Ilan Bombach

Basic facts: 41 years old; graduated from Bar-Ilan University in 1991 (LL.B) and Tel Aviv University (LL.M) in 1996; specializes in civil and commercial law and administrative law Ilan Bombach has had the most meteoric career of all six candidates in the race for chairmanship of the Israel Bar. At 33, he became the youngest ever head of the Bar's Ethics Committee; at 37, the youngest head of the Tel Aviv District Bar Association. Now, if elected, he will become the youngest head of the Israel Bar Association. As it is, Bombach already represents more lawyers than anyone else in the association except the national chairman. Of the 35,000 lawyers licensed in Israel, 24,000 work in Tel Aviv and its environs. Bombach has been a longtime critic of the judicial system and is calling for major reforms in the way judges are elected and their status as judges. The Supreme Court, for example, was too monolithic under former president Aharon Barak and must open its ranks to candidates from other sectors of the population. Some judges do not have the proper temperament for the work they do, but there is no way of testing them and no routine procedure for dismissing them once they are elected. Bombach suggests a trial period of several months on the bench before turning a new judge's appointment into a permanent one. Should the failings of the judge be discovered later, there must be a way to fire them. He believes the Bar should take an outspoken position on other public issues related to the law profession, such as human rights and democratic values but stay away from political issues which, he says, only weaken and divide the community of lawyers. Regarding the immediate problems faced by lawyers, Bombach wants to increase the articling period from one to two years and change the Bar exam so that they will not only be tougher, but also more relevant to the practical work they will actually do as lawyers, rather than simply "testing their short-term memories." He says the government must reintroduce the mandatory minimum fee for legal services. The status of the fee was changed eight years ago to that of a suggested fee, but lawyers are free to charge whatever rates they want. This, he says, has led to a fierce bidding war that has reduced incomes to unacceptable levels and adversely affected the quality of the legal work. Bombach wants to change the system of bridging disputes (an out-of-court procedure in which the two sides voluntarily agree to settle their case with the help of a mediator, but leaves either side free to reject the proposed compromise and go to court.) He believes only lawyers should be mediators because they are the only ones who can explain "not who is right, but who is right according to the law." He says he will fight to give small- and medium-sized law offices a better chance to compete with the large ones. Bombach stresses the fact that the Bar should also act as a classic worker's union and exploit the clout provided by its numbers to win deals and concessions for its members. He put great emphasis on this during his years as head of the Tel Aviv District and takes pride in his achievements, despite criticism from some lawyers who charge that he is cheapening the profession. During his years in Tel Aviv, he obtained discounts for lawyers from Paz and Sonol gas stations, Berlitz, professional insurance rates, Arkia and El Al flight tickets and more. If given the chance, he says, he will do the same on the national level.