Welcome to another digital edition of the Marin Lawyer. With articles largely provided by our Bar Association’s members and guest edited by one of our board members, each edition of the Marin Lawyer is a great example of the vibrant intellectual culture of our Bar Association. That’s just one facet of what makes MCBA and all local bar associations the traditional bedrock of the legal community. But this traditional role does not guarantee relevance or effectiveness. To ensure a vibrant legal community, we must innovate to keep up with the needs of our members and the community at large. Doing so helps ensure that we can continue to contribute to the pursuit and protection of justice.

Whether the division of the State Bar into two entities is innovation that serves the needs of its members is still being debated. But the two entities are here to stay: The State Bar of California and the California Lawyers Association. The Bar continues to enforce discipline, handle attorney admissions (including the bar exam) and otherwise provide protection to the public. The California Lawyers Association is in effect a spinoff of the Bar’s former practice group sections. Unfortunately, in a stroke of administrative “genius,” each new entity is charging its own dues.

With State Bar membership remaining mandatory while membership in the CLA is voluntary, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to see that the CLA will be competing for membership dollars with local bar associations. The CLA is positioning itself as a provider of some of the same benefits that local bar associations have traditionally provided, such as CLE, networking, career advancement, and attorney interests advocacy. Further adding financial pressure to California attorneys is the State Bar’s efforts to raise the annual dues. The State Bar’s attempt to raise membership dues to $862 for 2020 ultimately did not come to pass but it illustrates the necessity of strong local bars to advocate for the financial interests of their members. And dues still rose significantly nonetheless. The bottom line is membership in our association will become expendable unless we take steps to ensure our relevance moving forward. To remain relevant and vibrant, we need to provide benefits to our members that the larger, statewide associations can’t, particularly programming and networking directly focused on and relevant to Marin County.

As the new statewide structure settles in and develops, I encourage members to reach out to MCBA’s leadership, including directly to me (415-453-9433 or cdresow@rflawllp.com), to express what you’d like to see in your local bar association and especially with ideas on how to provide Marin-centric programming. I am confident that the engagement, interests and resources of our talented members can help us innovate and meet the needs of our members and our community in a shifting legal landscape.