California State Bar Letter

A Published Letter about the California State Bar to the Bar e-Journal (published in an edited form April, 2013, original here):

From: Bart Lee Sent: Monday, March 04, 2013 4:37 PM
To: CBJ Cc: patrick.kelly@wilsonelser.com
Subject: President Kelly’s Column March 2013

Editor:

Re: From the President – What is the State Bar and what does it do? By Patrick Kelly President, State Bar of California

What the State Bar does not do is deter attorneys from extortion. (Of course, always on behalf of and in the best interests of a client, but always with a pecuniary interest). The Bar says: go tell it to the DA. The DA says: The Bar regulates lawyers, we’ve got more important things to do with our limited resources (true enough). If it doesn’t happen in the courtroom, the judges also have more important things to do (and they do).

I have been a member of the Bar for 40 years. I regard it as a worthless, self –congratulatory bureaucracy of incompetents. It says without us, you lawyers would be regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs! Well, bring ‘em on – we need a new sheriff.

What the State Bar does do is pander to the shibboleths of political correctness, and then bask in its own glory. “Pro bono practice” is one of them. The actual cost of licensing is probably $100 a year, judging by other states’ bar dues. Discipline always seeks to pick only the low hanging fruit – consumers of consumers’ trust funds. The “underserved” would be better served by a Bar that did not insist on a monopoly in the practice of law, when so much more could be done so much cheaper by people who handle all sorts of routine transactions such as real estate agents, banks and yes, even Notaries. (The lawyers’ comments in Letters reinforce my view that lawyers want the monopoly, the public be darned.) The one thing the people have going for them now is the pervasive Internet – and with any luck, the lawyers will go the way of the bookstores [as much as I like bookstores]. And the Bar’s Mandatory Continuing Education is a fraud on the public and a racket by the providers. They devote themselves to extracting a share of the lawyers’ monopoly rents that lawyers enjoy from preventing non –lawyers from helping people.

Judges will want competent and honest advocates to appear before them, but they can’t rely on the State Bar for that. Businesses will want sound counsel, but the State Bar has little to with that. Any mere mortal caught up in litigation has already lost a game – a game of very high stakes – that he or she did not even know he or she was playing. The State Bar seems to have no interest in alleviating this public and private misery.

If Mr. Kelly is right that the Bar is not a trade association, then it ought to do a better job in promoting the public interest as that is understood by the public, not the bureaucrats and not the lawyers. I suspect that the public’s disdain for lawyers is nothing other than lawyers’ reaping what they have sown.

Respectfully yours,
Bart Lee (57592)
cc Patrick Kelly, Esquire