I must strenuously object to what appears to be a
movement toward relaxing the control over the practice of law in
California. The logic behind the present proposal escapes me. A
corporate in-house lawyer need not be licensed in California simply
because the only one he can hurt is his client? Huh?
Does the same logic apply to legal service
practitioners: the only potential victims are the poor? This mirrors
the trend toward the dumbing down of the state bar exam. Passing this
exam on the first go was one of the proudest achievements of my life.
Now we're going to make it easy enough for Joe Cheatem from nowhere
to pass? Why did I bother?
John M. Kaman
Far out AND dizzying
A Supreme Court appointed-task force concluded it
would be OK to allow out of state lawyers (and quoting President Karen
Nobumoto) "(1) to be hired and practice law as 'in house
counsel' who provide out-of-court services exclusively for a single,
full-time business that doesn't provide legal services to a third
party, and (2) to permit public interest lawyers providing legal
services to indigents on an interim basis before taking the bar
Although avowedly using great caution, the plan
opens the door for more "sweeping measures" accommodating a
"global marketplace brought on by tremendous advances in technology
and multinational commerce" with "lawyers leading the way in
corporate expansion throughout the world," says our president. A
I can't hack it. California is the "happy
hunting ground;" the "promised land;" the Elysium of the U.S.;
the place with gravitational attraction. People can't wait to
migrate here, come for a short visit, spend their lives here. We're
already overcrowded with immigrants. We certainly don't need out of
state lawyers for any reason.
California already has plenty of good lawyers
available for in-house counsel duties and for indigents. Besides
taking care of our own, regulation of house counsel and maintenance of
their high standards under our bar rules is imperative. Let's back
off this far-out concept and get on with the business needs of
Kneeland H. Lobner
Why admit more lawyers?
As for the idea of admitting out-of-state
attorneys to practice without even taking the attorney exam, I think
it is a bad idea. First of all, are 100 percent of the out-of-state
attorneys passing the exam? I don't think so. Why does the bar want
these people admitted? For the dues and MCLE money? Maybe.
I understand the need to allow in-house counsel
some flexibility; California can do what Florida does by allowing
attorneys in good standing in another jurisdiction to practice only as
in-house counsel by just registering with the Florida bar. Florida
does not have an attorney exam.
If California does decide to allow these
attorneys to practice without taking an exam, I would hope it will
lobby other states to admit California attorneys on the same basis. I
went to a school that is State Bar-approved and most states will not
even allow me to take their exam, notwithstanding that I have been
admitted in California for over 20 years and in Maryland for almost 10
Frances Hirschmann Mullane
Not as lucky as some
Kristina Horton Flaherty paints a rosy picture of
women attorneys like Belynda Reck, who has kids and "feels she has
been treated well by her employers." Some women don't have it so
In 1996, I was a defense attorney for an
insurance company in its in-house law firm. The litigation manager
decided that I should stop my infertility treatments because he
required me to "account for every minute of my time from 8 a.m. to 6
p.m." And, yes, he did say that he owned me.
After I alleged gender discrimination, the
gymnastics that manager went through to make himself look like a
dedicated family man resulted in the in-house counsel leaving, the law
firm closing, the claims department moving, and the company stock
tanking. That insurance company now has one office in all of
California - in Fresno. The company ended up paying for three
attorneys to litigate my cases while I negotiated a hefty separation
agreement. But I have been black-balled ever since. I worked 10 years
as a defense attorney, but after that fiasco, I could not even get an
Now, I am one of those people you wrote about in
your December issue. I hung up my own shingle. I had to become a sole
practitioner if I was going to continue practicing law. As Michael
Berger said in his letter, it is not always the best and brightest who
end up at the big firms. It is not the "disparate dregs" who go
solo. It's women like me, who can't be owned.
M. Hollie Rutkowski
Justice run amok
I've always known the legal system has its
pathologies, but now I'm convinced it has gone bonkers.
A discipline report in February relates the case
of an attorney who pled guilty to insider trading (netting an
astronomical $14,000 profit), was fined $10,000 on top of a $29,000
payment to the SEC, then sentenced to three years probation plus a
month at a halfway house, followed by three months of electronically
monitored home detention and ordered to give speeches to other
attorneys. As if this were not enough, the State Bar placed him on
interim suspension and in jeopardy of summary disbarment. We're led
to believe he got off easy; after all, the prosecutors asked for a
four-month prison term.
prosecutorial, judicial and administrative overkill. The conduct
involved is illegal but pales in comparison with the manipulation that
is rampant in the financial community with little or no adverse
consequences. Surely, some perspective is in order. If the destruction
of a reputable attorney's entire career is a fitting punishment in
this case, what should be done with the Enron executives if they are
convicted of artificial inflation of Enron stock (netting them
hundreds of millions)? To
equate the two situations and punishment, perhaps being drawn and
quartered, followed by beheading and then summary execution?
Leave the bar exam alone. . .
Adoption of the suggestion that the California
bar examination be reduced from three days to two can only result in a
decline in the standard of practice.
I have passed the bar examination in two states,
California and Missouri. The examination here was the longer and the
more difficult one. I found the standard of practice higher in this
Probably the best argument that the California
examination is not too difficult is to look about and note all the
dumb lawyers you know who have passed it.
Jerome F. Downs
. . . Make it two days
It was with some consternation that I read the
article in the January issue regarding the proposed change of a
two-day bar exam. It is hard to understand the thinking of board
members who think that making a two-day bar exam would somehow result
in the "dumbing down" of the exam. All one has to do to refute
this argument is to look in the back pages of this newspaper to read
about all those successful candidates who have been disbarred or
suspended or otherwise disciplined for their actions as attorneys. All
the names mentioned in these obituary pages have passed the bar. How
will making the bar exam a two-day exam make this situation any worse?
The comments of former Attorney General Van de
Kamp are especially disturbing. The article quoted him as stating
words to the effect that "if I took a three-day exam, by God,
everyone else will." This mentality does not address the manner in
which the procedures for obtaining a law license may be improved and
does nothing to improve the quality of lawyering in this state. Making
a two-day bar exam will open the profession to more individuals. He is
apparently more concerned with entrenchment and not in bringing
California in conformity with the rest of the United States.