Share

Share this on Twitter Share this on Facebook Share this on Linked In Share this by Email
California Bar Foundation
 
You Need to Know

Applications due Feb. 28 for two trustee positions

The California Supreme Court is accepting applications for two open slots on the Board of Trustees. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for developing and overseeing the State Bar’s statutorily mandated policies, including the bar’s licensing, regulatory and disciplinary functions. The full board meets about eight times a year.

For more information, including an application, a fact sheet and more details about the duties of board members, see the State Bar website. You can also write or call the Supreme Court Trustees Nominating Committee, c/o Executive Director’s Office, State Bar of California, 180 Howard St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-1639 415-538-2279 or email tnccae@calbar.ca.gov

Applicants may have to provide their professional and personal history and references and go through a background check and personal interview.

Don’t miss the deadline for fee payment, MCLE compliance

Annual license fees for members of the State Bar are due Feb. 3. The fees are $420 for active lawyers and $145 for inactive lawyers.

Failure to pay fees by the deadline will trigger a $100 late payment penalty for active lawyers and a $30 penalty for inactive attorneys.

Those lawyers whose last names start with N-to-Z (Group 3) also have a Feb. 3 deadline to report completion of their 25 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE). The late fee for missing that deadline is $75.

Dues can be paid and MCLE compliance can be reported online by logging on to My State Bar Profile. Please note: After Feb. 3, My State Bar Profile will be temporarily unavailable while late penalties are assessed.

The 2014 fee bill includes contributions to the Client Security Fund, disciplinary activities and the Lawyer Assistance Program. Fees are waived for inactive attorneys who are at least 70 years old on Feb. 3.

Lawyers also have the opportunity to donate to the Justice Gap Fund (recommended donation $100), the California Bar Foundation ($50 recommended donation), the Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA — $35 recommended donation) and the California Supreme Court Historical Society (CSCHS — a $25 donation is recommended). In addition, they can deduct up to $30 that would otherwise go to legal aid, $5 designated for lobbying and $5 designated for the elimination of bias fund.

Active lawyers with qualifying income levels are eligible for a 25-percent reduction in the membership fee. To qualify, a lawyer must declare a total gross annual individual income from all sources of less than $40,000 in 2013.

New address in LA

The Los Angeles offices of the State Bar and State Bar Court have moved. The new address is 845 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515. The bar’s headquarters remains at 180 Howard St. in San Francisco.

Task force being formed to explore the ‘justice gap’

Feb. 3 is the final day to apply for service on a new State Bar Civil Justice Strategies Task Force.

The task force, which was recently approved by the State Bar Board of Trustees, will analyze the reasons for and potential solutions to the “justice gap” – the gap between the need for civil legal assistance for low- and moderate- income Californians and the resources available to meet that need.

Members of the 20-person task force will be drawn from the following categories: current and former members of the Board of Trustees, law firms, the public sector, modest means legal services providers, bar associations/lawyer referral services, members of the public and the academic community.

To apply, send a letter of interest to Sarah Chanrasmi, project coordinator, Office of Legal Services, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105, sarah.chanrasmi@calbar.ca.gov.

The letter should outline your interest in the task force and what makes you particularly well-suited for the work, along with a resume or brief biographical information and three letters of support. Please also indicate the category for which you wish to apply and your ability to commit to the time and travel involved.

Sign up for new discipline standards task force

Discipline defense counsel and other interested persons may apply for a new task force that’s reviewing the Standards for Attorney Sanctions for Professional Misconduct, which are used to determine appropriate levels of disciplinary sanctions and ensure consistency in how cases are dealt with.

The Discipline Standards Task Force, recently approved by the State Bar Board of Trustees, will explore whether an overhaul of the standards is needed, such as creating narrowly tailored disciplinary sanctions similar to sentencing guidelines.

Members of the 23-person task force will be drawn from the following categories: the State Bar Office of Chief Trial Counsel, the discipline defense bar, academics, members of the public, members chosen by the president, current and former State Bar trustees, other regulatory bodies, the Commission on Judicial Performance, other professional disciplinary boards and rehabilitation organizations. The task force will include one non-voting member designated by the California Supreme Court.

To apply, send a letter of interest to Veronica Li, staff liaison, Office of General Counsel, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105, veronica.li@calbar.ca.gov, 415-538-2433.

The letter should state what category you are applying for and outline your interest in the task force and what makes you particularly well-suited for the work. Please also include a resume or brief biographical information. Service on the task force will include attendance at public meetings in the State Bar’s San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. Please indicate your ability to accept such an assignment over the next 12 months.

