Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley sent the following message to members on August 23.
The Bar’s 2019-2020 budget “season” is now upon us—and I seek your help for further cost saving ideas to achieve my goal of a 10 percent overall reduction1 off the Bar’s 2017-2018 $45 million general fund budget. [Click here to view] See 80 TBJ 166 (March 2017)
There is good news in that, with excellent assistance from Bar members, budget staff, and the Financial Responsibility Task Force, the bar trimmed over $2 million (5 percent) from its general fund budget last year. See 81 TBJ 182 (March 2018). Nevertheless, there’s more work to be done.
In my opinion, we still need to tighten our “expenditure belt” even further to reach a 5 percent reduction for the 2019-2020 proposed budget. This is where you, as a State Bar member, can add value.
Your suggestions and ideas for further budget reductions are welcome. I’ve heard many suggestions already, which include:
1. Creating a “mini-sunset review” to require that every Bar program justify its continued existence;
2. Implementing “zero based budgeting” to require each Bar department to annually justify the cost of each program; disclosing its 10-year history of costs and results, together with the justification for continuing the program;
3. Continue requiring each Bar program to explain how it fulfills the core functions of the State Bar (e.g., protection of the public; licensing; regulating and educating lawyers), and to explain what would happen if the program were eliminated;
4. Creating a potential annual savings of over $700,000 through monthly electronic distribution of the Texas Bar Journal—while still providing hard copies to members who request a paper version;
5. Eliminating unnecessary travel expenses—especially to conferences of voluntary associations such as the ABA, the National Association of Bar Executives, and various regional conferences of state bar presidents;
6. Eliminating the Bar’s use of “outside” counsel by entering interagency agreements with the Office of the Texas Attorney General to represent the Bar in litigation and other matters; and
7. Reducing, as appropriate, the Bar’s expenditures in order to keep the Bar’s combined budget under $50 million for the foreseeable future.
These are but a few ideas to help keep the Bar’s combined annual budget under control—and I welcome any others you may suggest.
Last year, your State Bar collected over $20 million from dues you pay, and collected more than $16 million in CLE revenues and other fees to fund its operations. For me, and for the rest of the State Bar leadership, it’s a given that the Board of Directors needs to ensure that money is spent prudently.
Speaking personally, I pay my own travel expenses associated with State Bar business without seeking reimbursement. Likewise, I’ve not sought, nor do I seek, any of the combined $70,000 stipend money the Bar sets aside for the offices of president-elect, president, and immediate past president.
In closing, I pledge to continue to work with you to reduce the budget as much as possible so that all of our members can have confidence in what the Bar does and how it spends your money. I welcome your ideas and suggestions to help achieve these goals—and I look forward to hearing from you.
With kindest regards,
Joe K. Longley
President, State Bar of Texas 2018-2019
1This 10 percent goal came from the American Bar Association model used in its recent budget reductions.