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Letters to the Editor

Paralegal favors limited-practice licenses

I am following this article and possible limited-practice licensing, being that I am a rare dying breed of independent paralegal. I do work for and under a lawyer. I am also studying to take the "baby bar" at the end of 2014 so that I can be a licensed lawyer. I enjoy doing work for low-income families. I also belong to LinkedIn and there is a large group following this possibility. We look forward to positive action.

Mary L. Bolt
Redwood City, Calif.

Limited licenses have pitfalls

We actually tried something similar: the paralegal program. I can’t recall the number of clients who came to me after a paralegal prepared their paperwork incorrectly and the client had to spend three times as much or more to have the problem corrected. A limited-license program, I’m afraid, would result in the same problem. People would hire the limited-licensed person at the same fee they would pay a licensed attorney and, as a result, have a mess requiring them to hire a licensed attorney to correct the poorly prepared work based on misinformation. We really don’t need to create another program which will draw further criticism to our profession. If we intend to remain a profession, having semi-professionals is not the answer to providing legal services to those who cannot or will not spend the money to hire a licensed professional.

Helen O. Page
Jackson, Calif.

Attorney warns against over-regulation of lawyers

The State Bar president says California's lawyers are not "members" of the bar but are merely licensees. I think the president is correct and has cleared the air on that point. For many years, I mistakenly believed that the State Bar was an association for attorneys because the bar used to lobby for our protection in the legislature.

The words "member" and "membership" could be deceptive and certainly should be removed from all bar materials and documents if the State Bar has no members and licensee interests are secondary. In that respect, the "State Bar of California" seems misnamed. "Department of Attorney Control," or "Department of Client Protection and Revenge," or other description would be more accurate. If it ever was our association, we would have been asked to vote on what to call it.

Licenses come with restrictions and directions to the licensee which may contradict the constitutional right to counsel of one's choice whose advice to a client should be free from government influence because government itself is often the main adversary. The ability to revoke the license of one's adversary is a terrific advantage.

One result of over-regulation is that many clients no longer trust lawyers to keep secrets or act in the client's best interests. Rather than enhance trust in the legal profession, the opposite occurs as more regulations insert government policies into the practice of law. Other professions creep in to fill the void, but partial licensing of them is not a solution to the problem of over-regulation.

Over-regulation chills the independence of the bar without offering any enforceable guarantee of quality. A similar example is the strict licensing of drivers, yet thousands of automobile accidents occur every year despite the attempted conversion of the constitutional right to travel into a privilege granted by the state.

As the Declaration of Independence advises, governing is not a right but a privilege. California's state agencies and legislature need to read that document for important clues on how not to govern.

Phillip Reed
Carlsbad, Calif.

Bar needs to focus on the public interest, not the lawyers

I have been a member of the bar for 40 years. I regard it as a worthless, self-congratulatory bureaucracy of incompetents. It says without us, you lawyers would be regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs! Well, bring ’em on – we need a new sheriff.

What the State Bar does do is pander to the shibboleths of political correctness, and then bask in its own glory. “Pro bono practice” is one of them. The actual cost of licensing is probably $100 a year, judging by other states’ bar dues. Discipline always seeks to pick only the low hanging fruit – consumers of consumers’ trust funds. The “underserved” would be better served by a bar that did not insist on a monopoly in the practice of law, when so much more could be done so much cheaper by people who handle all sorts of routine transactions such as real estate agents, banks and yes, even notaries. (The lawyers’ comments in Letters reinforce my view that lawyers want the monopoly, the public be darned.) The one thing the people have going for them now is the pervasive Internet – and with any luck, the lawyers will go the way of the bookstores. And the bar’s Minimum Continuing Legal Education is a fraud on the public and a racket by the providers. They devote themselves to extracting a share of the lawyers’ monopoly rents that lawyers enjoy from preventing non-lawyers from helping people.

Judges will want competent and honest advocates to appear before them, but they can’t rely on the State Bar for that. Businesses will want sound counsel, but the State Bar has little to with that. Any mere mortal caught up in litigation has already lost a game – a game of very high stakes – that he or she did not even know he or she was playing. The State Bar seems to have no interest in alleviating this public and private misery.

If President Patrick Kelly is right that the bar is not a trade association, then it ought to do a better job in promoting the public interest as that is understood by the public, not the bureaucrats and not the lawyers. I suspect that the public's disdain for lawyers is nothing other than lawyers’ reaping what they have sown.

Bart Lee
San Francisco

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