OREGON TOP SECRET LAW SOCIETIES
Ah yes, your once-promising career as a lawyer seems to be on hold. Your parent's dreams of you being somebody in the law have faded. The track to partnership shares seems to have a fork in the way ahead. Nothing is working out for your career. Then the economic meltdown. Here lies the answer to fame and fortune. Oregon's Secret Law gatherings are, for the small price of a bit of scheming, the place where you can socialize with the ubiquitous movers and quakers of Oregon's legal world.
I know, you have assumed that if you joined the Lane County Bar Association or Marion County's Inns of Court, that it would all be there for you. For some, it worked. I always laugh that Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Lee Johnson went through all the chairs backwards and downhill; Ted Kulongoski went through the same chairs in the opposite direction. How do they know how to do it the right way? Here are some of the ‘High Ways' to that exalted place in the legal profession where you have always wanted to be. Some of these Oregon law societies are little known.
Joint Bar/Bench Commission on Professionalism -- This is how Albert Menasche did it. Created in 1994 as what I would call "The Lawyer Civility Police", this is the place where Oregon's legal oligarchy now gathers to talk about YOU. For example, this is where the back benchers decided that Attorney Allan Knappenberger was not a good person. Only he wasn't invited to attend the virtual beheading. Check out your Bar Directory to see who those movers and quakers are now under their new moniker, Professionalism (Police) Commission. If it worked for Al, it may work for you.
Oregon Law Commission -- If you want to change the law, here is where you are supposed to begin. The Oregon Law Commission was created in 1997 by the Oregon legislature "...to conduct a continuous program of law revision, reform and improvement." (ORS 173.315) It really began with a group of law professors designing special research projects for law students. If you want to meet Hans Linde (and I highly recommend you do!) and the lawyer-legislators of the moment, this is where you go. It is housed at the Willamette Law School in Salem. Check out the line-up of the Commissioners. You won't find a more august group to give you that love tap on the bottom down the career road to Valhalla.
U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society -- Come on now, you have to admit this one was not on your radar screen! You have seen those publications, most often in the Multnomah County Bar Association, where the smiling mugs of local wanna-be lawyers beam into the camera along with their favorite judge. (Sorry, Ed Harnden, but you are in every single one of these happy-face publications. Ubiquitous has to have your picture in the definition of Oregon high law society -- and, yes, I am jealous). Here is why you want to explore these secret societies. The Oregon State Bar President and the Oregon State Bar Executive Director are at every one of them, or, if they aren't there, they at least are on the board. What's more, so is Oregon's Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Campaign for Equal Justice -- When Reagan maneuvered to cut off federal funding to legal aid attorneys, separate local organizations formed to provide needed funding. Oregon's effort morphed into the Campaign for Equal Justice in 1991. Now, you will see the same Oregon State Bar leadership at these award banquets that you will also see at the other gatherings mentioned above. It is the main cocktail circuit stop of Oregon's legal oligarchy. The photographer simply must become more imaginative however, on those mugged pictures.
Oregon State Bar Board of Governors Meetings -- You are right. NOTHING of importance happens at these meetings. However, there are always cocktail parties connected with the Board of Governor's meetings often involving the local bar associations leaders and a few local judges. The Board of Governors has their meetings all around the state and you can find out where at the Oregon State Bar website. If you want to make a transition from the local bar association cocktail circuit to the next step up, this is a good place to start.
Bar Sections and Committees -- Forget it. They are feel-good meetings, but will seldom bear fruit for the upwardly mobile. They are the minor leagues. A great place for the esprit-de-corps, however, if you are in it for the right reasons. Each Section and Committee is supposed to have a Board of Governors member in attendance. If you want to see a ‘dear-in-the-headlights' look from your Region's Board of Governor, ask about that process and if your Region's Board of Governor made it to your Section or Committee meeting. (Hint -- The Board of Governor is not held accountable about going to these Section/Committee meetings so seldom attend.)
This is just a starter kit. There are manifold other meetings and gatherings out there, like Portland's Managing Attorney meetings, that are off everybody's radar screen, but determine where your legal profession is going. We have a new Executive Director, a new building and a new (old)
Bar President. Maybe you need to take a new look at where the decisions are really being made at the Oregon State Bar.