Jan. 13-14, 2022
The WSBA Board of Governors determines the Bar’s general policies and approves its annual budget.
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TOP MEETING TAKEAWAYS
Bar Structure. Upon the request of the Washington Supreme Court, the Board has developed a plan to study the WSBA’s integrated-bar structure.
In December, the Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court set forth three questions for the WSBA Board of Governors to answer in the coming months:
• Are there changes in federal law that require the WSBA to change its structure as an integrated bar?
• Even if a structural change is not legally required now, do we have a contingency plan to respond if we are forced to change in the near future?
• Regardless of federal law, what is the ideal structure for the state bar?
In response, the Board is firming up details about the process. Between now and the end of August, the Board plans to hold eight meetings to evaluate pending federal litigation regarding integrated bars, consider what an ideal bar structure looks like, and, perhaps most importantly, to hear from stakeholders. The meeting framework was approved, but at the time of publication, dates were yet to be set; when they are, the WSBA will post them online and send notification to all members. The WSBA will also send notification of opportunities for input.
Remembering a Legal Luminary. Following a moment of silence to honor the passing of Justice Mary Fairhurst, several governors offered support for the idea of naming an APEX Award in her honor. The Awards Committee will explore the recommendation.
LGBTQ Experiences in the Legal System. The Board held a training (“the ethics of inclusion”) and conversation with leaders from the QLaw Foundation and QLaw Association about the experiences, perspectives, challenges, and opportunities of being an LGBTQ legal practitioner.
RPC Amendment to Create a Financial Assistance Exception. The Board approved a request from the Committee on Professional Ethics to submit an amendment to Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 1.8(e) to the Washington Supreme Court for consideration. Based on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the amendment would permit lawyers to pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of indigent clients, and to provide modest gifts for living expenses to indigent clients in limited circumstances.
Statement on Public Defense Workloads. The Board supported the Council on Public Defense’s statement, to be used as a tool to assist public defenders and administrators in bringing concerns to their funders about workloads exceeding capacity due to the pandemic. The statement is based on a recent survey of private and public defense counsel and states: “Public defenders struggle to represent their clients because of a combination of a surge of newly filed cases, unresolved cases open for longer than average, backlogs of trials, and a push to re-open jury trials has resulted in overwhelming public defenders. Many lawyers have felony caseloads of over 100 open felonies.”
2022 Legislative Priorities and WSBA-Sponsored Bills. The 2022 session of the Washington State Legislature convened Jan. 10 and runs through March 10. The Board Legislative Committee will meet at least weekly throughout the session; its priorities are supporting two Bar-request bills (two bills put forth by the Business Law Section); monitoring and taking appropriate action on legislative proposals related to the practice of law and administration of justice; and supporting legislative proposals approved by the Board under GR 12 constraints.
The Board also:
• Approved changes to WSBA admissions policies to change the deadline for applicants to request an accommodation prior to the bar exam, to clarify how the admissions policies apply to reinstatement petitions, and to allow Bar staff to delete unsubmitted and incomplete (“abandoned”) applications in the online application portal after six months.
• Heard the Access to Justice Board’s annual report, including how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and prioritized the urgency of dismantling unjust systems.
• Heard the Practice of Law Board’s annual report, including an update on a request to the Washington Supreme Court to authorize a Legal Regulatory Lab (Sandbox) to determine how to best regulate online legal service providers and alternative legal business models.
The agenda, materials, and video recording from this Board of Governors meeting, as well as past meetings, are online here: www.wsba.org/about-wsba/who-we-are/board-of-governors.
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