Nominate someone for their pro bono service by March 17

The State Bar is accepting nominations for awards that recognize attorneys who have a notable history of helping the poor, disabled or underserved.

March 17 is the deadline to apply to the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards and the Loren Miller Legal Services Award. The Pro Bono awards recognize individuals, new attorneys, law students, law firms, government agencies, solo practitioners and corporate lawyers with a history of exceptional work in the pro bono field. The Loren Miller award is given to an attorney with a long-term commitment to legal services who has done significant work for the poor.

The bar will accept previous nominations, but the applications must be resubmitted with updated information for the year 2013.

For applications and information about the Pro Bono, Loren Miller and other awards, see the awards section of the State Bar website.

Mark your calendars for the 2014 ethics symposium

The State Bar of California’s Committee on Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) will hold its 17th Annual Statewide Ethics Symposium on Saturday, April 12, at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.

The theme of this year’s symposium is “Keeping Pace in a Constantly Changing Legal Environment.” Planned topics include ethical issues arising during trial, complex conflicts of interest, innovative models of providing legal services and ethical issues when representing bad actors. The keynote speaker will be James Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster LLP.

The event is approved for six hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit in ethics. Registration will open in March. For more information, contact Lauren McCurdy at 415-538-2107.

Three Board of Trustees seats open

Attorneys interested in seeking an elected seat on the State Bar Board of Trustees may access nominating petitions beginning on Feb. 3.

Three seats will be up for election – one each in Districts 2 (Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura), 4 (Imperial, Inyo, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego) and 6 (Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz).

The winners of the District 2 and 6 elections will serve three-year terms beginning on Sept. 13. The election in District 4 is a special election being held to fill the seat of Christopher Todd, who resigned from the board last month for personal reasons. The winner of that election will serve the final year of Todd’s term, which expires in October 2015, and will be eligible to run for re-election to one additional term.

Nominating petitions must be submitted by April 1. Ballots will be mailed April 30 and voting will be completed by June 30. As it has been doing in recent years, the State Bar will conduct a hybrid election, offering voters the option of voting electronically or by mail.

Any active member of the State Bar who maintains his or her principal office for the practice of law within the State Bar district in which there is a vacancy is eligible to run for a seat on the board. The newly elected trustees will be sworn in at the conclusion of the 2014 Annual Meeting in September.

State Bar committees need volunteers

The State Bar is seeking people to fill about 200 volunteer positions on more than three dozen committees, boards and commissions, including teams dealing with access and fairness issues and panels focused on particular areas of the law and questions of professional responsibility and conduct.

There are also positions on legal services committees, including working on the day-to-day delivery of legal services to poor and middle-income people, administering the IOLTA program and exploring ways to improve access to civil justice. For a complete list of openings, application forms and detailed committee information visit the State Bar’s website at www.calbar.org/appointments.

Most appointments carry a three-year term. Applications are available by calling the bar’s appointments office at 415-538-2370 or by faxing 415-538-2305. The deadline to apply for most positions is Feb. 3.

Applicants can apply to up to three committees, but can only be appointed to one. The State Bar’s Board of Trustees will make the appointments between May and July 2014, and committee terms begin Sept. 14, 2014.

New law affects immigration attorneys

Attorneys and immigration consultants are prohibited from collecting money for services related to federal immigration reform until Congress acts under a State Bar-sponsored bill that went into effect last fall.

The consumer protection legislation, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, was introduced in response to reports from law enforcement that the federal debate over immigration reform was prompting scams aimed at undocumented immigrants.

The legislation, which went into effect upon Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature Oct. 5, also:

  • Requires attorneys and immigration consultants to account for any money already accepted for immigration reform services and either refund the money or deposit it in a client trust account.
  • Requires attorneys to inform clients receiving immigration reform act services where they can report complaints. A notice for attorneys to use has been posted on the State Bar’s website and has been translated into multiple languages.
  • Increases the amount of bond that immigration consultants must carry from $50,000 to $100,000 as of July 1, 2014.
  • Prohibits the use of the term “notario,” which has been misconstrued as someone who is qualified to give legal advice.
  • Provides that a person who violates the ban on the use of the term “notario” is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 a day for each violation.

Running for judicial office? Take this mandatory free course

California judges and lawyers seeking a judicial office must take a new online judicial ethics course within 60 days of filing for office, creating a campaign committee or receiving a campaign contribution. The mandatory judicial ethics course went online last month.

