On Board > A Summary of the September 2023 Board of Governors Meeting

The WSBA Board of Governors determines the Bar’s general policies and approves its annual budget

MORE ONLINE > 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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Sept. 8-9, 2023


2025 License Fees and 2024 Budget. The Board adopted the fiscal year 2024 budget, including the Keller deduction schedule. The budget maintains programs and services while purposefully using a portion of available reserves to maintain the 2024 license fee at current levels. Looking ahead, the Board will recommend to the Washington Supreme Court that all license fees remain stable, with no increase, for fiscal year 2025. The Client Protection Board assessment, however, will revert to the rate of $20; it was temporarily lowered to $15 for the past two years because of a healthy fund balance. 

Swearing-in of New Governors and Officers. President Daniel D. Clark passed the gavel to incoming President Hunter M. Abell to begin the new fiscal year. Washington Supreme Court Justice Debra Stephens also swore in Tom Ahearne, Todd Bloom, Kristina Larry, Allison Widney, and Matthew Dresden (continuing) to begin their new terms on the Board of Governors. The full slate of incoming officers sworn in comprises President Hunter Abell, President-Elect Sunitha Anjilvel, Immediate-Past President Dan Clark, and continuing Treasurer Francis Adewale. Learn more about these WSBA leaders on pages 18-21. Governors who concluded their terms, to much applause and thanks, were Lauren Boyd, Erik Kaeding, Brett Purtzer, and Alec Stephens. Outgoing Immediate-Past President Hon. Brian Tollefson (Ret.), who served as FY 22 president, was also honored for his service. 

Local Hero and Presidential Commendation. The WSBA recognized Jenaé Ball as a Local Hero, an honor bestowed by the WSBA president in partnership with county bar associations to recognize colleagues who make noteworthy contributions to their communities. Ball was nominated by the Spokane County Bar Association for her tremendous leadership and service, leading the county bar through the pandemic and championing its mission to address systemic racism in the justice system. WSBA President Dan Clark also gave a special commendation to Milt Rowland, a highly regarded retired adjunct professor at Gonzaga University School of Law known for his wit, humor, and vast experience.

Annual Report from Law School Deans & APR 6 (Law Clerk) Program. The Board heard updates from the deans of the University of Washington School of Law, Seattle University School of Law, Gonzaga University School of Law, and the University of Idaho School of Law. In addition, the Board heard from a representative from the APR Rule 6 Law Clerk Board. All participants answered questions from the Board of Governors regarding the current state of education of law students coming into our profession. They spoke about the trends, opportunities, enrollment data, and priorities in legal education on their campuses and across the nation. Hot topics included the record-breaking size and diversity of 1L classes, the trend of boycotting national law-school rankings, innovative programs, opportunities for hands-on education and experiences, and the cost of law school.

The Professional Pipeline and Bar Exam Changes. Representatives from the National Conference of Bar Examiners presented regarding the plan to sunset the current bar exam and launch the NextGen bar exam in July 2026. The NextGen exam content and structure is meant to better test applicants on skills and knowledge they need to be successful in real-world practice. The conversation then shifted to a closely related topic, possible alternative pathways to licensure being considered by the Washington Bar Licensure Task Force. Task Force co-chairs Washington Supreme Court Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis and Seattle University Law School Dean Tony Varona spoke regarding their work studying and developing a soon-to-be released proposal recommending several ways for bar applicants to demonstrate competence to practice, other than the bar exam. Both co-chairs noted that their primary focus in lawyer licensure is public safety, and it has been eye-opening to learn that research shows the traditional bar exam is not an especially reliable instrument in protecting the public. The final report is expected to be ready this fall, with a public rollout and engagement plan to follow.

Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW) Annual Report. In 2022, LFW invested more than $13 million in grants to Washington’s legal aid system, including more than $2.5 million in COVID-19-related emergency grants in partnership with King County and the Office of Civil Legal Aid. As a result, more than 27,000 families received free one-on-one legal services for help with urgent legal concerns, and hundreds of thousands of people benefited from advocacy to address systemic injustice and root causes of poverty. The LFW was established by the Washington Supreme Court in 1984 to distribute funds from the interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts to support civil legal aid organizations throughout the state.

The Board also: 

  • Continued its discussion to develop strategic priorities for the coming fiscal year and beyond.
  • Approved the Washington State Bar Foundation’s 2024 Board of Trustees roster and heard about the Foundation’s work to increase access to justice, pro bono work, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. 
  • Approved a process and instrument to evaluate the executive director’s performance in fiscal year 2023. 

SAVE THE DATE > The next regular meeting is Nov. 2–3 in Seattle. To subscribe to the Board Meeting Notification list, email barleaders@wsba.org.