On Sept. 29, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 2764, the annual State Bar dues bill, into law. Unlike other dues bills, however, this one contained a pointed message from the Legislature to the Bar: [R]ecent actions by the State Bar Board of Governors have not sufficiently taken into account the protection of the public. The first item cited by the Legislature as an example of the Bar’s public-protection failures was a “scaled-back online ‘Find a Lawyer’ program.”
Two years ago this month, the Board of Governors rejected “Find a Lawyer,” a proposal that would have allowed lawyers to list themselves on the State Bar’s website by self-selected practice areas. Members of the public would have been able to sort Bar members by subject-matter category. For example, someone looking for a personal injury lawyer in San Francisco could plug in the county and practice area and find a list of every San Francisco lawyer who practiced personal injury law. Or at least claimed to practice personal injury. And that was the public-protection problem. Because the Bar proposal would not have required either that the State Bar vet the lawyers’ designations or even insist that listing lawyers prove some — any — level of knowledge in the practice area, Bar members would have been free to self-designate themselves as experienced in lucrative areas of law in which they had absolutely no experience and get the extra bonus of apparent State Bar imprimatur.
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