24 Ways to Give Back

Not all volunteer opportunities are the same—the WSBA offers a variety of options for those looking to assist the legal community and serve the public
Staff illustration; source illustration Getty © Akindo

BY PARIS A. ERIKSEN

Year after year, WSBA members and members of the public come together to further the mission of the Washington State Bar Association to serve the public and the members of the Bar, to ensure the integrity of the legal profession, and to champion justice. Much of this work is carried out by volunteers who former WSBA President Kyle Sciuchetti has recognized as “the backbone of the regulatory and professional services provided by the state [B]ar.” Why are volunteers so valuable?

First, the WSBA’s staff and resources are limited. The time and expertise that volunteers donate allow the WSBA to go beyond its budget and do more to further its mission. Second, unlike WSBA staff who may be responsible for multiple projects and initiatives, volunteers can commit to and focus on a single body of work about which they feel strongly.

Why should you consider adding volunteer work with a WSBA committee or board to the demands of a busy practice? Because your perspective is needed to inform the work of the WSBA and affect the direction of the profession. Volunteers speak up, criticize, critique, rethink, retool, and ask questions. This dynamic is critical in pushing the profession and the WSBA forward in a direction that is better able to meet the needs of the public and its members.

Please take a look at the many opportunities to contribute summarized below, and please consider sharing your time and expertise—and unique perspective—to help keep your membership association and the profession moving forward.

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Apply Online

Most committees and boards have multi-year terms, intended to give members time to develop in-depth understanding of the work and to actively engage in it. All WSBA meetings and events are currently being held in virtual format only, due to COVID-19, which has had the positive effect of allowing better engagement by members from around the state. If you have questions, please email barleaders@wsba.org. Find instructions and the volunteer interest form at www.wsba.org/joincommittee.


WSBA COMMITTEES

The following committees were created by the Board of Governors and are tasked with studying matters relating to the general purpose and business of the WSBA.

Committee on Professional Ethics

  • Provides guidance to WSBA members on legal ethics issues in the form of advisory opinions.
  • Considers and proposes to the WSBA Board of Governors amendments to the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs).
  • Considers and reports to the WSBA Board of Governors on amendments and proposed amendments to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • May also conduct periodic outreach to the membership on these subjects.

Time commitment: Three-year term with six meetings per year, 3.5-5 hours per meeting.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member or a law professor.

This committee may be right for you if: You have knowledge and experience in legal ethics and legal writing and research, a depth of experience in various practice areas, a keen understanding of the RPCs and the Model Rules, a desire to discuss legal ethics, and the ability to research and draft reports and memos and prepare draft rules.


  • Supports the WSBA and its 29 sections in the delivery of high-quality, mission-focused Continuing Legal Education (CLE).
  • Advises on content, speakers, and delivery models.
  • Helps identify trends and gaps in legal education that the WSBA is uniquely positioned to fill.

Time commitment: Three-year term with four meetings per year, 2 hours per meeting.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member.

This committee may be right for you if: You have an interest in the development and delivery of CLE programs and some experience in CLE program development.


Council on Public Defense

  • Unites representatives of the Bar; private and public criminal defense attorneys; judicial representatives appointed by the Washington Supreme Court, the Superior Court Judges Association, and the District and Municipal Court Judges Association; current and former prosecutors; and the public to address new and recurring challenges that impact the public defense system.
  • Educates and informs policymakers on issues that need reform and provides concrete proposals that are enhanced by the comprehensive nature of the Council on Public Defense membership.

Time commitment: Two-year term with one 2.5-hour meeting per month plus participation in at least one committee. Total monthly time commitment ranges from 3.5-10 hours.

Requirements: Depending on the needs of the committee, members can be WSBA members, members of the public, prosecutors, public defenders, law school representatives, judicial members, members of local government, or public defense administrators.

This council may be right for you if: You have knowledge and experience with public defense, a willingness to take initiative on tasks and committees, and openness to productive discussion and debate.


Court Rules & Procedures Committee

  • Studies and develops suggested amendments to designated sets of court rules on a regular cycle of review.
  • Performs the rules study function outlined in General Rule 9 and reports recommendations to the WSBA Board of Governors.

Time commitment: Two-year term with monthly meetings of 1-3 hours each, periodic subcommittee meetings, and outside of meetings, some research, drafting of rule language, and more.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member.

This committee may be right for you if: You have experience with or strong interest in drafting of rules and/or court procedures, and a willingness to commit time to research, drafting, and spirited discussion.


