DAs need to stop unauthorized law
I read with interest Kenneth Fongs article entitled The
battle against UPL (May Bar Journal). Unfortunately, it is not limited to
immigration law. I practice family law as well as real estate and business litigation and
regularly see the unauthorized practice of law. In family law, there are large numbers of
paralegals who bill themselves as certified paralegals, ABA-approved
& certified or Member: CA Association of Independent Paralegals.
These individuals claim not to be practicing law but the reality is
that they are advising clients on how to divide property, get custody and calculate
support. They also draft settlement agreements and fill out the necessary family forms.
Do these individuals understand how to divide retirement plans or
when and how to calculate support based on imputed income or any of the other issues that
regularly come the way of experienced family law attorneys? How many clients give up too
much in their property division or get too little support because of poor advice?
Fortunately, in family law there is a viable alternative to UPL. Most
areas have voluntary legal services operated by professionals that offer attorney services
at little or no cost.
Local DA offices need to step up the prosecution of unauthorized
practice of law. At least they need to do so in my county.
Ann Marie DeDie
Alcoholism, drug abuse warrant diversion
Having read Mike Landons and Irene Haynies letters (May),
I can only wonder what form of substance abuse MCLE they are attending.
Both alcoholism and drug addiction are recognized diseases. No one
who is recovering from these diseases expects their conduct especially if it
involves misappropriation of client funds to be labeled anything short of reprehensible.
However, it is important and appropriate for the State Bar to consider this disease a
mitigating circumstance when it comes to the imposition of discipline.
The State Bar, if anything, is far behind the progress of other
professions in dealing with the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. Most
professional regulatory groups have a system of diversion for dealing with
their members who would otherwise be subject to discipline for conduct that results from
their disease. I am not suggesting that the conduct be excused, but that the cause for
such conduct be treated. This requires an understanding of the disease and at least some
modicum of compassion from our profession.
The bars recognition of this disease as a mitigating
circumstance should not be criticized for leniency. Rather, the bar should be
criticized for its failure to institute a diversion program for its members who suffer
The State Bar provides a
Lawyers Personal Assistance Program. For information, see page 27.
The bar as a mutual protection society
Once again we see the State Bars inability, or unwillingness,
to seriously discipline attorney misconduct. Why wasnt Mr. Basinger (March
Discipline section) in jail for stealing $260,000? Will we give him a third bite at the
apple after this?
Then (in April) there are additional examples: an attorney with what
appears to be a $60,000 misappropriation of client funds disbarred, but criminal charges
dismissed; an attorney disbarred for failure to pay dues; an attorney misusing process and
civil authorities against clients, theft and filing frivolous and vexatious suits (a
noteworthy finding in itself for its rarity) receives only probation and a stayed
Discipline, indeed; no wonder the public sees the bar as a lawyer
mutual protection society. Serious crimes and fraud against clients rate only suspensions.
At least the bar takes a hard line with those most degenerate of all social pariahs
those failing to pay bar dues.
In reference to jail and
criminal charges being dismissed, the bar cannot try anyone in a criminal court.
Still assessing the blame
Thank you for reprinting the L.A. Times editorial, entitled Easy
to destroy, hard to rebuild (April Bar Journal). In gleefully taking the opportunity
to make another of its tiring, unfair attacks against the former governor of California,
the Times grossly misdirected its criticism.
It should be quite clear, by now, that the blame for the destruction
of the State Bar rests not with those who desired to reform it, but with the
administrators who resisted reform by insisting on using bar funds to support a liberal
political agenda, against the will of perhaps more than half of its dues-paying members.
CBJ: Nothing all round
Its my opinion that such an article (the L.A. Times editorial)
explains why a large minority of lawyers dislike the State Bar and wish it terminated.
The article is very positive about continuing the bar association. It
uses derogatory language in referring to then-Gov. Wilson. On the contrary, the language
used praises the action taken by Gov. Davis.
I hope our dues do not pay anything toward the articles, printing,
publication or distribution of the official publication of the State Bar of California. It
is not worth anything to me.
Andrew J. Davis
And it costs you nothing.
High salaries for select few
In the April Bar Journal, Andrew Guilford expresses his concern about
the high salaries of starting associates and how there must be a link between salary and
service. What he does not mention is that most new lawyers still have a tough time landing
their first job, and starting salaries for most new lawyers fall somewhere between $40K -
$80K, depending upon the position and the firm. It is only a select few from the top law
schools that earn $150K in the big firms.
When the economy was soft in the mid-1990s, and young lawyers were
working as temporary clericals, there was not much concern voiced by the profession.
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