Sometime this month all KCBA members will receive in their mailboxes (postal and email) a notice that it's time to renew your KCBA membership. I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to voluntary bar associations, but I believe KCBA offers the best game in town (er, county). Let's look at just a few reasons why this is true.
One of the best reasons to join is the very newspaper you're now reading. The monthly Bar Bulletin is a tremendous resource to lawyers and judges in our region. Full of high-caliber articles, it's a solid mix of substantive legal analysis pieces, reports on local news and information about the work of the Association. Members receive the Bar Bulletin each month - nonmembers receive only this June issue and a few random issues during the year as a reminder of what they're missing!
Another important reason to be part of KCBA is that your membership helps fund two important public programs of the bar. First is our pro bono legal aid program. We have more than 1,300 volunteer lawyers offering pro bono services each year to over 10,000 clients who cannot afford a lawyer. We have 16 staff members offering legal training, scheduling and related services so those volunteers can have the support they need to provide their expertise. Whether or not you personally can volunteer in these programs, your membership helps ensure this work is being done.
The second public program is our critical voter education work in evaluating and rating judges. Voters need access to expert opinions about the caliber of those seeking appointment or election to the bench, and we have more than 100 volunteer attorneys interviewing judicial candidates, reviewing their performance in the courtroom and organizing debate forums. If the bar did not conduct this work, voters would be left with one-sided campaign postcards or, worse yet, voting for someone they randomly choose based on the candidate's name as if they're picking a winning horse at the racetrack. Do we really want to risk not doing this voter education?
Speaking of judges, I talk to a lot of peers at local bar associations across the country. I regularly hear stories of "challenging" relationships with local courts where there is no sense of shared responsibility between the bench and bar for the administration of justice in some communities. Nothing could be further from the truth in King County. Our relationships with all levels of court, from Seattle Municipal Court to King County Superior Court, to the Court of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court, are very strong.
Those benches regularly reach out to KCBA for input into their plans and are very receptive to learning of our concerns on a host of issues. This strong relationship results in regular participation by the bench in our CLE programs, events and bar committees.
Those bar committees, by the way, are an excellent place for interested attorneys to get involved in the legal community. The time commitment is very manageable; most committees meet once a month for an hour to work on various bar initiatives. For example, the Public Policy Committee looks at areas where lawyers can bring an important voice to pending legislation, debates and proposals being considered at all levels of government, including death penalty abolition, referendum/initiative reform, voting rights and funding for our justice system.
The Judiciary & Litigation Committee discusses ideas for court rule improvements and conducts liaison with trial courts. And the Young Lawyers Division offers opportunities for recently admitted attorneys to network for job opportunities and to work together on social service projects like Habitat for Humanity where they can give back to the broader community.
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