The South Carolina Bar is a unified Bar in which membership is compelled by state law as a condition of practicing law in the State. S.C. Code Ann. § 40-5-310; see also Rule 410(d), SCACR. Annual license fees are used to finance activities reasonably intended to effectuate the following purposes of the South Carolina Bar set forth in Section 1.2 of Article I of the Bar's Constitution and Rule 410(b):
The purposes of the Bar shall be to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of South Carolina; to protect, and maintain respect for, representative government; to continually improve the administration of justice throughout the State; to require the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct, and uphold the integrity and honor of the legal profession; to advance the science of jurisprudence; to promote consistent high quality of legal education and legal services to the public; to apply the knowledge, experience and ability of the legal profession to the promotion of the public good; to encourage goodwill and respect for integrity and excellence in public service among the members of the legal profession and the public; to perform any additional purposes and duties as may be assigned to it by the Supreme Court of South Carolina; to promote and correlate such policies and activities as fall within these purposes in the interest of the legal profession and the public.
It is the Bar's policy not to expend funds for any activity that does not relate to or support these purposes.
Under Keller v. State Bar of California, the South Carolina Bar cannot use the license fees of objecting members for political or ideological activities that are not reasonably related to the regulation of the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services. The South Carolina Bar does not believe it engages in any activity, including political or ideological activities, not germane to the regulation of the legal profession or the improvement of the quality of legal services.
In fulfilling the purposes set forth in Section 1.2 and Rule 410(b), the Bar engages in activities of the following nature:
- Offers and staffs 18 sections, more than 30 committees, and 2 divisions, participation in which allows attorneys to meet, and grow their professional network to include, other attorneys who practice in specific areas or have a common interest in a specific subject matter related to the legal profession, stay connected with those attorneys via newsletters, listservs and CLE events, enhance their knowledge and stay abreast of changes in those areas, and work on specific short and long-term projects related to the practice area or subject matter, including effecting.
- Offers membership in the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) to all members of the South Carolina Bar in good standing under 36 years of age, or those admitted to the South Carolina Bar as their first bar within the past five years, which provides a supportive community …
- Offers membership in the Senior Lawyers Division (SLD) to all Bar members 60 and older and focuses on a variety of initiatives relevant to the profession and the public, including overseeing the SLD Lawyers Assistance Program, which assists legal professionals in a confidential manner who are exhibiting cognitive decline and impairment.
- Organizes and staffs meetings of the House of Delegates and the Board of Governors and assists in implementing initiatives and policies they choose to establish.
- Promotes diversity and inclusion within the legal profession.
- Offers members the use of SC Bar Connect, a communications platform that allows sections, committees, divisions, boards and other groups to stay in touch with each other and important news and events with its enhanced discussion capabilities, centralized subscription management and resource sharing.
- Maintains a Practice Management Assistance Program, which has staff who stay abreast of rapidly changing technology and trends in the legal profession in order to advise members via free telephone and email consultations on a variety of law practice issues, including starting or closing a law practice; retirement and succession planning; trust accounting; choosing law office technology; technology best practices; disaster planning and response; and marketing; the Program also offers a variety of checklists and forms members can utilize in managing different aspects of their practice.
- Maintains a lending library containing current books on a variety of topics related to the practice of law, law practice management, and technology.
- Provides members with a free subscription to Fastcase Legal Research and support to members in using this resource;
- Publishes more than 100 titles and software products covering every major substantive practice area, which serve as the go-to resources for cutting edge and quality information on South Carolina law. Many titles are available through FastCase as electronically searchable and hypertext linked online publications. Free seminar course books can also be accessed and downloaded online.
- Administers the South Carolina Supreme Court's Commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and related Board of Arbitrator and Mediator Certification, including issuing and renewing circuit and family court mediator and arbitrator certificates, maintaining and distributing the official roster of active certified mediators and arbitrators, and monitoring and approving mediator and arbitrator training.
- Through the Client Assistance Program, fields complaints from the public about lawyers in an effort to diffuse the situation and prevent the filing of an ethical complaint.
- Assists in maintaining the integrity of the profession and advocating for the protection of the public against the unauthorized practice of law by promoting education of Bar members and the public about the unauthorized practice of law in South Carolina, facilitating delivery of unauthorized practice of law complaints to the appropriate authorities, monitoring efforts of law enforcement and officers of the court in the prosecution of those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, cooperating with all relevant state agencies and interest groups, studying and drafting proposals that enhance comprehension of unauthorized practice of law issues, and participating, where appropriate, in legislative advocacy.
- Administers the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection established by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which reimburses clients for money or property mishandled by Bar members when the client is unable to obtain adequate compensation from the Bar member.
- Through its Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), provides more than 20,000 referrals to qualified, pre-screened attorneys to individuals who contact the Bar in search of and attorney, and in turn, provides participating attorneys with affordable advertising and local exposure to grow their practice.
- Processes, and with the help of attorney volunteers, investigates and mediates an average of twelve fee, cost and disbursement disputes between clients and Bar members per month through the Resolution of Fee Disputes Board, created by the South Carolina Supreme Court via Rule 416, SCACR.
- Offers an Ethics Hotline staffed and operated by a trained Bar lawyer who is available to answer members' ethics questions, provide analysis of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct as applied to certain facts and make recommendations regarding risk management and the ability to obtain a written Ethics Advisory Opinion from the Ethics Advisory Committee.
