10 reasons a voluntary state bar is better than a mandatory bar.

Voluntary bar jurisdictions:

  1. Have a longer history than mandatory bar jurisdictions. The so-called integration movement didn’t start until 1913. That’s when the now defunct American Judicature Society’s Herbert Harley motivated by the goals of overcoming low voluntary membership rolls; increasing revenues; reducing fragmentation; and enhancing professionalism; adopted bar unification as part of the Society’s law reform movement. According to research by Professor Theodore Schneyer, “voluntary state bar memberships in the 1920s included only 10% to 30% of the bar.” Parenthetically, predating the creation of the American Bar Association by 4 years and besting the New York State Bar Association by 2 years, the Iowa State Bar Association was formed in 1874 and claims to be “the oldest voluntary state bar association in the United States.” 18 jurisdictions in the U.S. are still voluntary. And to this day, voluntary bar membership in Iowa approaches 90%;
  2. Scandalized | by CarbonNYC [in SF!]Tend to have lower overall costs to practice. See About page on this site;

  3. Accomplish the public-protection goals of regulating discipline, managing bar admission, ensuring ethical standards, and registering lawyers, without integrating an existing bar association because these objectives are subject to statute or court rule and are not the responsibility of an integrated bar. For example, virtually every state in the country has in place court rules or statutes prescribing caretaker regulations when a lawyer disappears, dies, or is declared incompetent. And the same holds true for client protection funds, which likewise exist in both voluntary and mandatory bar jurisdictions. (The State Bar of Arizona makes much of its own lawyer caretaker conservatorship program although it budgets a mere 0.206% of a $14.5M budget to further buttress the purported necessity of a mandatory bar by virtue of having the program. But as of June 1, 2015 like almost every state in the country, Arizona has no rule requiring an attorney to designate a successor/surrogate/receiver in case of death or disability. A Rules Petition, however, was submitted in January but the matter was continued);

  4. Avoid the conflicts of interest between lawyers and the public. Voluntary state bar associations are autonomous private professional associations that unlike compulsory bar associations serve the interests of their voluntary members. They do not function like public agencies or regulatory bodies that subordinate member interests in favor of what mandatory bar leaders define as ‘the public good.’ And also unlike mandatory bar associations, the financial self-interest of voluntary associations is tied to a value proposition. Lawyers will refuse to maintain consensual membership in an association where the financial cost exceeds the value received;

  5. Without the Keller restrictions imposed on mandatory membership bar associations, voluntary state bar associations amplify the legal profession’s legislative voice in the lawmaking advocacy process. See, for example, Minnesota State Bar Government Relations and the Illinois State Bar Legislative Affairs Department;

  6. Jen, kissing the First Amendment goodbye? | by jasoneppinkProtect lawyer First Amendment rights without infringing on free speech and an individual’s freedom not to associate, which in the case of mandatory bar jurisdictions, results in the individual being compelled as a condition of earning a living in their profession, to contribute to an association which uses those fees to conduct activities to which that individual objects;

  7. Avoid recurring litigation over the use of compulsory dues for ideological activities; Most recently, see Fleck v. McDonald;

  8. Offer programs and services that favorably compare and even exceed those offered by mandatory state bar associations, including law office management practice services; insurance programs; reduced-cost and free CLE; Find-a-Lawyer member directories; Access to Justice initiatives; job hunting resources; Sections and Committees; lawyer referral services; Publications; Young Lawyer Divisions; Legal Research like Fastcase and Casemaker; Mentoring programs; leadership development programs; Annual Meetings; high school mock trial programs; community pro bono; ethics opinions and practice resources and even online practice tools. (Instead of making a good faith effort to ascertain the scope, content and quality of programs, services, and activities conducted by voluntary bars, mandatory bar proponents prefer to hide behind patent nonsense to justify compelled association);

  9. Are no different from mandatory bar associations in offering lawyer assistance resources to assist lawyers with problems with alcoholism, drug abuse and mental or emotional disorders. See, for instance, the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyer and Judges Assistance Program;

  10. Do not increase costs to the public since lawyers pay 100% of the costs of lawyer regulation in every U.S. state and territory. It is completely fallacious for mandatory bar proponents to spuriously claim that a mandatory bar has to be preserved because their programs and services could not be duplicated by a voluntary bar or that the elimination of a mandatory bar would place burdens on taxpayers.

– M.R. Hernandez, Esq.

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Photo Credits: Jen, kissing the first amendment goodbye, by Jason Eppink at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Scandalized by David Goehring Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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