06
June
2019
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04:18 PM
America/Chicago

President's Page: Doing even better together - for 75 Years

Vol.75, No. 3 / May - June 2019

By Ray Williams, 2018-19 Missouri Bar President[1]

May - June Issue, Journal of The Missouri Bar

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

June 16, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of The Missouri Bar. Working together, Missouri lawyers have achieved remarkable successes since that June day in 1944, and I welcome this opportunity to recognize some of those accomplishments.

In October 1943, Missouri lawyers gathered and approved a resolution seeking integration of the practice of law in Missouri.[2] In response, the Supreme Court of Missouri created the Committee on the Integration of the Bar. After Missouri lawyers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the committee’s recommendation and plan for integration, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued a court rule on June 16, 1944, giving birth to The Missouri Bar.[3] In the ensuing 75 years, The Missouri Bar has grown from a few thousand to more than 30,000 members across the 114 counties (plus the City of St. Louis) and 46 circuits of our state, and this diverse group of lawyers disposed of nearly 1.6 million cases during fiscal year 2018 in the appellate, circuit, and municipal divisions of our state’s courts.[4]

Such efficiencies arise as the result of Missouri’s unified court system with common rules, jurisdiction, and procedures across the courts of our state. This unified court system is the product of a complete revision of Article V of the Missouri Constitution in 1976, a process that began with the appointment of The Missouri Bar’s Special Study Commission on Judicial Revision in November 1964.[5] The leadership of members of The Missouri Bar led to the efficiencies and uniformity in our courts that we enjoy today, and those efforts continue to improve our courts, with modern case management and electronic filing enhancements being integrated across Missouri courts.

The effort to standardize Missouri’s jury instructions began with a request by The Missouri Bar to the Supreme Court of Missouri in 1961. On January 1, 1965, the Court issued its order establishing uniform jury instructions for civil cases in our state.[6] We now have Missouri Approved Instructions for both civil and criminal cases. In addition, through a joint effort with the Court, The Missouri Bar makes the Missouri Approved Instructions – Criminal and the Missouri Approved Charges – Criminal available online to members.The efforts of Missouri lawyers to improve the law, our courts, and the administration of justice in our state have been expansive during the past 75 years. The Missouri Bar has always worked to assist Missouri lawyers with the means to be well-informed about developments in the law. Shortly after its inception, The Missouri Bar began focusing on providing quality continuing legal education programs to Missouri lawyers. Now, our Bar provides more than 300 CLE programs annually, certifies programs for CLE credit, and tracks each Missouri lawyer’s CLE compliance.

The Missouri Bar has frequently convened groups of lawyers, judges, and interested stakeholders to improve the quality of Missouri’s laws. Just a few of these significant efforts include: the adoption and revisions of the probate and guardianship code; adoption of the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act; revisions to the Missouri Business Corporations Act; the adoption of various articles of the Uniform Commercial Code; the adoption of the Marriage Dissolution Act; the revision of the Missouri Trust Code; multiple revisions of the Missouri Criminal Code; and the adoption of several uniform laws.

Throughout its history, The Missouri Bar has focused on access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of legal services rendered to the citizens of Missouri. With the help of our Bar’s numerous member benefits programs, Missouri lawyers are able to even better serve their clients.[7] Access to justice has remained a hallmark of our Bar’s 75-year history. The Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org program and pro bono enrollment fee waiver rule are the most recent examples of ongoing efforts stretching back to 1965 and before to improve access to legal services. An efficient and effective justice system requires attention to civil and criminal representation, funding, and infrastructure, and our Bar has repeatedly convened stakeholders to address these recurring issues. Undoubtedly, similarly important efforts will continue in the future as we address the financial and other challenges facing our justice system.

Great programs do not happen without great leadership, and it is appropriate to honor and reflect upon the leadership of every lawyer responsible for bringing the works of The Missouri Bar to fruition. Further, we must recognize the often long-serving and efficient staff of The Missouri Bar for assisting and supporting Missouri’s lawyers throughout the past 75 years. Harry Rooks was the first executive director, and served admirably throughout the war years from the original offices of The Missouri Bar on High Street in Jefferson City. Wade Baker became the next executive director on September 26, 1957, and he led the relocation to the new Missouri Bar Center, which opened on May 1, 1965.[8] Since Wade Baker retired in 1985, only two others have filled the role of executive director – Keith Birkes and our current executive director, Sebrina Barrett. We thank them for their leadership.

Our unified Bar has fostered 75 years of amazing service and accomplishment for our members and the citizens of Missouri. I am privileged to lead our Bar during this milestone year as we celebrate our rich history, and we look forward to what can yet be done for our lawyers, for our citizens, and for our state in the future. First published in this Journal nearly 40 years ago, these words of past president Forrest Hemker about the future of The Missouri Bar bear repeating today: “It can be forecast with assurance that it will keep its organizational structure adequate and efficient; service its members to maintain them in an appropriate level of competence; work in harmony with the Court and the legislature in every way possible; and endeavor to make legal services available to all.”[9] By continuing to work together, I sincerely believe that the forecast for the future of Missouri’s lawyers and our Missouri Bar remains as bright and promising today as when Mr. Hemker penned these words. I hope you experience the sense of pride I do as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Missouri Bar and honor the past and present achievements of Missouri lawyers working together.

Endnote

1 Raymond E. Williams is an attorney with Williams Law Offices, LLC in West Plains.

2 Forrest M. Hemker, The Story of the Missouri Bar 1880-1980, 35 J.Mo.B. 361, 363 (1979).

3 Id.

4 See Annual Judicial and Statistical Reports, Judicial Caseload Summary, FY 2018, available at https://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=137394.

5 Hemker, 35 J. Mo. B. at 365-66.

6 Hemker, 35 J. Mo. B. at 370.

7 See www.mobar.org/memberbenefits for a description of many of the current member benefit programs.

8 Hemker, 35 J. Mo. B. at 364.

9 Hemker, 35 J. Mo. B. at 373.