The Washington State Bar Association
(WSBA) is the mandatory statewide bar association
A bar association is a professional body of lawyers. Some bar associations are responsible for the regulation of the legal profession in their jurisdiction; others are professional organizations dedicated to serving their members; in many cases, they are both...
of Washington State. As an administrative arm of the Washington State Supreme Court, it administers the admissions, licensing, and discipline functions for lawyers licensed in Washington. It also acts as their statewide professional association. It has been an integrated bar since 1933.
In the days of Washington Territory
The Territory of Washington was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from February 8, 1853, until November 11, 1889, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Washington....
, lawyers who had cases set for argument before the Supreme Court were required to be present at the beginning of the Court term in January. Sometimes, they waited for weeks for their cases to be called.
On January 19, 1888, a group of these lawyers met in the Supreme Court chambers to form the Washington Bar Association
. This was a voluntary organization and did not include all lawyers admitted to practice; originally it consisted of 35 lawyers, at a cost of $5 a year. In 1890, the name changed to Washington State Bar Association
In 1930, as more lawyers were admitted to practice, it was proposed that the Bar Association have a paid executive secretary and a paid representative in Olympia when the Legislature was meeting, that it have an official publication, and that it be incorporated. George McCush of Bellingham headed an Incorporation Committee
to draft a Bar Association Act proposal. The committee proposed that the Bar Association be an agency of the state, creating "a complete integrated (i.e., mandatory membership) Bar which is officially organized, self-governed and all inclusive." The annual license fee would be $5. In 1933, after much debate and some redrafting, the legislature enacted the State Bar Act (Ch. 2.48 RCW).
Today, a 14-member Board of Governors ("BOG"), elected geographically, directs the WSBA. The Board is elected solely by members of the WSBA. Annually, the Board elect a president-elect and elects one of its members as treasurer. It employs an executive director to carry out the purposes and functions of the Bar; this executive director employs a staff of around 150, within the limits of the budget that the BOG establishes. According to its bylaws, WSBA will not take positions on issues concerning the politics or social positions of foreign nations; take positions on political or social issues which do not relate to or affect the practice of law or the administration of justice; or support or oppose, in an election, candidates for public office.
WSBA is funded by mandatory license fees imposed upon Washington lawyers by order of the Supreme Court. At the time of an American Bar Association 2007 Dues and Mandatory Fees Survey (available from ABA
), WSBA dues and fees ranked 12th highest in the nation at $414 per year, up from 27th highest in 1995.
Services to Lawyers
WSBA implements the rules for admitting persons to the practice of law by means of biannual Bar Exams and annual relicensing. Its Office of Disciplinary Counsel
investigates and prosecutes claims of lawyer misconduct, as specified in the Washington State Court Rules of Professional Conduct.
WSBA's Lawyer Services Department provides a variety of services:
- The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program helps lawyers and clients resolve fee disputes
- The Ethics/Professional Responsibility Program provides education on ethical matters. A telephone Ethics Line allows anonymous inquires by lawyers needing advice. WSBA Ethics Opinions are maintained online.
- The Law Office Management Assistance Program provides education and advice on running a law office, including a lending library and on-site education.
- The Lawyer-to-Lawyer program facilitates mentoring.
- The Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) offers confidential mental health and chemical dependency counseling services for Washington state judges, lawyers, and third-year law students. The LAP was established to prevent or alleviate problems before they jeopardize an individual's ability to practice law. Services are confidential, as provided under Washington State Rules APR 19(b)
WSBA's Continuing Legal Education
Continuing legal education is professional education of lawyers that takes place after their initial admission to the bar. In many states in the United States, CLE participation is required of attorneys to maintain their license to practice law...
Department provides a broad array of educational opportunities for lawyers. It is entirely self-funded, and does not use members dues, to provide fair competition with other CLE providers.
WSBA hosts several dozen Sections
, which are voluntary associations of attorneys interested in a common topic, such as Animal Law
Animal law is a combination of statutory and case law in which the nature—legal, social or biological—of nonhuman animals is an important factor. Animal law encompasses companion animals, wildlife, animals used in entertainment and animals raised for food and research...
, Corporate Law
Corporate law is the study of how shareholders, directors, employees, creditors, and other stakeholders such as consumers, the community and the environment interact with one another. Corporate law is a part of a broader companies law...
, Criminal Law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...
, Family Law
Family law is an area of the law that deals with family-related issues and domestic relations including:*the nature of marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships;...
and Human Rights Law. These organizations provide educational and networking opportunities.
Services to the Public
WSBA promotes justice through a variety of projects:
- Access to Justice programs improves and expands access to the justice system for low and moderate income people.
- The Technology Bill of Rights program promulgates the principle that technology must be implemented in a way that improves the quality of justice for all persons in Washington State both increases opportunities and eliminates barriers to access to and effective utilization of the justice system. http://www.atjtechprinciples.org/
- The Council on Public Legal Education promotes public understanding of the law and civic rights and responsibilities. http://www.wsba.org/ple/
- Law Week organizes lawyers and judges to visit classrooms in their communities during the first week of May. http://www.lawweek.org
- The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection was established for the purpose of relieving or mitigating a pecuniary loss sustained by any client due to the dishonesty of, or failure to account for money or property entrusted to, any member of the WSBA in connection with the member's practice of law or while acting as a fiduciary in a matter related to the member's practice of law. The Fund is funded by an annual assessment of members of the WSBA by order of the Washington State Supreme Court.
- The Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project was established in May of 2009 to provide Washington residents facing foreclosure
Foreclosure is the legal process by which a mortgage lender , or other lien holder, obtains a termination of a mortgage borrower 's equitable right of redemption, either by court order or by operation of law...
with pro bono legal counsel.
WSBA issues a variety of publications:
- Washington State Bar News is WSBA's monthly periodical. It publishes official notices (including disciplinary notices), educational articles, news of interest to the legal profession, and more.
- De Novo is the periodical of the Washington Young Lawyers Division (WYLD), the organization for young and/or newly-admitted lawyers.
- Resources is an annual directory of Washington lawyers and lawyering resources
- WSBA publishes pamphlets on IOLTA
Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts is a method of raising money for charitable purposes, primarily the provision of civil legal services to indigent persons, through the use of interest earned on certain lawyer trust accounts...
, general legal information for the public, and more
- Washington Civil Procedure Deskbook