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From the President

A recap, and thanks

By Craig Holden
President, the State Bar of California

Craig HoldenThey say the true test of leadership is whether an organization is better off when you leave.  As I prepare to end my term this month, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank those who have helped me serve and highlight the positive and productive strides the State Bar has made.

Let me start with the most crucial decision the board has made – ushering in new management and hiring a stellar new team in Executive Director Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, Chief Operations Officer Leah T. Wilson and General Counsel Vanessa L. Holton. These three bring the skills and experience we need to “raise the bar” and move forward as an organization.

At a time when the legal profession is rapidly changing, the bar as a regulatory agency needs to anticipate change and be ready to lead the way. A solid management team is key to that effort.

We’ve accomplished many other things this past year, for which I have many people to thank. I’ll highlight some here:

  • I proactively advocated for reforms across the organization, and the board embraced them, well before an audit report that reflected a six-year look back on the organization, and issued recommendations which we are implementing. I’d like to thank the entire board for supporting and implementing these measures.
  • We made the decision to invest in the historic San Francisco bar headquarters so that it will be upgraded for the benefit of the many State Bar employees and volunteers who do the work of the State Bar in close proximity to our partners at the Supreme Court. The upgrades will also support a new group of tenants.
  • We reconstituted the Rules Revision Commission which began a comprehensive revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct. I’d like to thank Justice Lee Edmon for leading the Commission, as well as all of those who serve on it.
  • The Mentoring Task Force issued a preliminary report calling for a pilot program to support new lawyers. I’d like to thank Judge Marguerite D. Downing for chairing the task force, as well as everyone who volunteered to serve on it.
  • The board approved a strategic plan for the organization, which will guide us into the future. Kudos to trustee Heather Rosing for helping to marshal that process.
  • I’ve promoted several programs that help and encourage students from diverse backgrounds to seek careers in the legal profession. I’d like to thank the Council on Access and Fairness for its support and efforts to advance these initiatives.
  • I’d like to thank the board for adopting the recommendations of the Civil Justice Strategies Task Force, designed to increase access to justice for all Californians.
  • I’ve trumpeted the positive role lawyers play in society, in order to establish goodwill for the legal profession and demonstrate that lawyers serve the public good.
  • I’ve commissioned an effort to modify the annual fee statement to clearly distinguish between mandatory and optional dues and make the fee statement more user-friendly.
  • We engaged in outreach to ensure immigrants are not preyed upon by non-lawyers and some lawyers with false promises of helping them get legal citizenship. Special thanks to Trustee David Torres for being at the forefront of this effort.
  • I’ve advocated for increased court funding with our elected officials in Sacramento.
  • I’d like to recognize the Committee of Bar Examiners for advancing a proposal to shorten the bar exam from three days to two starting in 2017 after an intensive study concluded it would save $1.1 million a year and maintain existing pass/fail standards.
  • The board supported efforts to increase funding for legal services for the poor and those with modest means. Special thanks to Trustee and new board President David Pasternak for helping lead the way.
  • I’d like to thank our court leadership for showing us the way, as well as our elected officials in Sacramento for creating a true partnership with our judicial branch agency.
  • I'd like to thank my firm, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, and my family for supporting my public service.
  • On a lighter note, I had the pleasure of hosting a group of elementary students on a tour of the State Bar Court, where we held a mock trial to decide the best dessert: ice cream or cake. The kids enjoyed both desserts after the trial.

I’d like to conclude by thanking my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to lead this past year and the entire State Bar staff of consummate professionals who aided my efforts. What a year! It’s been a valuable experience and one I won’t soon forget. As for the leadership test I posed in the beginning, I’ll submit on this record and leave it for others to decide.