A few weeks ago, the President of the State Bar of California, in discussing the Bar’s strategic plan, indicated that tougher discipline, higher admission standards (including some form of “residency” for aspiring lawyers), and increased continuing education requirements, might all be expected in the next few years. He also stated that the State Bar would be taking a hard look at the its current Lawyer Assistance Program and whether it is consistent with State Bar’s public protection mission.
At the recent meeting of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL), presentations addressed Prof. Thomas Morgan’s thesis that lawyers are no longer a profession but merely “consultants”, the relief sought by large multi-national law firms from America’s onerous loyalty-based conflict rules (which, unlike European rules, don’t allow them to take on work adverse to current clients), and the important role that lawyer assistance programs play in addressing the underlying problems that cause attorney misconduct.
The disciplinary authority in California has been steaming toward more regulation for some time now but its clear that the captain (captains?) has ordered full speed ahead. The bar as a whole is being blown by different winds toward an unknown destination, one of those winds being the demise of the current expensively educated and highly regulated bar as a viable economic model. Of course, it only seems that these powerful forces are disconnected from each other. They can’t really avoid contact and when it occurs, the results will naturally be energetic.