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Los Angeles-State Bar of California leaders have endorsed proposed rules that would open the practice of law to out-of-state attorneys, despite the protests of a vocal minority who say the changes do not adequately protect the public. The debate over allowing multijurisdictional practice-letting certain categories of lawyers practice law in the state without a California bar license-was one of the most contentious of any recent bar meeting, which took place on July 25 and 26, with the approving vote on the second day. The rule changes were proposed by a state Supreme Court committee in May, and would open California’s courts to all licensed public interest lawyers, in-house counsel and attorneys practicing temporarily in the state on either litigation or nonlitigation matters. But a handful of bar governors, including two of the nonlawyer public members, argued that the ideas were being pushed too fast and that bar staff anticipate that 3,000 out-of-state lawyers might swarm into California. “This seems like it’s a rush-a rush to judgment,” Bar Governor James Heiting, a partner in Riverside, Calif.’s Heiting & Irwin, said during a committee meeting, where much of the opposition was mounted. The California Supreme Court, which will make the final decision, had asked for input by Jan. 1, 2004. “I do not believe these rules protect the public,” he added during the bar board’s full meeting. Among concerns were that the proposed rules do not require out-of-state lawyers to register when they arrive, nor do they require out-of-state lawyers to contribute to the state’s Client Security Fund, which repays people who have been bilked or badly represented by California lawyers. “We wouldn’t even know where they live under the current rules,” Bar Governor Robert Persons, a partner in Chico, Calif.’s Persons & Miller, said during the meeting of the board’s regulation, admissions and discipline oversight committee. Bar Governor Roderick McLeod, a partner in the San Francisco office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, chimed in by saying that he does not want to see the Client Security Fund “be debited for wrongs by an out-of-state lawyer” who has not paid into it. A philosophical objection The bar committee recommended that the full board-to make a point-reject the proposed changes “philosophically,” but approve them as long as out-of-state lawyers were required to register and pay into the Client Security Fund. The philosophical objection was deleted by the full board, however, after state Bar President James Herman, a partner in Santa Barbara, Calif.’s Reicker, Pfau, Pyle, McRoy & Herman, objected. “The court is definitely moving in this direction,” he argued. “That [recommendation] sends a signal to the court that we’re not on the same page.” Finally, 13 governors endorsed the proposed rule changes, along with a request that they be given until April 1-July 1, if possible-to respond to the court further. Four others voted no, and one abstained.

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