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You Need to Know

Register for the legal specialist exam

Attorneys seeking to get State Bar certification as a specialist in their practice area may sign up to take the one-day exam to be given Oct. 27. The exam is offered every other year and is open to attorneys who have practiced in a designated specialty area and are able to complete the experience, education and reference requirements by January 2019.

Registration continues through Oct. 1, but those who sign up by Sept. 1 qualify for a discount.

The bar offers free preparation packets on its website to help attorneys gauge how much study is needed. For more information, see the Board of Legal Specialization web page. There you’ll also find more information about the various preparation courses that are offered by the bar and outside providers.

Nominate an ethics guru for an award

The State Bar of California is seeking nominations of California attorneys for the 2016 Harry B. Sondheim Professional Responsibility Award. The deadline for nominations is Aug. 31. The award will be presented at the 2016 Annual Statewide Ethics Symposium.

The Harry B. Sondheim Award recognizes a California lawyer, living or deceased, for outstanding long-term contributions to the advancement of attorney professional responsibility standards in California. The nomination form and additional information are available online. For more information, contact Angela Marlaud, or 415-538-2116.

Free section memberships available

During the month of August, State Bar members can join one section of their choice free for the remainder of 2015. If you are already a member of a section, why not join another? This offer does not apply to section renewals. For more information, visit

Register for the Annual Meeting

Mark your calendars to join us in Anaheim for the State Bar of California 2015 Annual Meeting on Oct. 8-11. Choose from 126 seminars. Three course tracks cover advanced, basic/practical skills and recent development topics. Earn up to 20 hours of MCLE and legal specialization credit. Pre-register for a four-day or a two-day pass. Special Annual Meeting hotel rates also are available. For information call 415-538-2210 or visit the Annual Meeting web page.

New legislation affects immigration attorneys

Legislation that went into effect in June prohibits attorneys and immigration consultants from taking upfront fees for services related to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

AB 60, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, was approved by the California Legislature and went into effect when it was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 17.

Gonzalez also authored a 2013 law prohibiting advanced fees for immigration reform services to prevent immigrants from being scammed as Congress considered potential immigration reform measures. The new legislation was intended to clarify that the ban also applies to immigration services related to the president’s executive actions.

In addition to prohibiting advanced fees, the 2013 law 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 is also translated into other languages, including Spanish and Chinese.
  • 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.

Serve on the California Bar Foundation board

The California Bar Foundation is accepting applications from attorneys, judges and members of the public who are interested in serving on its board.

The nonprofit is the center of philanthropy for the state’s legal profession, building a better justice system for all Californians by investing in grants, scholarships, public education and community collaboration. The deadline for applications is Oct. 15. For more information, see the foundation’s website.

Farm worker advocates wanted for appointment

The State Bar of California’s Office of Legal Services is seeking applications from attorneys with connections to farm worker advocacy or farm worker communities to serve a two-year term on the California Rural Legal Assistance Board of Directors. The deadline for applications is Sept. 7.

CRLA is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to the rural poor. The bar is seeking applications to fill three available positions on the board. Interested applicants should apply by letter to Louisa Ayrapetyan, The State Bar of California, Office of Legal Services, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94015. The application should also include a resume that outlines work experience, community activity and educational background. Questions may be directed to Ayrapetyan at 415-538-2534 or

California Indian Legal Services board seats open

The State Bar of California’s Office of Legal Services is seeking applications from attorneys interested in serving on the California Indian Legal Services Board of Directors. The deadline for applications is Sept. 7.

CILS is a nonprofit Legal Services Corporation-funded program created to provide legal assistance to the rural poor. Interested applicants should apply by letter to Louisa Ayrapetyan, The State Bar of California, Office of Legal Services, 180 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94015. The application should also include a resume that outlines work experience, community activity and educational background. Questions may be directed to Ayrapetyan at 415-538-2534 or

Find a certified/registered court interpreter

Under Government Code Section 68561 (with definitions in Section 68560.5), a deposition in a civil case filed in a court of record is a “court proceeding” and therefore an interpreter used shall be either: (1) a certified court interpreter for languages designated by the Judicial Council (see link for current languages: or (2) a registered court interpreter for languages not designated by the Judicial Council (all other languages). Attorneys can use the Judicial Council master list to search for certified and registered interpreters who are in good standing with the Judicial Council, available here:

Attorneys should also be aware that effective Jan. 1, 2015, California Government Code Section 68561 was amended to include section (h), which requires certain information that a certified or registered interpreter must state for the record in the deposition and the documentation regarding the interpreter’s qualifications that a certified or registered interpreter must present to both parties in a deposition.

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 in 2014.

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 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 staff 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

Attorneys who encounter a fee dispute with a client are reminded to use the State Bar’s version of the Notice of Client’s Right to Fee Arbitration form. The form has been approved by the State Bar Board of Trustees and contains the State Bar seal to ensure that lawyers are providing clients with the correct form.

Business and Professions Code Section 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.

Subscribe to the Daily News Digest

In between monthly issues of the Bar Journal, you can keep up with the major legal news of the day by visiting the new Daily News Digest on the Bar Journal’s home page. The State Bar’s Office of Communications scours the day’s news and culls top headlines of interest to legal professionals. You may also subscribe by visiting the Daily News Digest web page.

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn

Stay informed by following @StateBarCA on Twitter and the State Bar of California page on LinkedIn. We’ll give you a heads up about important regulatory information and let you know about other happenings at the State Bar or within the legal community. If you’re seeking information relevant to your particular practice area, the State Bar’s voluntary sections and the California Young Lawyers Association also have a presence on social media through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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).”