SAN FRANCISCO — The California Bar, pressed to spend more money on lawyer discipline, is laying off most of its communications staff and reducing its public relations activities, the organization announced.
Media relations manager Anne Charles, media relations director Jeanne Baker, and four other staffers have been given layoff notices effective Feb. 29, the Bar announced on Friday. A vacant job has also been eliminated, and two new jobs will be created, for a net loss of five.
The Bar is also discontinuing its annual Golden Medallion awards for legal journalism, eliminating an employee newsletter and public service announcements to radio stations, cutting back annual Law Day activities and halting the production of new pamphlets advising consumers on legal topics, said Tod Martin, the Bar's director of communications.
With its discipline system under attack for slowness and laxity, the Bar has more than doubled its disciplinary budget in three years, to a current level of $19 million, and in the process ran up a $1.2-million deficit in other programs.
For next year, the Bar is seeking a record increase in lawyer dues--from a current maximum of $276 a year to $470, highest in the nation--mainly to fund disciplinary activities. Opposition is expected among Republicans in the Legislature.