Responsive Law Calls Out Self-Interested Lawyers Who Dissented from California Recommendation to License Paralegals
by Tom Gordon
In comments submitted this week to the State Bar of California, Responsive Law urged the Bar's Board of Trustees to approve the recommendation of a Bar-appointed working group that the state should begin licensing paralegals to provide services directly to the public. The recommendation was approved by 15 of the 19 working group members, including all the judges, all the public members, and a majority of the lawyers on the group.
Our comments pointed out that the four dissenting members are all lawyers who were nominated to the working group by constituencies that fear the economic impact of competition from licensed paralegals. You can read the comments in their entirety here.
by Tom Gordon
Throughout 2021, the State Bar of California Closing the Justice Gap Working Group has been holding hearings and gathering data so that it can make an informed decision about how to structure a regulatory sandbox, Such a sandbox would allow regulators of the legal industry to test regulatory reforms and gather data about their impact on access to legal help and consumer protection. The working group consists of volunteers—both lawyers and others—from a variety of backgrounds. It is expected to make recommendations to the State Bar in September 2022.
In a December 7 letter to the chair of the State Bar Board of Trustees, the chairs of the California Senate and House Judiciary Committees urged the State Bar to “focus on its core mission of protecting the public by correcting the delays and defects in the attorney discipline system.” This unnecessary pressure on the Bar is not only premature, but also ill-informed.
by Tom Gordon
Responsive Law has submitted comments to the California Task Force on Access Through Innovation in Legal Services (ATILS) in response to its proposed reforms to regulation of legal services in the state.
Overall, we like the task force’s proposal. It does a good job of balancing the potential for increased access to legal services against the potential for consumer harm. Additionally, it looks at regulation as something that needs to address specific potential harms, rather than taking regulations that were created decades ago to govern potential misconduct by lawyers and treating the regulation itself as the principle to be preserved, rather than looking at the reason behind the regulation and seeing whether it is still the best way to address a particular regulatory objective.
by Bridget Fogarty Gramme
In February of this year, Assemblymember Randy Voepel, a Republican from Santee, California, introduced AB 2483, a bill that proposes to require the State of California to indemnify members of its occupational licensing boards for antitrust damages if the alleged conduct took place in their “official” capacity as board members. It also proposes to declare that treble damage awards are not considered “punitive,” thus complying with the state’s indemnification laws.
Written by Lynn Bechtol
In a disappointing move for proponents of public oversight of the bar, on November 17 the California Supreme Court authorized its State Bar Association to collect interim dues from its members for 2017. Responsive Law testified on this issue to the California Supreme Court, urging it to tie any such authorization to a requirement that the State Bar pursue reform of its governance structures.
The California Supreme Court itself had earlier mandated that the State Bar of California act to segregate its attorney discipline and trade organization functions, reacting to a recent US Supreme Court case holding that professional organizations may not use their regulatory functions to stifle marketplace competition. Despite this mandate, the Special Regulatory Assessment requested by the Bar made no effort to address shortcomings in the Bar's current governance system.
"The California Supreme Court's decision to authorize the assessment even in the absence of reform is an unfortunate defeat for consumers of legal services, who need reform to make the judicial system more responsive and accountable to the interests of the public," stated Responsive Law Executive Director Tom Gordon. "In California and across the nation, state bars need to adapt their practices both to serve the public and to conform with the US Supreme Court's standards for professional regulatory organizations."
You can read more about the Supreme Court order here, and you can find Responsive Law's testimony on this matter here.
Lynn Bechtol is a Responsive Law Legal Fellow.
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