Throughout my legal career — including at Quarles & Brady, as a solo practitioner, and especially as a writer — I’ve pondered a wide variety of “conflict of interest” scenarios. And while attorneys are conditioned to run scared from any situation that could conceivably be construed as a conflict, there are two huge conflicts of interest sitting right under our noses. First, let’s begin with state bar associations.
The mandatory, integrated state bar is such an obvious conflict that it needs little explanation. In a nutshell, the bar forces attorneys to become members, takes their dues money, and then actively works for “the public” and against its membership. Some state bar associations still pretend to serve their membership, when actually they are nothing more than Great Public Protection Perpetual Motion Machines: “The [attorney] members of the State Bar might still be stakeholders in the discipline system but that stake has shrunk to the size of the steak you order in a trendy restaurant, the one hiding under a stalk of asparagus.” But as the Irreverent Lawyer informs us, some state bars might do away with this pretense altogether. The State Bar of Arizona, for example, proposes clarifying the issue as follows: You, attorney, must join our ranks and pay your annual dues, and we will serve you only if it doesn’t conflict with our “mission . . . primarily to protect and to serve the public[.]” (For all of the Irreverent Lawyer’s posts on “your friendly state bar,” click here.)