The most interesting aspect of this may be that the State Bar’s own press release uses the words “crack down” and that the press release was released at all. Not only is the State Bar getting tough in discipline, admissions and other areas, like continuing legal education, but it is telling everybody that it is as often as possible. The State Bar’s transformation from a bar association to a law enforcement agency has been long but seems nearly complete.
I expect that the State Bar will soon propose increases in the amount of continuing education required of lawyers and perhaps more in-person instruction. Originally, 36 hours was required; that was reduced to the current 25 after the State Bar shutdown in 1998, prompted in part by complaints from attorneys that the requirement was onerous. Given the power shift in the State Bar’s governing body, now known as the “Board of Trustees” it isn’t likely that lawyer complaints about MCLE will have much traction.
Not long ago, I met a new lawyer member of that Board of Trustees. I asked what district the Trustee represented. “I don’t represent a district; I represent the People of the State of California!” was the reply, evidently a well-schooled one. The last pretense that California lawyers are self-regulating has fallen away, and appropriately so, as that actually ended many years ago. The de facto firing of Jim Towery as the discipline chief last year, has to be seen in this light. Towery was a lawyer’s lawyer but the new State Bar didn’t need a lawyer running discipline but a prosecutor and an aggressive one.