Cost and content are the
problem with MCLE
Regarding the continuing education issue, I am
willing to concede that a case can be made for MCLE but not for the
way the program is administered by the California State Bar. And
don't give me the argument about comparing required hours with
barbers, beauticians and auto mechanics. As one letter writer recently
observed, he does more than a year's worth of MCLE every time he
does the research for a motion or opposition.
I presently object on two main points: cost and
The State Bar has a conflict of interest in
running the MCLE program. It is in the market itself, offering its own
courses at hefty prices. The more hours that are required, the more
courses it sells and the more money it makes.
If the prices it fixes were at a non-profit
level, a lot of the lower level competition would be out of business.
This would surely improve the quality of the course content, which is
a stated goal of the State Bar. But I am sure that some of the
opposition to MCLE would disappear if prices were fair and reasonable.
Henry M. Bissell
How times have changed
Today was a traumatic day for me; I advised the
State Bar I wanted to be placed on the inactive list of attorneys.
After 40 years of being able to legally practice law in California,
it's sort of scary.
In my opinion, one of the biggest changes is the
general attitude regarding disbarment, which today is a common
occurrence. When I was a young attorney in the old Rowan building in
Los Angeles, a lawyer in the building was disbarred. I saw prominent
senior partners of prestigious law firms with tears in their eyes
talking about the terrible blow to the reputation of the bar. My, my,
how times have changes - not necessarily for the better as far as
the practice of law is concerned.
Perhaps another comment may be warranted
regarding the continuing education program. While the principle has
merit, the present actual education program is a relatively useless,
expensive farce. Moreover, with a profession that supposedly stresses
ethics, are we not a bunch of hypocrites when we infer to the general
public that the program keeps lawyers competent?
We may have something we call an educational
program, but in my opinion, it does not educate, and when we point
with pride to the fact that we have a program to protect the public,
and the public believes us, we may be committing the worst kind of
My advice is not to argue the matter but to
substantially change the continuing education program so that it in
fact ensures that the public is receiving competent legal assistance.
Zolan A. "Walt" Harasty
A competitive advantage
I have followed the MJP debate with great
interest. As a relatively new lawyer, only two years out of law
school, it seems obvious to me that being able to practice in multiple
jurisdictions is a major competitive advantage.
That is why I took the bar in California and in
New York. Being able to provide my business clients with competent
legal advice in the world's largest financial center made sense to
MJP would eliminate that advantage, which I may
add was hard won, and costly. Frankly, New York law is peculiar and
holds pitfalls for lawyers familiar with California procedures and
expectations. Even so, I recognize that MJP does have some advantages.
Eastern states that are close together often offer reciprocal
admission for experienced lawyers.
California's bar exam is reputedly the most
difficult to pass in the country, theoretically providing a higher
quality of lawyer. Even so, reading the disciplinary pages suggests
that it is inadequate to ensure a good client experience. What is the
solution? Protection of our monopoly?
firms can afford to have lawyers in every jurisdiction, so they
don't care. Small firms can't, but ask yourself, if a small firm
or corporate counselor is unwilling to take the time and trouble to
pass a local bar exam, (i.e., familiarize herself with the differences
between State X law and California law), do we really want that person
dealing with the public here?
One last point: Now that so much business is
being performed in the ether, (over the internet or telephones), how
can you tell where somebody is practicing law anyway? If Michael
Roster provides legal advice over the internet from California to a
Chevron officer in New York (or Nigeria) about installing a refinery
in Louisiana, where, exactly, is he practicing law?
Lathe S. Gill
Just say so
If Erwin Chemerinsky (August 2000) does not like
Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas, he should just say so. But he should not
insult our intelligence by calling them "conservative," and then
label the liberal block of Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer as
"moderate." Maybe it is time for the California Bar Journal to
hire a constitutional law expert who can analyze the U.S. Supreme
Court in a more balanced manner.
Armin A. Skalmowski
Mr. Chemerinsky simply could not stop himself
from inserting editorial comments
about the cases decided, finding one to "rob civil rights plaintiffs
of an essential weapon in their fight against racial discrimination"
and then slighting a case where the court required employees whose
employment contract contained an arbitration agreement to actually go
While no one statement in the article was
particularly egregious, the piece as a whole was definitely advocating
a left-of-center viewpoint rather than a dispassionate analysis of the
October Term decisions.
One of the reasons the bar got in trouble not so
many years ago was its brazen advocacy of political viewpoints not
held by a large portion of its dues-paying members.
Mr. Chemerinsky's editorial in the guise of
hard news does little to assuage such concerns.
Todd M. Thacker
Making ADR more fair
Palmer Madden's August 2001 UPL article is a
skillful balancing of complex competing issues.
We should remember that our profession only helps
the people enforce the people's rights. To do that, we created a
legal system dominated by complex laws and procedures in which the
people need our help to assert their rights. We created a monopoly
that benefits us.
Lawyers and the State Bar owe the public more
than a few pro bono hours for our monopoly. The Peace Corps model of
teaching people how to help themselves would be a more appropriate
public service. For example, rather then supporting resistance to all
mandatory predispute ADR, the bar could legislatively support making
H. "Bud" Hill Jr.
Let them wear ties
Actions speak louder than words. So long as members of only one gender are required to wear
neckties in court, the putative concern of bench and bar for
eliminating gender bias in the legal profession remains a hollow
District of the Northern Mariana Islands,