Bar cracks down on unauthorized practice

In an effort to crack down on the unauthorized practice of law, two Board of Governors committees proposed an amendment to the Business & Professions Code to impose tougher sanctions on unlicensed attorneys. Violators would face up to $2,500 in penalties and would be more likely to face felony rather than misdemeanor charges.

The bar historically has been unable to assist consumers who complain about the misconduct of unauthorized practitioners, but new legislation would redress this gap.

(See President Jim Towery's column for more information on UPL.)

Three California court programs honored for innovative management

Three California courts have been nationally recognized for innovative programs by the National Association for Court Management (NACM), an organization for court managers.

Winners of the 1996 Justice Achievement Award are the Los Angeles County Superior Court and the Consolidated Courts of Riverside County. The Los Angeles Municipal Court received an honorable mention.

"These programs are testimony to the dedication with which California courts view their mission to enhance access to the courts and improve the administration of justice," said William C. Vickrey, administrative director of the California Courts.

The awards are presented annually to new court programs that best represent NACM's goals of improving the administration of justice, providing education and training, and improving public access to the courts.

Permanent disbarment to be considered by board

An amended procedural rule will be considered by the bar Board of Governors this month to permit permanent disbarment.

The proposal also would allow the State Bar Court the discretion to set a minimum wait of five or 10 years before reinstatement for disbarred attorneys.

In addition, the rule would extend the waiting period, under certain circumstances, to 10 years for attorneys who resign with charges pending and would require all petitioners for reinstatement to the bar to take the California Attorney Examination.

The current rule (rule 662 of the bar's Rules of Procedure) sets a five-year waiting period.

The board discipline committee approved the rule change after seeking public comment on more than one version.

Electronic copies of court briefs not required

Parties who file briefs with the Supreme Court or in a civil case with the Court of Appeal will no longer be required to also file a copy with the Supreme Court on computer disk under an amendment to rule 44 of the California Rules of Court.

The amendment, adopted by the Judicial Council, took effect July 1.

Rule 44 was previously amended to require that as of Jan. 1, 1996, a computer disk be filed in lieu of four additional paper copies of the brief.

The copies were to be distributed to the state law library and three other law libraries throughout the state.

The briefs on disk were to be transferred to compact disks to save storage costs and increase the availability of the briefs.

CDs have not been developed, however, so extra paper copies of briefs are once again required.

Towery reaching out to public lawyers

State Bar President Jim Towery appointed a five-member working group to develop a plan for improving outreach to California's public lawyers.

The group, which also will encourage more public lawyer participation in bar activities, includes four of the Board of Governors' public lawyers: Sam Jackson, Ann Ravel, John Stovall and Pauline Weaver.

It will be chaired by Clara Slifkin, a deputy attorney general and chair of the bar's Council of Section Chairs.

1996 editions of State Bar publications are available

The 1996 editions of Publication 250 -- California Rules of Professional Conduct and State Bar Act -- and the Handbook on Client Trust Accounting for California Attorneys are now available from the State Bar.

Both publications may be ordered by mail by submitting a check for $8.68 for each volume payable to the State Bar of California. The order should be sent to: Attn: Publication 250 (or Trust Accounting Handbook), Office of Professional Competence, Planning & Development, State Bar of California, 100 Van Ness Ave., 28th Flr., San Francisco 94102-5238.

Walk-in orders will be accepted at the bar's admissions office in San Francisco (555 Franklin St.) and the 4th floor reception at the Los Angeles office (1149 South Hill St.) Cost for books sold on site is $4.50.

For further information, contact Renata Murry, 415/241-2112.

Rule change for students facing first-year exam

The Committee of Bar Examiners, acting on legislation which takes effect Jan. 1, will propose amendments to admissions rules to allow students in unaccredited law schools to continue their studies even if they fail the so-called "baby bar exam" on the first attempt.

Under existing rules, those students must pass the first year exam before they can receive any further credit for their law studies.

Certifying those who certify legal specialists

A proposed rule change would prohibit attorneys from advertising themselves as certified specialists unless they hold a current certificate issued by the Board of Legal Specialization, or by an entity accredited by the bar to designate specialists.

Rules governing accreditation of specialty certification programs also have been proposed.

The board is recommending that the Supreme Court approve these proposed changes. Currently there are no minimum standards required for certifying entities, and there is nothing to stop them from granting that certification for a fee alone. Consequently, the public could be misled.

For further information, contact Phyllis Culp at 415/241-2118.

Practical training of law students fee change

The Board of Governors has changed the certification fee for the Practical Training of Law Students program. Beginning Oct. 1, the certification fee will increase from $40 to $55, and the $10 recertification fee will be eliminated.

New applications reflecting the new fees will be available in August.

Further information is available from Patricia Edith at 415/241-2141.

New pamphlet for solos, small-firm lawyers

A new pamphlet outlining services and benefits provided by the State Bar for solo and small-firm practitioners is now available.

"Flying Solo . . . " describes programs in four areas: managing a law office; resolving ethical dilemmas or personal challenges; networking with colleagues; and vendor discounts and other money-saving benefits.

Advice on keeping current through publications and the World Wide Web also is provided.

Free copies of the brochure are available by calling Patty Cuellar at 415/561-8257.

Annual Meeting in October

The State Bar's Annual Meeting will be held in Long Beach Oct. 10-13.