California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - November 2001
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News / News Briefs
Applicants sought to oversee bar's diversion program
Let's have another cup of - legal advice
Foundation leads students to capital
Six honored for professional service
Warwick, six others named to California Judicial Council
Several thousand lawyers suspended for failing to pay dues, certify MCLE
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Trials Digest
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Opinion
From the President - Remembering the fallen
The rule of law is our strongest weapon
Pro bono work is lawyers' duty
Letters to the Editor
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Law Practice - Success: The top eight requirements
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You Need to Know
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MCLE Self-Study
Planning for education expenses
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - Lawyers move on in usual way despite disaster
Former city councilman spent his son's settlement
Attorney Discipline
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Public Comment

OPINION

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By the way, you can stop saying "alleged" now...

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LETTERS

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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 content.

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
Los Angeles

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 fraud.

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
Solvang

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 me.

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?

Probably.  Big 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
San Diego

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
Anaheim

Hardly dispassionate

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 to arbitration.

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
Los Angeles

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 ADR fairer.

H. "Bud" Hill Jr.
Glendale

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 promise indeed.

Gregory Baka
District of the Northern Mariana Islands,
Saipan