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Recent report on California State Bar examines lawyer discipline

We noted the relatively recent rollout of material changes in the State Bar of California that seek to give that sprawling bureaucratic arm a new look and feel. The focus is on tautness and a sharper focus, and bar officials think that the goal has been achieved.

We referenced the top-tier concern for bar regulators in our May 7 blog post, stressing therein officials’ concern with problem lawyers practicing across the state.

How big is that problem?

Consider this: Empirical data show that more than 15,000 attorney-linked complaints were fielded by the bar last year. That is a veritable deluge, extrapolating to more than 40 per day – every single day of the year.

Bar officials and lawmakers obviously saw the need to more effectively focus on such mass wrongdoing and better protect clients from problem lawyers engaging in acts of legal malpractice and other unethical behaviors.

Clearly, the new streamlined bar – its mission is now to focus solely on attorney admissions and disciplinary matters – faces a daunting task as it embarks on its revised and narrower mission.

Some initial incoming data relevant following the bar’s retooled look in 2016 (please see the above-linked blog post for details on that) show that protracted growing pains are likely in store. Nearly 1,600 complaints were pending for half a year or longer last year, which spelled a sharp spike upward from 2016. And it is currently taking well more than a year on average for bar examiners to duly consider and close out a disciplinary complaint.

More than 300 California attorneys were reportedly reproved, suspended or disbarred last year.