The course was developed by a working group of justices, judges and lawyers after the Supreme Court adopted the mandatory rule, along with other changes to the California Code of Judicial Ethics, almost a year ago. The Rules of Professional Conduct require a lawyer candidate for judicial office to comply with the Code of Judicial Ethics.

“The Supreme Court changed the rules to promote and enhance public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and to provide guidance on the ethical obligations and responsibilities of those running for judicial office,” Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said.

The rule came out of the work of the Commission for Impartial Courts.

Consult the Ethics Hotline

Time is money and legal research takes time. California legal ethics research can be particularly time-consuming. First, California is not an ABA Model Rule jurisdiction, so dusting off your law school textbook or simply Googling won’t always cut it. On top of that, the applicable California law is often found in multiple sources, many of which are unfamiliar to most lawyers. If you consult the California Rules of Professional Conduct, that’s great, but you can’t stop there. Consider the following questions:

  • May an attorney use inadvertently disclosed confidential information?
  • Does the “no contact” rule permit an attorney to imply opposing counsel’s consent?
  • Is a “virtual law office” an ethical alternative for starting a solo practice?

You can get assistance in researching these questions by calling the State Bar of California’s Ethics Hotline. This call-back service is free, staffed by live people and typically has a turnaround time of one business day or less.

If you’ve never tried calling the Ethics Hotline, here’s the official pitch: The Ethics Hotline is a confidential telephone research service for attorneys. This service is staffed by specially trained paralegals who can refer callers to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, State Bar Act sections, published bar association ethics opinions and other relevant authorities. Although the Ethics Hotline does not render opinions or give advice, this guidance serves as a valuable resource that can jump-start legal ethics research and aid lawyers in making informed decisions about their legal ethics questions.

Attorneys can reach the Ethics Hotline from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays by calling 800-238-4427 (800-2-ETHICS) from within California, or 415-538-2150 when calling from outside of California.

Use this form for fee disputes with clients

As of July 1, attorneys who encounter a fee dispute with a client are required to use the State Bar’s updated version of the Notice of Client’s Right to Fee Arbitration form.

The form, approved by the State Bar Board of Trustees on March 7, incorporates a handful of changes, including clarifying who can request fee arbitration and making it clear that more than one bar association may have jurisdiction to hear a fee dispute. The new version also contains the State Bar seal, a change made to ensure lawyers are providing clients with the correct form.

Business and Professions Code § 6201(a) requires that lawyers send the notice to their clients before or at the time of initiating a lawsuit, or other action to collect fees. Attorneys are legally required to use the State Bar’s form – not their own version put on their firm’s letterhead.

Mandatory fee arbitration is designed to reduce the number of fee disputes that end up in court. The vast majority of fee disputes handled through the mandatory fee arbitration process are resolved without filing an action in Superior Court, saving the courts valuable time and money, said Doug Hull, director of the State Bar’s Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program.

Have your voice heard in evaluating judges

The State Bar commission that evaluates the governor’s candidates for judgeships is seeking the help of attorneys to solicit information electronically.

For more than 30 years, the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, commonly known as the JNE (“Jenny”) Commission, has gathered information about candidates by mailing paper comment forms to attorneys. During the past few years, the commission has successfully implemented the use of email to gather comments, but continues to encounter one barrier: the spam filter. Most of JNE’s emails do reach their intended recipients. However, some are blocked.

Attorneys can solve this problem by authorizing the spam filters serving their email address listed with the State Bar to accept the following email address: jneccf@calbar.ca.gov. Those who work in legal offices, public agencies and the court system can help by asking their IT specialists to authorize the JNE email address for all spam filters serving office computers.

The electronic comment forms are identical to the written forms. A hyperlink in the email takes the commenter to a website where a form identical to the written comment form can be completed electronically. The electronic comments are maintained confidentially, with access only by investigating commissioners and staff. The use of email appears to result in response rates at least as high as the use of written forms. It has proven to be a cost-effective and efficient method of transmitting time-sensitive, confidential data.

Questions and comments about the process can be directed to jneccf@calbar.ca.gov.

Bar rules book available for e-Reader

To facilitate a lawyer’s ability to readily identify and address legal ethics issues, the State Bar has published an e-Reader version of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar Act. The e-Reader version of the rule book is compatible with the Kindle Reader App, a free e-Reader application available for iPads, iPhones, Blackberry phones, Android phones, Macbooks and PC laptops. The book also works on all versions of Amazon.com’s Kindle.

