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Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California October2006
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A cruel move

What an arrogant, hard-hearted bunch the board of governors has become. They have given no real justification for eliminating the March 15th grace period for paying bar dues and slapping attorneys with an outrageous $100 penalty (i.e., shakedown) if we don’t pay by Feb. 1.

The argument about high mailing costs for sending multiple dues reminders is specious. Why not simply stop sending such reminders, save all that money and let us keep the March 15 date. You only need one statement mailed to each attorney.

At least some of the governors recognized that the new policy is hardly “member friendly.” Indeed! In my opinion, it is indicative of a State Bar that is increasingly oppressive and non-representative.

Richard Cibener
Los Angeles

The burden of being inactive

For 20 years I have been an inactive member of the bar. When I switched careers and went from active to inactive status, I realized that I was sacrificing certain benefits: namely, I could no longer practice law.

What I didn’t count on was that the bar would demand an increasingly larger percentage of monies from inactive members — $125 in 2007. Inactive members are obviously convenient fall guys to subsidize bar activities because they lack any voice in governance.

Most of your readers will care not a whit for the predicament of those of us who are inactive. Should equity ever rear its buried mane again though, perhaps your fee-setters will reconsider our charges.

Patrick Mattimore
San Francisco

Dues as profit

The DMV used to charge an annual non-operational fee until the legislature finally put a stop to it. If a citizen owns an inoperative vehicle but does not plan to use it, why should the state continue to charge a fee? After all, the owner of an inoperative vehicle receives no benefit from the DMV. The same logic should apply to the California bar regarding inactive fees. When an attorney decides to leave the practice of law, why do we force them to pay inactive dues until they reach the age of retirement? Their only recourse is to stop paying the fees, resulting in suspension. Isn’t there a better alternative?

I propose the bar eliminate inactive fees altogether. If an attorney requests inactive status, they shall receive such status immediately. If they wish to once again become active, they must wait at least six months, comply with all MCLE requirements, pay current dues and pay the $100 reinstatement fee. If they wish to remain inactive, however, they may do so without paying $125 a year. Not only is this proposal equitable, but it will also cut down on mailing expenses that the bar complains about. Yet, short of a lawsuit or new legislation, I don’t honestly expect to see my proposal adopted. Why? Because the bar recognizes inactive dues as the pure profit-generators they are.

Mark Androvich
Folsom

Insulting diversity standards

There is no doubt that having lawyers and judges accurately reflect the makeup of the areas in which they practice would be ideal, but is it really necessary? Would African-American or Hispanic lawyers and/or judges dispense justice more favorably to African-American or Hispanic litigants when they are up against non-African-American or non-Hispanic litigants? Would Asian attorneys be able to more favorably represent Asian clients than would white or African-American attorneys?

The practice of law and the ability to be a sitting judge rests not with any program designed to provide diversity as much as it does with the individuals who desire to be attorneys or judges. Law is just like any other profession. It is there for those who want to be a part of it.

The bar could lower its entry standards, opening the doors of the profession to all who graduate. Not appropriate? Then why bother with a diversity program? Isn’t that tantamount to admitting that the standards are too high for some people?

Let me surmise that those who truly wanted to be members of the particular profession or hold a particular job made it through the rigors of academia or training, passed the required admissions exam or tryout and now fully enjoy the fruits of all that labor. Is something wrong with that? I don’t think so.

Stephen Glassman
Los Angeles

Follow Oregon example

We should be ashamed of the proposal to require disclosure of the lack of malpractice policy, which does nothing to protect the public and unfairly labels those who lack malpractice insurance as lesser attorneys. We have more than 200,000 members. We are the malpractice market in California. Why don’t we use our bargaining power?

Every Oregon attorney is required to carry malpractice insurance, through an insurance trust, the Professional Liability Fund (PLF), which costs far less than the malpractice policies available in California. The PLF and the Oregon State Bar also actively teach new attorneys how to manage their practices and avoid malpractice claims. Oregon has universal, affordable malpractice insurance because the Oregon State Bar and PLF made it happen. The California State Bar should follow Oregon’s example.

Mary Cavanaugh
San Marcos

I’ll take Bill Gates

James Towery’s argument in favor of insurance status (August) focuses on what a client would want to know. As in-house counsel, I find myself often in the role of client when choosing outside lawyers. Following Towery’s argument, if people hired lawyers to cater to the off chance that they would have to make a claim, what would clients want to know? They would want to know the likelihood of having to make a claim: Have any of the firm’s lawyers been sued for malpractice or disciplined? Do any have substance abuse, marital, financial problems or any of the other excuses that fill the discipline reports?

Next, clients would want to know the extent to which a firm could satisfy a claim: Insurance is but one (misleading) component. What is the firm’s financial position, how much assets are left at the firm level and how much are distributed out of a creditor’s reach? Mere disclosure that the lawyer has insurance is misleading: What’s the limit?  What’s the retention (deductible)? What’s excluded? If the task force felt that disclosure of insurance was important to clients, why stop there? Shouldn’t the client know if his or her lawyer is on drugs, having marital difficulties or is well off enough to satisfy a malpractice judgment even absent insurance?  

 If I were hiring lawyers solely with worries about satisfying a hypothetical malpractice claim, I would prefer to have Bill Gates as my lawyer than any lawyer with insurance.

Howard M. Freedland
Milpitas

Easy insurance solution

What’s the ruckus all about? All that is required is to add a new Subsection (C) to Rule 3-400 of the Rules of Professional Conduct to provide that if any lawyer cannot satisfy a final judgment against that lawyer arising from liability for professional negligence, his or her license to practice will be suspended until that judgment is satisfied. That allows any lawyer to make an informed decision as to whether or not to purchase professional liability insurance. It’s simple!

Richards D. Barger
Los Angeles

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