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California Bar Foundation
You Need to Know

Applicants sought for election to board

Nominating petitions are available for attorneys interested in running for election in Districts 1 and 3.

District 1 covers Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties. District 3 covers Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Any active member of the State Bar who maintains his or her principal law office in the district is eligible to run.

Nominating petitions are due Dec. 1. Voting will take place online and by mail in January and February 2016. The election winners will begin their three-year terms in October 2016.

Diversity award winners recognized at Annual Meeting

Outgoing State Bar President Craig Holden presented awards last month to those who have made outstanding efforts to promote diversity in the legal profession and support students interested in careers in the law.

Diversity awards went to Deborah Broyles of San Francisco, the firm-wide director of global diversity and inclusion at Reed Smith LLP; Sidley Austin LLP; and the Sacramento County Bar Association, Diversity Hiring & Retention Committee.

Education Pipeline Awards went to the Judge Stephen O’Neil Trial Advocacy Mentoring Program at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and the University of San Francisco School of Law, Academic Support Program.

Questions about California Lawyer Magazine?

The State Bar is not affiliated with California Lawyer Magazine, which ceased publication with the October issue. For questions about the magazine or its CLE programs, please contact the Daily Journal Corp. at 213-229-5558.

Spanish-language seniors guide available for order

The State Bar last month released a Spanish-language version of the popular “Seniors and the Law: A Guide for Maturing Californians. The free publication is now available for ordering by the public. Up to 200 copies may be shipped for free to Californians who fill out the online order form.

The publication is one of a series of consumer education guides produced by the bar’s Office of Communications with the help of a grant from the California Bar Foundation. Newly updated, “Seniors and the Law” addresses a number of issues confronting seniors, including finances and debt, housing and caregiving, elder abuse/elder fraud and estate planning. The latest version incorporates changes in the law since 2012, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Think twice before giving a gift to a judge

With the arrival of gift-giving season, State Bar ethics experts remind attorneys of information on judicial ethics, including the topic of gifts to judges. During this gift-giving season, a lawyer may want to give a modest present to a judge or employee of a tribunal. Selected resources found on the judicial ethics page strongly suggest that a lawyer should be very cautious about this conduct. In particular, one of the linked resources is an opinion of the California Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions, Formal Opinion No. 2014-005. Applying applicable provisions of the California Code of Judicial Ethics, the committee opines that there are many circumstances where acceptance of a gift would be absolutely banned, including situations where the gift-giver is a lawyer.

The judicial ethics page provides a collection of selected resources intended to promote a lawyer’s awareness and understanding of judicial ethics. In some circumstances, a lawyer is required to comply with standards ordinarily applicable only to judges (for example, a lawyer serving as a temporary judge, referee or court-appointed arbitrator).

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.

There are also sample fee agreements for lawyers on the forms and resources page of the State Bar website.

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).”