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Letters to the Editor

Civility training should be part of MCLE

President Kelly’s well-written piece about civility in the legal profession hits the nail on the head. As a young and newly-admitted member of the California State Bar (and as an aspiring litigator), I have always been troubled by the dire lack of civility and respect that has plagued lawyer-to-lawyer interaction. Regrettably, and often by choice, attorneys cannot appreciate the ability to effectively represent a client’s interests without engaging in belligerent and discourteous behavior. At other times, incivility manifests itself in a baseless and unjustifiable refusal to extend a professional courtesy to opposing counsel.

While inserting civility wording into the attorney’s oath is a fine idea, it has its limits. During the course of an attorney’s entire career, the oath need only be taken once. After a number of years as a legal practitioner, the attorney’s pledge of civility may be forgotten. To guard against this, the State Bar can incorporate the lessons of civility into Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements. For example, of the 25 hours of MCLE credits required, four of those hours must be on legal ethics. The State Bar can further extend this policy to require that two of those four hours be devoted to lessons on civility.

Ryan Cadry
Los Angeles

Retired lawyer interested in a limited license to practice

I read with interest that California is considering limited licenses to ease the number of cases of people being their own lawyer. I have been on the "inactive" list for a number of years but would consider doing some cases. I believe that there are many retired and/or inactive lawyers who would lend a hand if their bar dues and Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements were relaxed.

Charles Craze
Redwood City

Over 80 and still practicing

I read with dismay the article Age-related competence problems can be tricky to recognize, diagnose,” where my younger associates are looking for reasons to remind me of my age. It is bad enough what my truthful mirrors have done to me, but I would expect more interpersonal consideration from my associates.

I confess to being an old man of 83. Among other problems of old age, my eyesight and hearing is no longer as good as it used to be. Though I am inactive in California, I remain a practicing attorney as a member of the Ordem dos Advogados as a resident of Portugal and also active as a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

I am perfectly capable of determining my own limitations. I object strenuously when others — especially those who assume authoritative positions – try to remind me of my situation with the prejudiced view that I do not know my own limitations as I always had. As a more youthful attorney, I did comply with the competence rule by not taking on cases I could not do competently. What makes anyone think I have forgotten that rule?

Indeed, if you subject me to special exercises because of my age in respect to the issue of competency, it should be required of all lawyers and not just prejudicial to us old-timers. I assure you, we old-timers are rather tired of having doors shut in our faces because they are a bit wrinkled. If an attorney does wrong, he will be reminded of it. Getting old is not wrong and has been known to happen to many good people. I suggest the distinguished committee who are about to decide on this issue take cognizance of the simple fact that subjecting a senior attorney to special rules is as prejudicial as looking at their color, religion or national heritage and convene their anticipated meeting before they open it.

Selwyn Berg
Carvoeira, Portugal

Bar exam should weed out all but best and brightest

I was a prosecutor in Los Angeles County until 1979. During that time I successfully prosecuted a California attorney for perjury and prostitution. He later was permitted to return to practice – why escaped me. My only contact with him thereafter was he wanted me to vouch for him to get a gun permit. No. From 1982 to 2011 I worked in the Oregon DOJ; the bulk of my time in consumer protection. In that role I brought civil actions against many attorneys in Oregon, but also from California, primarily involving living trust mills but also mortgage fraud. It is ironic to see a headline about considering shortening the bar exam on the same page as a reference to an attorney who allegedly committed a million-dollar fraud.

California is a big state with plenty of room for a few bad lawyers to tarnish the reputation of the bulk of the profession as well as harm the public. Being a California lawyer is a great privilege. The bar exam is meant to be daunting. We cannot guarantee integrity though we try. But we can certainly guarantee only the best and brightest can call themselves California lawyers. And while on the subject, I have always been 100 percent against commingling the professions – an idea whose deficiencies were exposed in the Enron scandal. I am also opposed to any self-help operations that may drift into unlawful practice. Watering down the skill level and integrity and effectiveness of the legal profession will be hard to undo.

Tom Elden
Los Angeles County


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