Dismembering the Bar

There is a song that suggests that "all things have a season …"  And perhaps the time has come for the dismemberment of the mandatory bar, especially in California. My last post on the subject suggested that the current president of the Bar is doing a disservice to its members by complying with the implicit demand of the Legislature to eliminate lawyers from participating in the Board of Governors; lawyers should not elect its own governing body.

And, if you believe that the Bar has no business in addressing the needs of its members, then Mr. Hebert is right; the Legislature is right; let’s create a licensing agency and do away with the Bar as we know it. Let’s call it what it is, a tax, a fee for the privilege to practice law. A fee for the privilege to help people address their legal needs.  After all, we "tax" plumbers, accountants and others for their privilege of earning a living as they do and helping their constituencies.  Why should lawyers be different?  Assess the fee for licensing and keeping lawyers on the path (the disciplinary process).  And let lawyers form a voluntary association to provide economic advice and continuing education and lobbying efforts.

Seems simple.  But, the current discussions are off onto a different path. President Hebert says that the only goal of the Bar should be to protect the public; that any benefit to or for lawyers is incidental and of little consequence.

Yet, if he (the president and other members of the Board and Legislature) truly believed in protecting the public, the first step would be to understand what the public concerns are. And that would require looking at the state Bar’s disciplinary report. If you did, you’s find that more than 50% of the complaints there against lawyers relate to issues of managing a law practice.

The number one complaint is still the failure to respond timely to clients. To address this and other such time and practice management issues, one need only to provide appropriate education programs. Help lawyers be more effective with their clients and more efficient in the delivery of their services.  And, again, but only if you want to protect the public, require malpractice insurance at affordable prices. With its enormous buying power, California ought to be able to craft an affordable insurance program. The cynic in me says this won’t happen no matter how the Bar is re-configured.

Oh, the mandatory part might show up … but not the affordable part … Why, because neither President Hebert nor the Legislature cares much about the average practitioner who helps the average citizen. That may be a harsh criticism, but it is apparent from observable behavior to date  of both.

Lawyers have a right to have spokesperson; lawyers have a right to have someone promote their interests in Sacramento. And lawyers have a right to organize for their own economic well-being. It’s clear the State Bar of California is not doing any of this!


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