They put the bull in Bulletin

Every year, the lawyers of Oregon elect a board of governors of the state Bar, and the governors elect one of their own to serve as president. The president is sort of like the chair of the board of directors.

And like clockwork, every year in January, the Bar's glossy magazine, which is mailed to every lawyer every month whether they want it or not, runs a huge "profile" puffing up whoever gets elected to the top post. The lawyer in question is made out to be a modern-day saint. It's pretty embarrassing.

Why do they do this? One of my colleagues who's rarely wrong says it's the Bar staff's way of kissing up to the new figurehead. Show the love right up front. That way, the prez won't get any ideas about cutting staff positions to save money, or even reorganizing the staff in any way that would interrupt everyone's comfy daily routines.

When I got my copy of this year's issue the other day, I saw the cover and had to laugh. But before I pitched it into the recycling bin, I thought, "Let me check and make sure there's a dog picture." You see, if the president has a pet, there's always a shot of him or her with Fido or Fluffy or whoever.

It took me a while to find it – this year's "profile" is eight pages long – but sure enough, there it is at the end.

It happens every year. But to me, the Bar magazine is a bit of a joke all year 'round. Over the last few years, the state Bar has drastically altered the bar exam, and now they're talking about doing away with the exam altogether for some lawyer wannabes. Do you read about that in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin? No. Right now there's a major crisis in the state's criminal justice system because there are nowhere near enough public defenders. The chief justice of the state Supreme Court fired the guy who was running public defense. Hard-core criminals are being released for lack of counsel. Do you read about that in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin? No.

But the dog picture? You can set your calendar by it.

Years ago, there used to a State Bar Convention every year, in Seaside or Bend or Newport or Portland or someplace. There would be long meetings where all the lawyers would get together in a huge ballroom and vote on things. The Bar staff would then carry out the wishes of the entire Bar membership.

That's all gone now. It was too much work. These days, there's a revolving cast of figurehead board members, and a plump staff explaining to them what they're supposed to be doing. The whole thing seems to have devolved into what's become the motto of the legal system in Oregon: "Don't Make Waves." If there's any message in the annual puff piece on the new Bar president, that seems to be it.


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself. But worse yet, the Bulletin now has a political cast, which no doubt reflects the views of a majority of members, but is nauseating to us curmudgeons who remember, as you do, when it was a no-nonsense, sometimes helpful tool for members, and we weren't subjected to endless puff pieces on how absolutely correctly positioned the Bar is in riding the cultural zeitgeist of the chattering classes.

  2. The only consistently trenchant section is Discipline.

    1. You go there initially, as well? About the only part not full of "look at me, aren't we with it", self-importance.

    2. I'm always relieved when nobody I know is in there. (That's not every month, unfortunately.)

  3. And yet there was a plaintive cry for reader-submitted articles in a recent edition. There are only so many puff pieces they can run, apparently.

    I infer that lawyers with views even a centimeter outside of the bounds of progressive right-think are justifiably scared to submit anything so submissions have slowed to a trickle.

    1. That plaintive plea is what inspired me to suggest revisiting trust and Oregon law, 27 years later. Fortunately, sharing your trepidition, before expending the energy to draft a follow-up, I floated the trial balloon. Whether it's not trusting tenants to be wise enough to choose "unhabitable" rentals over camping on the sidewalk (ORS 90.245(1)) or the means of propelling their vehicle after 2035, (DEQ, when Kate couldn't ram it through the legislature), one would think at least discussing the issue might still be of interest to at least some bar members.


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