- In an effort to protect the integrity of the legal profession and the clients it serves, the Lawyers Helping Lawyers Program provides services to members experiencing challenges with substance use disorders, mental health illnesses and/or stress-related issues that affect their professional and personal lives, including providing education about mental illnesses including substance use disorders, stress management and recovery assistance, interventions, referrals for assessment to counseling or a volunteer recovery mentor, up to five free hours of counseling a year, recovery monitoring, and assistance with character and fitness referrals.
- In an effort to improve the overall health and well-being of members, provides resources and connections, through the Wellness Committee, to peers by sharing stories and best practices on the Living Above the Bar website.
- Elevating the educational and ethical standards of its members by developing and providing hundreds of hours of continuing legal education programs in various formats, including live seminars and hands‐on interactive workshops, audio webcasts, teleseminars (via telephone), and live and on‐demand audio/video webcasts, allowing lawyers to maintain or sharpen their skills or expand their practice areas. More than 400 online, on-demand programs in more than 50 substantive and practical skills categories, and several hundred live audio webcasts and archived on-demand audio web-based programs in practice areas like commercial real estate, estate planning/administration and trusts, taxation, complex corporate and business practice, employment law, ethics and litigation are offered. Many of these advanced level programs are accredited to meet the needs of members seeking Specialization Credit.
- Plans and hosts an annual convention, offering members networking opportunities and a wealth of education and professional development opportunities comprised of practice-specific seminars covering a number of diverse topics.
- Offers a Leadership Academy, open to members in practice from three to 15 years, designed to train the next generation of Bar and community leaders by providing them with networking opportunities, professionalism training and community awareness exercises and an opportunity to hone a variety of skills necessary to give back to the profession and position themselves as leaders in their communities.
- Publishes and provides to members a magazine that includes analysis of timely issues affecting the legal profession as well as updates on news and events and trusted insight from columns like Ethics Watch, The Scrivener, Beyond the Bar and Bar Bytes.
- Provides members with advance sheet summaries, CLE information, court news, firm announcements, summaries on relevant pending legislation, tech tips, job openings, event invitations and other timely news briefs for the legal community through a twice weekly e-newsletter.
- Maintains Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts for daily updates, photos, videos and up-to-the-minute news and information members can use in their daily work and life.
- Maintains a website, www.scbar.org, that contains important tools and resources for members, including access to Fastcase, a searchable membership directory, CLE information and registration, information about and the ability to purchase books and publications, information on committees, sections, and boards, important technology and practice management tips, check lists and guides, details about upcoming events and meetings.
- Periodically provides a printed version of the Lawyers Desk Book, which includes member contact information as well as information about the South Carolina Bar and local bars, the South Carolina Bar Foundation, the South Carolina Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, state and federal courts, and county and state government.
- Administers the South Carolina Supreme Court Lawyer Mentoring Program, which connects new lawyers, who have recently been admitted to the practice of law, with experienced lawyers for a year-long mentorship, and encourages collaboration in developing goals, growing networks and engaging in the legal community throughout South Carolina.
- Monitors issues important to the legal and judicial communities, including proposed changes in legislation and court rules and procedures relating to the courts or the practice of law, to ensure any proposed changes are in their best interest, keeps the appropriate Bar committees and sections apprised of proposed changes, and in appropriate circumstances, assists them in evaluating and recommending positions opposing or supporting the changes.
- Supports adequate funding for the judiciary and the judicial system.
- Responds to requests from the legislature for the Bar's views on legislation relevant to the purposes or interests of the Bar.
- Evaluates, through the work of the Judicial Qualifications Committee, all candidates for selection to the South Carolina Supreme Court, South Carolina Court of Appeals, South Carolina Circuit and Family Courts and Administrative Law Judges.
- The Law Related Education (LRE) division, with assistance from Bar membership, serves as a central and primary source for civic education in South Carolina by providing teachers, school resource officers, juvenile justice personnel and lawyers with resources, materials, training, and technical assistance to teach law related education and implement programs including Community Works; Foundations of Democracy; LawForKids.org; Law For Teachers; Street Law. In addition, LRE hosts Middle and High School Mock Trial, We the People: Project Citizen and We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, all geared toward teaching the next generation of leaders about the importance of democracy and justice.
- Offers, through its staff and Bar members, over 100 clinics and sessions of Law School for Non-Lawyers on various topics around the state, educating the public on legal matters with which they are frequently confronted, advancing the public's understanding and appreciation of the law, the system of justice, and the role of lawyers and the legal profession and providing members who assist with the clinics an opportunity to establish their reputation in the community and possibly gain clients.
- Supports pro bono service by members by fielding and screening applicants from around the state who have legal issues affecting their families, health and employment, but who are indigent and cannot afford counsel, and matching them with volunteers.
- Administers the South Carolina Free Legal Answers website where South Carolinians who meet certain financial requirements can receive answers to certain legal
- Section 6.6 of South Carolina Bar Constitution requires the Bar to publish, on an annual basis, the amount expended from unrestricted funds to support legislative policies and file briefs, independently verified by a certified public accountant. That amount must be used to determine the pro rata amount of a member's license fee expended for those activities in the same proportion as the license fees are across membership categories.
While the Bar believes its expenditures comply with Keller, and does not engage in non-germane activity, the Bar treats the entire amount of any expenditures on government relations, briefing, or legislative positions as potentially subject to challenge under the process set forth in Section 6.6 of the Bar Constitution.
The Bar has determined the amount spent on governmental affairs, briefing or legislative positions was 3.31% of license fees received by the Bar in Fiscal Year 2021-2022. 96.69% of license fees received by the Bar in Fiscal Year 2021-2022 was spent on other Bar programs and expenses or retained as savings.