Image crises, government budget cuts and efforts to recruit young lawyers amid big-firm layoffs are big problems facing state and local bar associations across the country, those bar leaders said at a morning breakfast meeting of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.
County government budgets in Wake County, N.C., were so bad that Nan Hannah, president-elect of the Wake County Bar Association in Raleigh, held an office supply drive for the county courthouse’s judges, clerks, public defenders and district attorneys in one of her first initiatives. The issue came up when discovery in a case had to be delayed because the courthouse didn’t have compact discs available, she said.
“I’m getting hugs from the clerks,” Hannah said.
Hannah was one of several new attendees at the NCBP breakfast, held in conjunction with the ABA meeting, who were asked to name the biggest concerns facing their local and state bar groups. Other leaders said their local courthouses were also struggling with reduced hours, less security and possible closures as a result of budget cuts.
Robert Jeffs, president-elect of the Utah State Bar, said he's trying to clear up an image crisis for lawyers in his state: Among other blots on the Utah bar, a lawyer there was recently caught stealing from clients. Image is also an issue for a bar leader from Buffalo, N.Y., where an attempt to fix a case by a judge and a lawyer just came to light.
Local and state bar leaders from North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia said they’re straining to attract new members at a time when specialty bar associations are on the rise, lawyers are facing layoffs, and young lawyers seem particularly uninterested in coming on board.
But “it’s really very reassuring that we’re all sharing the same problems,” said Nina Tollison, president-elect of the Mississippi Bar.