Your state bar card proclaims a new motto this year. The bar now avows that "Protection of the public is the highest priority for the State Bar of California," while its old motto was to "Preserve and improve our justice system in order to assure a free and just society under law."
Will anyone notice? "I suspect probably not," says bar CEO Joseph L. Dunn.
But that doesn't mean the change isn't important. It reflects the intent of a 2011 bill that sought to clarify that the prime mission of the 250,000-member organization is to regulate lawyers. The bill, SB163, also set an October 2014 deadline for changing the composition of the bar's board (and cutting it from 23 members to 19), and it mandated more planning, plus policies to comply with open-meeting laws.
Dunn says the "sharpened focus" already has helped the organization internally. He also hopes to clarify that the bar doesn't represent lawyers. It's the State Bar of California, he stresses, not the California Bar Association.
Dunn concedes that public awareness "of our very existence" isn't high. He hopes the new motto on bar cards will help change that. And, just in case there's an audience for a big-print version, the new motto is now inscribed on the bar's office building in Los Angeles.