Outgoing President’s Message by Gary L. Cooper

Do You Know Your Bar?

by Gary L. Cooper

Until I became a Bar Commissioner three years ago, I probably could not have accurately told you how many lawyers there are in Idaho. There are currently approximately 7,200 members of the Idaho State Bar, including a variety of license statuses. Of those 7,200, 1,700 are identified as emeritus, house counsel, judicial, senior, and inactive. That leaves about 5,400 active lawyers, 3,100 of which are active residents of Idaho and 2,300 who are out-of-state members. Although there are multiple sources with varying statistics, the American Bar Association identifies the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Vermont as having the same, or a less, number of active resident lawyers. It should come as no surprise that 70% of Idaho’s active resident lawyers practice in the Fourth District (Boise and the surrounding area)

In Idaho if you are an active member of the Idaho State Bar, or House Counsel, and have been admitted in Idaho for four or more years, you pay $425 for your annual license fee – that has been unchanged for the past 11 years. You can expect to see a request for a modest increase in your annual license fee in the next two to three years, but approval of any such increase will be subject to a vote by you, the members, during the Resolution Process. However, even increased fees will still be commensurate with our neighboring states. Wyoming charges the least, but Wyoming also has half the lawyers that Idaho does. The annual license fee for Active members in Wyoming is $355. In Utah the annual license fee is $445 which includes a mandatory assessment of $20 for the Client Security Fund. In Montana the annual license fee is $515, which includes various mandatory assessments. In Nevada it is $450.  In Washington it is $473. In Oregon it is $688.

There are approximately 27 full time employees who work for the Idaho State Bar (“ISB”) and Idaho Law Foundation (“ILF”) located at 525 West Jefferson in Boise.

Diane K. Minnich has worked for the Idaho State Bar for 39 years – 34 as the Executive Director of both organizations. Diane has been to every Annual Meeting and has traveled at least 39 times to every judicial district in Idaho. Diane has a degree in behavioral science from San Jose State University. A testament to her effectiveness as a manager and leader is the fact that the average length of employment for staff members is 11 years and 13.5 years for the management staff. Diane oversees a budget of approximately $4,400,000. The ISB has received a clean audit for 13 years in a row. It is a foregone conclusion that Diane will retire in the near future. Her replacement will have big shoes to fill.

Joe Pirtle has been Bar Counsel for two years. He follows two legends in that job, Judge Mike Oths and Brad Andrews. Before he became Bar Counsel, Joe was a shareholder at Elam & Burke. Joe graduated from the University of Idaho with an undergraduate degree in business finance and a J.D. from the University of Idaho College of Law in 2004. Joe is assisted by Deputies Julia Crossland (George Washington University School of Law, J.D. 1986) and Caralee Lambert (Georgetown University, J.D. 1998). On average they answer over 100 ethics phone calls per month; intake approximately 30 grievances/complaints against Idaho lawyers per month; and participate in the investigation and disposition of those grievances. They also assist with claims to the Client Assistance Fund, investigations by the Character and Fitness Committee and provide advice to the Reasonable Accommodations Committee. Joe attends every meeting of the Board of Commissioners. During Joe’s two years as Bar Counsel, he has been involved in litigation in state and federal court defending the ISB and Board of Commissioners.  Joe’s litigation experience has been invaluable in fulfilling his duties as Bar Counsel. My prediction is that when Joe retires, we will say that there have been three legends who have held the job of Bar Counsel. 

Maureen Ryan Braley is the Associate Director and has worked for the ISB for 13 years. She graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2004, clerked for Justice Schroeder, and worked as a litigator and deputy prosecutor before joining the ISB. She manages the admissions department, evaluates applications for admission, administers two bar exams a year, and oversees the grading of bar exams. In 2020 and 2021 there were 500 applicants each year and nearly 50 of those applicants were reviewed by the Character & Fitness Committee due to issues discovered during her evaluation of their applications. Maureen also oversees MCLE accreditation and reporting. She oversees the processing of approximately 6,000 MCLE requests per year for CLE course approval. You may have heard that there is a new bar exam called the NextGen Bar Exam which has been evaluated for several years to focus more on testing examinees’ skills and abilities than solely testing legal knowledge which research showed was focused too heavily on memorization. Maureen and Justice Robyn Brody have been actively involved in studying this replacement for the Uniform Bar Exam and, if you ask Maureen, she would be happy to explain the benefits of the NextGen Bar Exam. Maureen is also responsible for making sure that applicants for admissions meet the ethical standards of Idaho lawyers. The Bar approved a resolution in 2023 to grant admission to out-of-state lawyers based on experience rather than reciprocity. Making sure these new admittees are ethically qualified is Maureen’s responsibility. She does a fantastic job handling these important duties.


Annette Strauser is the Licensing and IT Administrator and has worked for the ISB for 40 years. In 2024, Annette managed 6,947 license renewals, 82% of which were handled online and the rest by check. The online licensing process has been available for 15 years and due to Annette’s expertise, it is quickly becoming the predominant method for renewing licenses which significantly reduces the time and expense associated with the renewal process. The ISB is working on further upgrades to its website which will allow lawyers to access their membership records and MCLE records faster and easier.


Teresa Baker is the ISB Program and Legal Education Director and has worked for the ISB since February 2019. She graduated from the University of Idaho College of Law with her J.D. in 1996, clerked for Justice Horton, worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for Ada County, was the public information officer for the Idaho State Police, and Director of Government Affairs and General Counsel for the Idaho Association of Counties before joining the ISB. She organizes legal education opportunities for ISB members, works with the 23 different Practice Sections, and manages special programs including the Idaho Academy of Leadership for Lawyers and the Lawyer Assistance Program. Teresa is an organizational genius.


Lindsey Welfley is the ISB Communications Director. She received her B.A. in history from Grand Canyon University and has worked for the ISB since June of 2015. She manages The Advocate and monitors the ISB’s website and social media platforms. I admit that I do not know exactly what a social media manager does because I am barely capable of using social media.  However, I know Lindsey watches it and was able to intercept a harmful attack on the ISB on a weekend, late at night. In other words, when nobody was watching she was on the job protecting the ISB. I also know that she has been incredibly helpful to me by editing and making my missives more readable for publication in The Advocate. For that I am forever grateful. Lindsey is a truly talented writer!


Craig Kenyon is the ISB Controller.  He has worked for the Idaho State Bar since May 2023. He received his undergraduate degree from Boise State University and in 1997 he received his master’s in public administration. He comes to the ISB/ILF after 25 years of experience as a manager and accountant in the mining industry.



I do not have the space to mention any more of the numerous other staff and management team members which keep the Idaho State Bar and Idaho Law Foundation functioning efficiently. We are lucky that we have the leaders and managers mentioned in this article because we do not have to place our hands on the controls. The Idaho State Bar and Idaho Law Foundation are in good hands and providing exceptional services for all Idaho lawyers. It has been my honor to recognize some of the staff in this, my last article. See you at the Annual Meeting in Boise, July 17 – 19, 2024.

Cooper, Gary

Gary L. Cooper

Gary L. Cooper was raised in Idaho. He received an undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of Idaho. He has practiced in Pocatello since 1975. For the last 25 years he has practiced with his good friends, Reed Larsen, and Ron Kerl. He and his wife, Jane, have three children and five grandchildren.