Editor’s Note: This communication to State Bar members went out earlier today via email from President Frank Stevenson and other State Bar officers.
We’ve heard from many fellow Texas lawyers with questions regarding the Sunset Process and other State Bar matters. We would like to set the record straight on the issues for which we’ve received the most questions.
State Bar Review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission
The Sunset Commission’s report indicates that your State Bar has been doing the right things at the right times for the right reasons.
State Bar’s Board and its Members Control Dues-Setting
The Sunset Commission recommended that “membership fee changes” be separated from the referendum process and instead be part of the State Bar budget process. Does this mean the members might lose control over dues? No. An extensive approval process, initiated by the State Bar Board of Directors that invites ample input from the members, would be required for any dues increase to occur.
Specifically, if the Sunset Commission’s recommendations are adopted, any proposed increase would involve (1) a recommendation by the State Bar staff, (2) approval by the Bar Board’s Budget Committee, (3) review by the Board’s Executive Committee in an open meeting, (4) approval by the Board in an open meeting, (5) publication in the Texas Bar Journal, (6) presentation in a posted public hearing at the Texas Law Center, (7) presentation to the Texas Supreme Court in an open proceeding, and (8) finally approval by the Texas Supreme Court.
We are proud of the fact that State Bar dues have not increased in 27 years—proud that we are now inducting lawyers into our bar who weren’t born the last time dues were raised.
And no dues increase is being contemplated.
Performance of State Bar Staff
A major reason we’ve avoided a dues increase is that while State Bar membership grows, State Bar staff shrinks, thanks to efficient management and the innovative use of technology.
State Bar membership is 54 percent larger than in 1999 (from 65,151 to 100,294), but the number of State Bar employees is 19 percent lower (from 324 to 261).
So, half again as many additional members being served by a fifth fewer staff. More importantly, the State Bar has added programs and increased member benefits over that same period.
Self-Regulation Is Secure
Our most crucial right as Texas lawyers—our right of self-regulation—appears fully secure. We are unaware of any challenge or threat to the retention of the rules referendum process and the critical ability of Texas lawyers to determine the professional standards applicable to their practice of law in Texas.
State Bar leadership has supported and continues to support the retention of this right. Your right to vote on rules is not in jeopardy.
The Sunset Advisory Commission found that the Bar is performing effectively, and recommended that the Bar be continued for another 12 years. While a bill has not yet been filed, the commission’s recommendations confirm we should be proud to be Texas lawyers and proud of our bar.
State Bar Funds
Back in 2012, State Bar staff discovered that an employee embezzled funds from an account outside the State Bar’s audit authority. As soon as it was discovered, that employee was fired, charges were filed, a conviction obtained, and processes were changed to ensure that it could not happen again.
The State Bar was fully reimbursed through insurance and court-ordered restitution.
State Bar President-elect Candidates
The deadline to turn in petitions for open State Bar director positions or for president-elect is March 1. For information about the election process and a list of which district director seats are up for election this year, click here.
The State Bar of Texas president-elect candidates (Chad Baruch of Dallas and Laura Bellegie Sharp of Austin) nominated by the State Bar Board of Directors have set up websites and other methods to connect with Texas lawyers:
Many of you have received emails from one or more potential petition candidates, but at this point no one has filed a petition to be on the ballot. Information about any petition candidates meeting the requirements by the March 1 deadline will be included in future communications. The election will be held April 3-May 2.
It’s very simple: we work for you. If you have any questions or comments regarding the Sunset process, emails you receive, or any other topic involving your State Bar, please contact us. Thank you for reading this update.
Frank Stevenson, President
Tom Vick, President-elect
Allan K. DuBois, Immediate Past President
Trey Apffel, Past President and State Bar Sunset Committee Chair
Joe Escobedo, Chair of the Board
David Chamberlain, Immediate Past Chair