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Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California June2008
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Y r r skools failing?

Title IX Verdict: $19,074,673. “A winning women’s college basketball coach was terminated following her repeated complaints of preferential treatment for the men’s team in violation of Title IX (Johnson-Klein v. California State University Fresno, Fresno County Superior Court, Plaintiff Attorney: Warren R. Paboojian.” (Trials Digest, May.)

Public university? Basketball? Title IX settlements? That’s what we need to budget for? Who are we punishing: the taxpaying public? Get rid of both the men’s and women’s basketball programs. The courts need to start compensating people only to the extent of their actual injury.  

Daniel L. Hess

An odd coincidence

Re: “Let them resign,” a letter from Saman Taherian (May). Perhaps Saman should have taken his own advice and resigned. Lo and behold, after reading his letter on page 8 of the magazine, the same Saman Taherian appears again as having been reinstated to the bar on page 21.

The Alternative Discipline Pro-gram is beneficial for giving attorneys with legitimate issues a second, and sometimes a third chance to redeem their professional lives. I wonder if Mr. Taherian is one of those who took advantage of the ADP and now wants to ruin it for the rest of the attorneys.

Paul E. Gold
Redondo Beach

• Editor’s note: Taherian resigned before the ADP was created.

More on health insurance

In response to the letter from John Brantley (May) about the lack of health benefits available to members of the State Bar: I am a sole practitioner and have been a member of the Committee on Group Insurance Programs for many years. This committee makes sure that insurance policies approved by the bar provide our members with benefits and pricing that are the best we can negotiate.

The bottom line: health insurance is not available to associations in California, and the State Bar, a professional association, is not considered a true group, such as a large employer. The committee is constantly checking about health insurance for our members, but it has been unavailable for some years.

Health insurers in this state must make policies available to groups of two or more, however, so a sole practitioner may obtain a group policy if he has even one employee. 

Sharon Rollo

Cap billable hours

Much has been written in the Bar Journal these past few months about lawyers working too many billable hours and suffering from more depression than any other occupational group. I propose a radical but simple solution: place a cap on the number of hours attorneys may legally or ethically work in this state. This could be accomplished by means of a new ethics rule or, better yet, through legislation. Limit every attorney working in a firm of five or more attorneys to 1,800 billable hours per year and 1,200 “administrative” hours per year. That still amounts to 250 hours of work per month, which is more than enough.

This is a very real health issue for our profession, and one Cal OSHA and the legislature ought to take action upon. Certainly, law firms have demonstrated they cannot be called upon to regulate themselves in this regard. Since I began practicing in 1995, the typical billable hours requirement has risen steadily from 1,800 hours to 2,100 hours.

It is time to end the insanity. The bar can and must implement some meaningful reform by setting a reasonable cap upon the number of hours attorneys can be made or expected to work.

Michelle M. Lemley

Time for some integrity

Years ago, the attorney’s reputation, experience, client’s ability to pay and the attorney’s success in the matter were important factors in fixing a fee. Today, the focus is on fee-shifting statutes, limited to who has prevailed and how much. Sadly, it’s now more like a Monopoly game with an award based on who lands in jail and who has the most hotels.

Yellow-page advertising — not to be confused with yellow journalism — promised the public that the least in our profession were equal to the best. The prevalence of insurance moved center stage and it guaranteed a recovery to everybody. Insurance companies paid off when they shouldn’t have.

Salaries of judges became less liberal and good lawyers no longer sought judgeships. Ethical and moral values moved into the shadows, while clients were attracted with free consultations and promises of success. Professionalism changed to merchandising. Judges and lawyers now focus on “merchandise turnover” while a breach of ethics becomes unseen.

The focus on billable hours is just part of our problems. Our judicial system now reflects unlearned matters of conscience and abandoned moral values. It’s time to speak more of integrity, truth, fairness, merit and that which is right, than those who add up the most pro bono hours.

James H. Disney

A need for help

In 2002, I wrote an autobiographical article in which I detailed my battles with major depression and severe anxiety disorders. As a result, I received over 100 phone calls and e-mails from other lawyers thanking me for having the courage to go public.

I was hoping the State Bar would address the problem of lawyers who suffered from depression, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses and provide them with some resources to help them cope with their disorders. Unfortunately, my hopes largely went unanswered. I hope the bar will take its head out of the sand, recognize the extent of the problem of mental illness among lawyers and other legal professionals, and provide some practical resources to help them cope with their disorders so they can function as competent attorneys.

Allen P. Wilkinson

• Editor’s note: The Lawyer Assistance Program, created in 2001, helps lawyers with chemical addiction and mental health problems.

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