Five seats open on bar board

Attorneys interested in running for one of five seats on the State Bar Board of Governors may take out nominating petitions beginning this month. The election will be held in August and September. Seats are open in District 4, Marin and San Francisco counties; District 6, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties; District 7, Los Angeles County (offices 1 and 2); and District 8, Orange County.

Any active member of the State Bar who maintains his or her principal office for the practice of law within the district with an open seat is eligible to run. There are 23 seats on the Board of Governors.

Lawyer members are elected for three-year terms and will assume their offices at the conclusion of the 1996 Annual Meeting in Long Beach.

Petitions will be available May 17. For further information, contact Biljanna Sivanov, 415/561-8274.

Conference of Delegates executive committee elections scheduled

Five seats on the Conference of Delegates' executive committee are open. Candidates can nominate themselves or be nominated by a special committee.

District nominating committees will accept resumes or applications until June 28 and make recommendations by July 15.

Petitions for self-nomination will be available July 22 and must be submitted to the conference office by Aug. 27. Petitions must be signed by at least 10 percent of the delegates and alternate delegates from the district.

One seat is open in State Bar districts 2, 3 and 4, and two seats are open in district 7.

For more information about executive committee duties and requirements for nomination, for names and addresses of district nominating committee members, or to receive a petition for self-nomination, contact Jeanett Mulder at 415/561-8844.

New rule of court to accommodate disabilities

On Jan. 1, the Judicial Council implemented new California Rule of Court 989.3 enabling lawyers, clients and other court users with disabilities to request accommodations.

An estimated 8,000 attorneys in California have some type of disability. Of the 4.7 million other disabled individuals in the state, some may be assumed to be involved with the courts in some way - as witnesses, parties, jurors, etc.

Under the new rule, any person with a disability who has business with a court may request accommodations directly to a judicial officer in confidence. The rule is consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires public entities to make reasonable modifications to provide access to people with disabilities.

"Attorneys should not have to beg for accommodations, often no more difficult than switching counsel tables in court so they can better hear or see the proceedings," said U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian, who proposed the new rule.

The rule was developed by a State Bar committee which is developing policies to improve employment opportunities for legal professionals with disabilities.

Board of Governors to meet in San Francisco

The State Bar Board of Governors will hold its next meeting May 31-June 1 at the bar offices in San Francisco. Committees will meet May 31 and the full board will meet at 9 a.m. June 1. An agenda is available from the bar's secretary at 415/561-8200.

Limited liability partnership forms available from bar

State Bar registration forms are now available for California attorneys interested in forming limited liability partnerships - entities that are liable like corporations and taxed like partnerships.

In October, the governor signed legislation - Senate Bill 513 - allowing California attorneys to form such partnerships.

"This represents a new, very attractive option for many of California's lawyers," said bar President James Towery. "At the same time, it provides added protection for consumers by requiring such partnerships to maintain security for malpractice claims."

To practice as part of a limited liability partnership (LLP), attorneys are required by law to register with the California Secretary of State and the State Bar. The bar's registration fee for each LLP is $50 per partner, with a maximum $2,500 charge per partnership.

Anticipating the legislation, the bar recently developed rules, regulations and the initial fee schedule, as well as a process for certifying the new partnerships.

Without LLP certification, a law partner's personal liability for malpractice claims against the partnership is unlimited. Not only can a malpractice claimant collect the personal assets of partners involved in the lawsuit, the other partners also stand to lose personal assets to the claimant until the entire judgment is satisfied.

The new law protects the personal assets of those LLP partners not involved in the malpractice claim. But it also requires security for such claims, with a minimum coverage of $100,000 for every practicing attorney in the LLP. The maximum coverage for all claims is $7.5 million for any single calendar year.

Attorneys may continue to form law corporations. The LLP programs simply provide an additional option for lawyers.

Registration forms are available by calling 415/241-2100.

New procedure for public agency bar dues refund

The Board of Governors made permanent interim rules to minimize the threat of lawsuits against public agencies that pay their employees' bar fees. Under the new rule, public agencies may receive a refund if, as a result of arbitration proceedings to determine the mandatory and voluntary portions of the annual membership fee, there is a finding that the bar underestimated the voluntary portion.

The board had approved an interim rule in December in response to concerns that public agencies would be vulnerable to lawsuits on the ground that their payment of the voluntary portion of dues was an improper use of public funds.

A 40-day public comment period did not result in any change to the interim rule.

Board revises standards for mandatory fee arb

Local bar associations and lawyer referral services now must include a filing fee schedule and refund policy in their rules for fee arbitration. The fees and refund policy must be "reasonably related to the amount in dispute and the cost of providing the service."

In addition, the fees cannot be so high that they discourage using the program.

Programs have six months to comply with the new requirements.

Client relations tips available on voice mail

Videotapes and brochures about attorney-client relationships are available from the State Bar's Office of Client Relations.

By calling the office's voice mail (213/765-1448), members can hear descriptions of the program's materials and request order forms.

Bar-sponsored MCLE listings available by fax

A complete listing of State Bar-sponsored MCLE courses is now as near as your fax machine. By calling 415/561-8883, you may receive a list which is updated the first of each month. In addition, you can receive information on how to join a State Bar section.

Questions about the service may be directed to the Department of Meeting Services at 415/561-8210.