The 2013 edition of the e-Reader version of the rule book can be purchased at Amazon.com for $6.99, a significant discount from the price of the hardcopy book. It offers several useful features including a search function, bookmarking, highlighting and annotating. In addition, once downloaded to a tablet, smart phone or other compatible device, the book can be accessed at any time, even without an Internet or cellular data signal.

The bar’s rule book has been published for more than 65 years. The 30-page edition published in 1949 has grown to 411 hard copy pages. In addition to the rules and State Bar Act, the book includes other related authorities such as selected Rules of Court, code sections, the Federal Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule, the State Bar Pro Bono Resolution, the Lawyer Referral Service rules, MCLE rules and more.

Legal ethics and technology resource page is online

The general Ethics Information page on the State Bar website has an area dedicated to Ethics and Technology ― a collection of resources that address professional responsibility issues raised by the use of websites, email, chat rooms and other technologies. The resources include advisory ethics opinions, articles and MCLE programs.

Most of the resources are internal links to other pages on the bar’s website and some are external links to local or specialty bar associations. The page is organized both by the type of resource (ethics opinion, article, etc.) and by subject matter (law firm websites, electronic files, social networking, etc.).

The service focuses on providing basic legal research leads on how the rules apply to new technologies rather than specific law office systems, hardware or software options. For the latter, the resources of the State Bar’s Law Practice Management & Technology Section can be considered.

Register a law corporation

Law corporations are required to register with both the California Secretary of State and the State Bar of California under Corporations Code §13404. Registration requirements are set forth in Business & Professions Code §§6160 and 6161.

Rules and application materials are available on the State Bar website. Information required to register a law corporation includes:

  • Proof of registration with the Secretary of State
  • Submission of bylaws and a sample share certificate containing the appropriate restrictions on share ownership
  • A completed application that reports all the attorneys who are associated with the corporation
  • Submission of the Guarantee for Claims in the appropriate amount
  • A Declaration of Compliance with Rule 1-400

Limited Liability Partnerships providing legal services are also required to register with the State Bar. If not registered, attorneys should be particularly aware of California Corporations Code § 16306(f), which specifically removes the protection from liability for claims based upon legal work.

Prior to registering with the Secretary of State, be sure to check with the State Bar to determine if the entity name complies with rules and has not already been registered. Additional information is available at the Law Corporations page, LLP page, or the Law Office Management page. For questions or help, send an email to LLP@calbar.ca.gov

Create a surrogacy agreement

An “Agreement to Close Law Practice in the Future” is available on the State Bar website for attorneys who want to plan for the possibility they will not be able to continue to work. The sample agreement, available to all lawyers, spells out the responsibilities of the primary attorney and his or her successor in the case of death or incapacity.

If a lawyer designates a successor using the new sample contract, the designated surrogate goes to court for appointment as the practice administrator who can take control and dispose of the practice. A lengthy list of duties is part of the contract and includes the ability to open mail, become a signatory on bank accounts, notify clients and transfer files, pay bills and handle funds, and accept the original attorney’s clients and cases. The practice administrator also will have the power to sell the practice.

Feeling stressed? The Lawyer Assistance Program can help

Attorneys struggling to cope with the stress of a challenging economic environment or a difficult employment situation are invited to contact the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP), which now offers new support programs in addition to its traditional help with substance abuse and depression. Support is offered for issues like stress, relationship and personal problems, grief and anxiety.

The LAP is designed for attorneys who might wish to participate in a weekly group with other lawyers and would like the support of a mental health professional (group facilitator) or a trained peer counselor who is familiar with attorneys’ particular challenges.

The LAP also offers a free Orientation and Assessment (O&A) to any attorney who wants professional assistance to cope with personal problems, work problems, substance abuse or other mental health issues. The O&A provides a confidential assessment completed by one of the LAP clinicians located throughout the state. Referrals to outside resources and an opportunity to participate in a LAP group for a short period of time also are provided. There is no fee for this service.

Interested attorneys should call 877-LAP-4-HELP (877-527-4435) or contact LAP@calbar.ca.gov. All calls are confidential.

Membership benefits from CalBar Connect

State Bar members can save up to 25 percent every time they rent with Hertz, a participant in CalBar Connect, the State Bar’s member services and benefits initiative. Visit the Hertz page for details.

CalBar Connect, which provides discounts to all State Bar members, also offers a variety of insurance plans including professional liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, group and individual disability plans, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D), auto, home and business office plans.

Opt out of lists

Attorneys who wish to remove their names from lists the State Bar provides to qualified outside entities may do so by logging on to My State Bar Profile. Go to “Account Information” and select “Update my mailing preferences (opt out).”