State Bar of Michigan Overview
State Bar Organization
The Michigan Legislature established the State Bar of Michigan in 1935. By law, members include all persons who are licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan. The State Bar is a Public Body Corporate funded primarily by member dues and not by governmental appropriations. The State Bar operates under the supervision of the Michigan Supreme Court and is governed by the Michigan Supreme Court Rules concerning the State Bar of Michigan. The mission of the State Bar is to aid in promoting improvements in the administration of justice and advancements in jurisprudence, improving relations between the legal profession and the public, and promoting the interests of the legal profession in this state.
A Board of Commissioners governs the State Bar. The minimum number of Commissioners on the Board is 31, and the maximum number is 33. The Board of Commissioners has a system of standing committees, which provide oversight to the operations of the Bar in each of its areas of responsibility such as strategic planning, finance, public policy, member services and other matters. The Bar's elected officers include a President, President-Elect, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. A 10-member Executive Committee comprised of the officers, a Representative Assembly Chair and Vice-Chair, and three other commissioners chosen by the President manage the affairs of the Bar between board meetings. A 150-member Representative Assembly is the final policymaking body of the State Bar. Currently, the Bar has more than 42,000 members.
The State Bar employs a paid staff led by an Executive Director to carry out the mission of the Bar under the supervision of the Board of Commissioners.
State Bar Programs and Membership Services
The State Bar administers, operates, and provides a wide variety of programs and member services benefiting both the public interest and the members of the Bar. Among them:
- Conducting the Bar's Character and Fitness investigations to ensure members admitted to the Bar meet appropriate professional standards (funded primarily by investigation fees paid by prospective members).
- Investigating and prosecuting parties involved in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL), which helps ensure legal services to the public are provided only by those members of the Bar who are in good standing.
- Providing ethics counseling and advising lawyers and judges about the propriety of their conduct with respect to the Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Judicial Conduct.
- Providing the Practice Management Resource Center, a broad-based information clearinghouse and referral source for Michigan lawyers for all services and goods necessary to successfully manage a legal practice. Resources include a website, telephone hotline, technology training and demonstration room, and on-site assessments and evaluations.
- Reviewing and evaluating new laws and court rules for their impact on the administration of justice and on the profession through State Bar Committees, Sections, Board of Commissioners, and Representative Assembly.
- Advocating public policy positions and seeking legislative support for those positions, as permitted by AO 2004-01 (Keller).
- Publishing the Michigan Bar Journal 11 times a year.
- Publishing the e-Journal, which updates the legal profession daily on changes to laws and summarizes cases to help attorneys stay up to date with the law as it emerges from the courts.
- Publishing the SBM Newlinks, a daily e-mail summary of law-related news articles, editorials, and columns carried in major local, state, and national media.
- Operating a Public Policy Resource Center to increase awareness of public policy issues of particular interest to lawyers.
- Maintaining a website that serves as both a research tool and a source of information regarding the organization.
- Administering the Client Protection Fund that provides for reimbursements to members of the general public who have been victimized by the few lawyers who have misappropriated funds entrusted to them.
- Operating a lawyer referral service that provides referrals to the general public (partially funded by the attorneys who participate in the referrals).
- Administering the Bar's justice initiatives programs, which include promoting the effective delivery of high quality legal services to all Michigan residents, especially those with lower incomes; raising both public and professional awareness of the fair delivery of justice in our state and promoting equal application of law for all citizens; and administering the Bar's Access to Justice development fundraising campaign, which supports private giving to non-profit civil legal aid programs in Michigan.
- Operating the Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program that provides confidential personal counseling services to the Bar's members.
- Providing partner programs that offer discounted services to members including credit cards, insurance, rental cars, and other business and personal services.
- Providing annual Bar membership identification cards to members and Certificates of Good Standing when requested.
- Providing members the opportunity to actively participate, network, and share information in Bar member interest groups (Sections) and Bar Committees, including providing administrative support to these groups.
- Providing Bar organizations with a "print on demand" service for newsletter preparation (primarily offset with fees).
- Hosting the Great Lakes Legal Conference, which provides educational opportunities for Michigan lawyers.
- Providing Casemaker, an online tool for attorneys to search for case law and related references.
- Providing members and Bar organizations with meeting rooms and related meeting services at the State Bar headquarters.