Editorial Advisory Committee

  • Works closely with the Washington State Bar News editorial team, ensuring that the magazine’s content engages, excites, and informs readers.
  • Committee members identify and develop possible article topics, write articles, identify and recruit potential authors, review and critique issues of the magazine, and work with staff to develop editorial policy.

Time commitment: Two-year term with a 1-hour meeting each month. Members may be asked to draft articles, recruit authors, review magazine issues, and more.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member.

This committee may be right for you if: You have writing and/or editing experience, a lively interest in and awareness of current developments in the law and of issues relevant to legal practitioners, and a willingness to do outreach to identify and recruit authors with the expertise and experience to write on specific topics.


Judicial Recommendation Committee

  • Screens and interviews candidates for state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court positions.
  • Makes recommendations that are reviewed by the WSBA Board of Governors and forwarded to the state governor for consideration when making judicial appointments.

Time commitment: Three-year term, and depending on the number of candidates to review, meetings can last at least 3 hours. Prior to each meeting, members review candidate materials and conduct reference checks.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member and must abide by committee rules (not endorsing or campaigning for judge positions, etc.).

This committee may be right for you if: You match the criteria of a position the committee is looking to fill: considerations include number of years in practice, geographic location, size of firm, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, nature of practice/areas of expertise, employer, and typical client representation (i.e., civil plaintiff or defense, criminal prosecution or defense, government regulatory). The committee comprises 22 members.


Legislative Review Committee

  • Reviews legislative proposals brought by WSBA sections or other WSBA committees or entities and makes recommendations for sponsorship or support to the Board of Governors.
  • Ensures that WSBA-request legislation (the legislative proposals brought by sections or other WSBA entities that are sponsored by the WSBA Board of Governors) fulfills General Rule (GR) 12 and is vetted both internally and externally. In particular, GR 12 prohibits the WSBA from “tak[ing] positions on political or social issues which do not relate to or affect the practice of law or the administration of justice.”
  • May also consider non-WSBA proposals seeking WSBA input and support.
  • May also provide technical support to WSBA sections in drafting of bills where appropriate.

Time commitment: One-year term; the number and duration of meetings depends on the number of legislative proposals to address. Each meeting lasts between 1-3 hours and requires about 1-3 hours of prior preparation.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member.

This committee may be right for you if: You have an interest in the legislative process.


Member Engagement Council

  • Educates members in a proactive manner about the WSBA’s and Board of Governor’s actions and work.
  • Seeks input and involves WSBA members in decision-making processes.
  • Builds relationships between members and WSBA governance.
  • Ensures ongoing updates to members on WSBA processes and measurement.
  • Forms relationships with WSBA sections, specialty, minority and regional bars.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member.

This committee may be right for you if: You are interested in building connections and community amongst WSBA members by seeking ways to effectively inform members about the organization and gather member feedback about WSBA programs and initiatives.


Pro Bono and Public Service Committee

  • Focuses on breaking down the barriers to engaging in public service and pro bono work faced by members.
  • Promotes pro bono opportunities.
  • Develops public service CLEs to support members doing pro bono work.
  • Works with WSBA staff to collaborate with the Alliance for Equal Justice to advance efforts to engage members in pro bono.

Time commitment: Two-year term with monthly meetings lasting 1-2 hours each. Work groups also meet monthly, with some projects requiring time outside of meetings.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member; one position is designated to be filled by a member with pro bono status.

This committee may be right for you if: You have interest and/or experience in doing pro bono and public service work and a commitment to advancing the WSBA’s mission to serve the public and champion justice.


Small Town and Rural Committee (STAR)

  • Strengthens and supports the practice of law in rural communities throughout Washington.
  • Works to ensure that the practice of law in rural communities is present, growing, and thriving.
  • Guides policy and program development.
  • Serves as ambassadors between the WSBA and rural communities.
  • Explores and advocate for creative and innovative solutions.
  • Regularly assesses the legal landscape in rural communities to determine if WSBA policy, advocacy, and program development require further resources for sustainability and improvements.

Time commitment: Varied term limits with monthly meetings lasting 1-2 hours each.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member; one open position is designated to be filled by a member from a rural area.

This committee may be right for you if: You are a legal practitioner in a rural part of the state and/or have an interest in supporting the practice of law in rural areas.


Washington Young Lawyers Committee

  • Works to actively engage new and young lawyers in the activities of the WSBA.
  • Develops and conducts activities of value to new and young lawyers.
  • Connects new and young lawyers to all WSBA resources.

Time commitment: Three-year term with six 5-hour Saturday meetings per year, with about 1 hour of preparation per meeting. Members are also encouraged to work on one or more committee projects. Time commitment varies per project.

