Here is the latest quarterly update for all California licensees on some key initiatives underway at the State Bar.
Moving with resolve and urgency to improve the discipline system
At its meeting November 18, the State Bar Board of Trustees approved finalization of the design of a new Client Trust Account Protection Program (CTAPP), and the pursuit of necessary statutory and rule authority. CTAPP, and other corrective actions to strengthen the State Bar’s oversight and regulation of client trust accounts, was a product of the final report and recommendations of the Committee on Special Discipline Case Audit, chaired by Trustee José Cisneros. This effort arose from the Board’s review of the confidential audit of closed complaints against Tom Girardi and an analysis of the types of proactive measures that the State Bar needs to take to better prevent egregious client trust account misconduct. For an overview of the plan, read the news release. The Board directed staff to return with implementation plan details for the Board’s approval early next year. The plan will also require rule amendments that will circulate for public comment.
A nurse practitioner in law?
Since the late 1980s, the State Bar has considered the idea of licensing nonlawyers to provide limited legal services to the public. Now for the first time, through the work of the California Paraprofessional Program Working Group, a comprehensive proposal for a new paraprofessional licensing program is circulating for public comment. A legal paraprofessional would be to a lawyer what a nurse practitioner is to a doctor. The plan recognizes that not all legal problems need the same level of expertise. The proposal could provide more affordable options to millions of Californians whose legal needs currently go unaddressed. This handout and this FAQ summarize the proposal and the need for it, while all the details are here. You can provide your comments using this form. The comment deadline is January 12, 2022.
State Bar rethinks its real estate footprint
At their November 18 meeting, the Board of Trustees announced it had authorized staff to pursue a plan to place the State Bar’s building at 180 Howard Street in San Francisco on the market for sale in 2022. The State Bar purchased the building in 1996. Capital projects needed to maintain the 43-year-old building have been an ongoing financial challenge and were only partly addressed by the 2020 licensing fee increase. As it plans a sale, the State Bar will explore options for either leasing or purchasing consolidated and less-expensive office space for its Bay Area workers, which may mean relocating that workforce to another Bay Area location. State Bar staff continue to work predominantly remotely, and the agency continues to evaluate options for a long-term hybrid work plan for its staff. With a mind to wise use of our fiscal resources—which come largely from licensing fees—the Board and staff agree that, given the changing circumstances of the last couple of years, selling the San Francisco headquarters building is the most prudent course of action.
Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar Exam
Should California continue to have a bar exam? If so, what should the exam look like? Should it continue to test for memorization of the law or should it transition to a heavily skills-based format? Should the exam be open book or otherwise be re-envisioned as remote exam? Should California create a completely new alternative pathway to licensure? These are just some of the issues being considered by the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the Bar Exam, a joint effort between the State Bar and the Supreme Court. The commission is working toward a set of recommendations next year. You are encouraged to follow this process and provide public comment, which you can do at every meeting. Recordings of past meetings (conducted via Zoom) are available online. The next meeting is scheduled for January 4, 2022. You can sign up for notifications when meeting agendas and materials are posted.
Annual license renewal process
December 1 marks the start of the two-month annual license renewal process. The deadline is February 1, 2022. The process includes verifying information attorneys must report to the State Bar and paying your licensing fees.
In 2022, total fees for active licensees are $515, the same as 2020. Total fees for inactive licensees are $182.40. You’ll receive a notice by email during the first week of December providing links to pay your fees online through My State Bar Profile. Alternatively, your firm can pay fees through our agency billing feature. To pay fees directly, please log on to My State Bar Profile. Fees for inactive licensees who are 70 years old or over by February 1, 2022, are still waived.