STATE BAR GROUP TO HOLD PUBLIC MEETING ON LIMITED-PRACTICE LICENSING
San Francisco, April 4, 2013 – The State Bar will hold its first public meeting next week to discuss limited-practice licensing, an idea that could ultimately create a new class of technicians able to give basic legal advice on routine matters.
The meeting of the Limited License Working Group will be held from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, on the fourth floor of the State Bar’s office at 180 Howard St. in San Francisco. The group is slated to review similar programs in other jurisdictions, including Washington state and Canada, comparable licensing practices of other professions and any previous initiatives by the State Bar in this area. The meeting will include an opportunity for public comment.
The Limited License Working Group is chaired by Board of Trustees member Craig Holden and includes board President Patrick M. Kelly and board members Karen Goodman, Loren Kieve, Heather Rosing and David A. Torres. Glenda Corcoran is a non-voting member of the group.
The idea of limited-practice licensing surfaced at a State Bar retreat in San Diego in January where the Board of Trustees looked at ways of improving public protection, access to justice and the State Bar’s regulatory functions. Proponents of limited–practice licensing see it as a way to improve delivery of legal services to the public, who often turn to non-lawyers for assistance when they can’t afford the services of licensed attorneys. Such a program, supporters argue, would make legal services more affordable, while ensuring consistency and quality.
California currently allows non-lawyers to perform some tasks that don’t constitute the practice of law, such as helping people fill out legal forms. Paralegals working under attorney supervision, unlawful detainer assistants, legal document assistants and immigration consultants registered by county clerks or the California Secretary of State can also assist consumers with some legal needs, short of practicing law.
Each year, the State Bar receives hundreds of complaints about businesses and individuals practicing law without a license, but it is limited in the action it can take because it does not regulate non-attorneys. The unauthorized practice of law is a crime punishable by a misdemeanor conviction.
The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By April 2013, membership reached 242,000.