Requirements: Active lawyer members of the Bar are considered eligible to apply until the last day of December of the year in which the member attains the age of 36 years or until the last day of December of the fifth year after the year in which such member first was admitted to practice as a lawyer in any state, whichever is later.

This committee may be right for you if: You have past volunteer experience, have developed new lawyer programs or benefits, and connections to local new lawyer networks.


WSBA Diversity Committee

  • Works to support and implement the WSBA Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
  • Supports historically underrepresented groups to enter and stay in the profession.
  • Raises awareness in the community and builds coalitions through collaborative relationships on the benefits of diversity through the continued use of the membership study.
  • Works with WSBA staff to review, advise, and implement policy, programs, and activities of the WSBA that promote a culture of inclusion.

Time commitment: Two-year term with four meetings lasting 4-5 hours each plus five additional short meetings. Members also participate in committee activities such as mentoring, networking, writing, and educational events.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member and have an interest in advancing the WSBA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal profession.

This committee may be right for you if: You have a genuine interest in the work.


WSBA REGULATORY BOARDS & PANELS

These regulatory boards and panels were created by court rule and are administered by the WSBA.

Adjunct Disciplinary Counsel Panel

  • Assists, as needed, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel in carrying out the functions of the lawyer discipline system pursuant to Rule 2.9 of the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct.

Time commitment: Five-year term; time commitment varies depending on the complexity of the assignments.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA lawyer or judge for at least seven years and have no record of disciplinary action.

This panel may be right for you if: You have experience in investigation of wrongdoing and/or law practice management supervision.


Character & Fitness Board

  • Conducts hearings to determine whether applicants for admission to the practice of law can establish that they have the good moral character and fitness required to engage in the practice of law.
  • Reads hearing materials, considers testimony, and prepares written findings and recommendations for the Washington Supreme Court for final decision and action.

Time commitment: Three-year term with one full-day meeting per month, plus time to review materials prior to each meeting.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member or a member of the public. WSBA members must have been licensed to practice for at least five years.

This board may be right for you if: You have the ability to treat all applicants with dignity and respect, maintain an open mind until all evidence has been presented, weigh conflicting evidence and arrive at a decision, state and explain personal opinions in a polite and professional manner, work collaboratively with a group, write clearly and persuasively, and maintain strict confidentiality regarding materials and hearings. Experience working in a judicial position of any type may be helpful, but is not required.


Client Protection Board

  • Reviews claims for reimbursement of financial loss sustained by clients of WSBA members who have engaged in dishonest actions or failed to account for client funds.
  • Decides on claims up to $25,000 and makes recommendations to the Board of Governors on claims for greater amounts, with the maximum gift of $150,000.
  • Reviews approximately 80-100 applications for reimbursement per year.

Time commitment: Three-year term with quarterly meetings lasting 2-4 hours each, plus review of materials prior to each meeting.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member or a member of the public.

This board may be right for you if: You have attention to detail and willingness to devote time to reviewing materials thoroughly prior to meetings.


Law Clerk Board

  • Supervises the Law Clerk Program, an alternative to law school governed by Admission and Practice Rule (APR) 6 and designed to provide educational and practical experience through a combination of work and study with an experienced lawyer or judge.

Time commitment: Three-year term with full board meetings four to six times a year for approximately 6-8 hours each. In addition, members review meeting materials, interview applicants, and more.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member.

This board may be right for you if: You match the criteria of a position the committee is looking to fill: Considerations include geographic distribution of law clerks in the program, a balance of those who completed the law clerk program and law school graduates, and other diversity factors.


SUPREME COURT BOARDS & PANELS

These boards and panels were created by the Washington Supreme Court and are administered by the WSBA.

Access to Justice Board

  • Works to achieve equal access to justice for those facing economic and other significant barriers.

Time commitment: Three-year term with time commitment estimated at about 10-20 hours per month.

Requirements: No status requirements; can be a WSBA member of any status or a member of the public.

This board may be right for you if: You have the ability to think strategically; a commitment to equity and justice; demonstrated leadership in equity and justice work, and a proven track record of collaboration, strategic thinking and communication, and fostering processes of renewal and building new leaders. Personal/professional experience working in community-based organizations, civil legal aid programs, pro bono programs, or public defense is a plus. Applications are also encouraged from people who are or have been eligible for civil legal aid services.


Disciplinary Board

  • Carries out adjudicative functions and duties according to the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct.
  • The full 14-member board reviews appeals from hearing officer decisions and also approves or rejects certain stipulations to discipline.
  • Three-member review committees review disciplinary investigation reports and appeals from dismissals of grievances.

