Share this on Twitter Share this on Facebook Share this on Linked In Share this by Email
Letters to the Editor

No waivers, no membership

If the State Bar cancels the fee waiver for inactive members over 70 that does not mean the bar will receive the money for those fees. The most likely result is that many people in that category will relinquish their membership.

Carol B. Tanenbaum

Well-kept secret

I am an active member of the State Bar of California and am well aware of the financial challenges the bar has faced and continues to face. On the one hand, I disagree with the proposed changes regarding fee waivers as they increase the financial burden on those least likely to be able to bear it.

On the other hand, the income-based fee waiver must be the best-kept secret of the State Bar of California. I was admitted in 1991 and have never heard of this waiver before. I left the practice of law to work in a non-profit setting for 10 years, and at times would have been eligible for this waiver – if only I had known about it.

The State Bar has failed miserably in its obligation to its members to make known that an income-based fee waiver was available in the past. It is entirely possible that removing this fee waiver will not make much of a difference to those who need it the most because the bar has done its best to keep this option secret.

Elaine Cerveno

The value of a law degree

President Bill Hebert’s column (February) is one of the best short statements I have seen regarding the economics of the profession today, in both tone and accuracy. It’s honest and blunt, yet realistically upbeat at the same time. It should be read by anyone considering going to law school.

Clinton Hubbard
San Diego

Concern for future lawyers

Prospective law students are finally understanding, as President Hebert wrote, that the percentage of young lawyers getting the $160,000 starting salaries is quite small, even from among the graduates of the top 20 schools. Compounding that is the fact that some of those highest earners are finding themselves laid off through no fault of their own. An end to the recession will not change that. The client market will no longer accept the fee structure required to pay that much money to rookies who have no practical experience.

I have long worried that law school siphons off a large number of the brightest, most conscientious and hardworking members of each year’s population of college graduates and puts them to work doing things that do not make the best use of their talents and abilities, especially their creativity. To the extent that they are not able to make the “highest and best use” of all that they have to offer, it is a great loss for them personally and ultimately for the country and the human race.

The effect of the Great Recession on the careers of young law school graduates will probably be enough to enlighten the next couple of generations. If it turns out that a lot of the grunt work traditionally done by young associates really can be done overnight at one-third or less the cost by the brightest young people in India, this profession will have become a very poor bet for a college graduate in this country, even if tuitions were not so high.

John Barnard
Walnut Creek

Applause for the president

I spent five years working prior to entering law school and was amazed when I arrived at how many students were there basically because they were able to get in and didn’t know what else to do after college. Many of my peers had never worked full time, in a law firm or even in an office. We graduated from a top 20 school back in 2001, so job prospects were much better and many of those who wanted to landed at top firms earning six figures. Still, job satisfaction was low and many of my friends were leaving those firms within one to three years (and their big salaries along with it). Ten years later, I would guess that 25-50 percent of my fellow graduates are not practicing law at all. Furthermore, during the five years that I was at a big firm, I was involved in recruiting and saw firsthand just how hard it is for anybody at a second-tier or lower school to even get an interview. It’s tough to break through.

I have always wondered why law firms and law schools refuse to follow the model of business schools and require that entering students have at least a couple of years of real work experience. The satisfaction rate among graduates and lawyers would be much higher, resulting in a boost to both our profession and law schools’ ability to raise funds from their alumni.

Caryl Karnick
Santa Ana

Excellence as a criterion

It seems that every other publication of the State Bar calls for more diversity. I never see any call for excellence. Why? I doubt many California citizens would say we are too excellent and no such effort to improve is needed.

Jeffrey Dittrich

Eliminate the educational divide

Diversity ratings could be, and apparently are, subject to manipulation, particularly at more selective schools. As Harvard undergraduates, my wife and I noticed that she was, among those students who were recent descendants of Africans, among only a small number who were actually born and raised in the United States. What seemed to be happening, though probably not intentionally, was that the school boosted its diversity ratings by taking advantage of the brain drain out of African and Caribbean countries, accepting more immigrants or their children over those applicants whose families suffered through the long period of slavery and racial persecution in the United States.

Care should be taken if diversity is added as an element of law schools rankings to avoid reinforcing circumstances under which students from fairly well-off families are admitted while those with family histories of persecution inside the United States continue to be left behind.

Many schools’ approach to diversity today masks a fundamental educational divide in our country that persists notwithstanding Brown v. Board of Education and decisions and events since. Our educational systems continue to produce an abundance of qualified European- and Asian-American candidates while often shortchanging others. We must place most of the emphasis upon advocating for policies that target the elimination over time of this educational divide.

I have been quite frustrated in my attempts to convince law school administrators and professors that there is a greater need for this type of advocacy than for policies that law schools can adopt right away with respect to their own admissions practices. The bar should take these concerns into consideration as it advocates for improvements to the way U.S. News & World Report ranks law schools.

E. Glenn Anaiscourt
Beverly Hills

A different whites-only policy

I have an idea that would give all of us a break that are so sick and tired of constantly hearing about how hell-bent the State Bar is on diversity. It is very simple and the bar will accomplish its diversity obsession.

Pass the following rule: The only people required to pass the LSAT, attend and pass law school, pass a background check and pass the California bar exam are Caucasian males. All others are freely admitted to the State Bar of California and are exempt from any annual dues or fees.

There you have it. Case closed. Problem solved. Now you can save the ink on this continuous flow of worthless articles about diversity.

Mike Landon

Wanted: a committee for ALJs

On the list of State Bar committees, I notice there are none for administrative law. We are the judges who interpret the regulations and make the wheels turn. Our hearings follow strict protocol to guarantee fairness to all. Many countries don’t have administrative law judges. What our level would handle in many other countries is done by bribes and influence. We should be very proud that we have administrative law judges and that this is one of the reasons our legal system works. There should be a committee for administrative law.

Kristin White
San Diego

A lesson in kindness and civility

We are all acutely aware of the current state of the economy. All of us have witnessed losses at some level or another over the past few years. We have all watched and wondered how the economic tide will forever change the legal profession. We are all aware that law schools keep pushing out graduates and many of them are struggling to find work.

Yet, despite this awareness, many of our colleagues cannot find it in themselves to acknowledge those who reach out to them for employment or advice. They tell themselves they are too busy to respond to the mailings, e-mails or phone calls; that those often unsolicited communications are insignificant, as is the person behind them. I implore everyone to please rethink this.

Take the time to respond to those messages. Write a simple, “Thank you for applying for a position with my firm. I realize that there are thousands of other firms or agencies that you could have applied to, and I am honored that you have chosen mine. Unfortunately, I am not hiring at this time. I wish you the best of luck in your job search.” Would that be so hard to do?

It wasn’t so long ago that you were in the same shoes as those of us who are now out hitting the pavement, day in and day out, facing constant rejection and brick walls. Take two minutes to phone or compose an e-mail on your BlackBerry or iPhone while standing in line at the grocery store, while waiting for a red light, or as you are commuting on the train. Or, ask your secretary to take the two minutes for you if you can’t. But please don’t ignore us.

Nicole S. Jhonson
Los Gatos


California Bar Journal letters must include full name with a daytime telephone number
and complete address. Send letters to