected to be operational soon. As the former head of the Council of Section Chairs, he also wants to improve the bar’s relations with its 17 sections.

Noting that the bar and California lawyers have had what she called “a tough year,” White said she would focus on reducing the bar’s “structural deficit, so that we can stabilize our financial condition without raising dues.” She praised the board of governors for its response to various challenges, but stressed she would continue a focus on public protection, “our primary mission.”

Bill Hebert
Bill Hebert

Civil litigator Hebert, a partner with Calvo & Clark, places his focus on maximizing benefits — public protection for consumers of legal services and the member benefits provided by CalBar Connect for lawyers. As the current chairman of the board’s discipline committee, Hebert also would like to shepherd several initiatives into practice, particularly new rules for the State Bar Court that he says will streamline the discipline process, lower costs and ultimately benefit the bar and its members.

Michael Marcus
Michael Marcus

Marcus, a State Bar Court judge for six years, says his breadth of experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney, trial lawyer and nine years as a mediator-arbitrator for ADR Services, coupled with his familiarity with the workings of the bar would enable him to provide stability, particularly following a year of uncertainty. He said he stands ready to assist new senior executives make a seamless transition. “The new folks need to be able to look to the president and the board for a welcome hand and also, on occasion, direction,” Marcus said.

Rex Heinke
Rex Heinke

Heinke has a long resume of public service activities, an “essential part of being a lawyer,” and sees the bar presidency as another opportunity to make a contribution. “I believe the State Bar needs to be more responsive and more efficient,” he says, and achieve more with existing resources, although he said the bar is in “reasonably good financial condition, all things considered.” A partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP where he practices appellate law, Heinke said he’d like to see complaints about lawyers resolved faster, revised JNE rules and the adoption of new rules of conduct in the coming year.

The election is July 24 and the new president will take office Sept. 25 at the bar’s convention in Monterey.