Time commitment: Three-year term with bi-monthly full board meetings lasting 2-5 hours each and review committee meetings lasting about 2 hours each. In addition, members must review records and do considerable reading and meeting preparation.

Requirements: Must be a WSBA lawyer member or a member of the public. Lawyer members must have been an active attorney or judicial member for at least five years.

This board may be right for you if: You are willing to devote time to review and consider a significant amount of material and to make decisions in a fair and impartial manner. Prior adjudicative experience can be helpful but is not required.


Hearing Officer

  • Presides over licensed legal professional discipline and disability proceedings under appropriate court rules.

Time commitment: Initially a two-year term; depending on assignments the time commitment is an estimated 5-15 days per year.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA members for at least 7 years, have no public discipline record, and have experience as an adjudicator or advocate in contested adjudicative proceedings.

This position may be right for you if: You have experience writing adjudicatory decisions, experience with judicial demeanor, and experience controlling a hearing.


  • Develops and recommends to the Washington Supreme Court general policy and requirements for the LLLT license.
  • Works with subject matter experts to write and grade the LLLT practice area examinations and LLLT ethics examination.
  • Plays a role in the LLLT discipline system.
  • Acts as a group of ambassadors of the LLLT license for the broader legal profession and the public.

Time commitment: Three-year term with monthly full board meetings lasting about 2 hours each. Additional committees made up of board members meet as needed.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member, judicial member, pro bono member, or member of the public.

This board may be right for you if: You have experience with program planning, adult education, marketing, legal practice, exam writing, technology and process automation, business management, legal aid, and/or access to justice reform.


Limited Practice Board

  • Develops and recommends to the Washington Supreme Court general policy and requirements for the Limited Practice Officer (LPO) license.
  • Works with exam-writing experts to write and grade the LPO practice area examination.
  • Develops and approves forms for use by LPOs.
  • Plays a role in the LPO discipline system.
  • Acts as a group of ambassadors of the LPO license for the broader legal profession and the public.

Time commitment: Three-year term with full board meetings four to six times per year of about 3 hours each.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member or business representative of one of the following industries: escrow, lending, title insurance, and real estate.

This board may be right for you if: You have experience in the real estate, mortgage, title, and escrow industries.


  • Oversees compliance of licensed legal professionals and CLE sponsors with MCLE requirements (authorized by Admission and Practice Rule (APR) 11).

Time commitment: Three-year term with five meetings per year, plus time reviewing materials and auditing courses.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member or a member of the public.

This board may be right for you if: You have a diverse background, teaching experience, and technology skills.


Practice of Law Board

  • Works to discover innovative ways to make legal resources and services more accessible and user friendly.
  • Educates the public about how to receive competent legal assistance.
  • Considers new avenues for people not authorized to practice law to provide legal and law-related services.
  • Refers nonfrivolous complaints alleging unauthorized practice of law to appropriate authorities.

Time commitment: Three-year term with monthly full-day meetings, plus pre-meeting preparation.

Requirements: Must be an active WSBA member or a member of the public.

This board may be right for you if: You have an interest in access to justice, innovation, working on collaborative projects, and working on long-term projects.


OTHER POSITIONS

Disciplinary Advisory Round Table

  • Acts as a forum for the discussion of issues affecting the discipline system for licensed legal professionals in Washington.
  • Provides an annual report to the Washington Supreme Court and the WSBA Board of Governors, including any recommendations for change and the identification of concerns or issues.

Time commitment: Three-year term with one annual training/orientation meeting plus additional 2-hour meetings on an ad hoc basis.

Requirements: Depends on open positions. Openings could include a minority bar association representative, a LLLT, and an LPO.

This position may be right for you if: You have some knowledge of court or administrative-adjudicative processes and rules.


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Other Ways to Volunteer

  • Become a WSBA CLE Faculty Member. WSBA CLE seminars rely on the time, knowledge, and commitment of WSBA members. For more information, contact cle@wsba.org.
  • Serve on a WSBA Section Executive Committee. The WSBA has 29 sections with committed executive committees that help plan and implement the member benefits each section provides. Most executive committee members are elected by the section membership. For more information, contact sections@wsba.org.
  • Lead the WSBA by serving on the WSBA Board of Governors. More information can be found at www.wsba.org/about-wsba/who-we-are/board-elections.
About the author
About the author

Paris A. Eriksen is the volunteer engagement advisor in the Office of the Executive Director at the Washington State Bar Association. In this role, Eriksen oversees all aspects of the volunteer engagement cycle from recruitment to recognition, which includes managing the appointment process and Board of Governor elections. She can be reached at: