Filing a Few 'Brief' Comments

Lawyers refer to the documents they file in court as briefs. Usually, these documents are anything but. A 25-page brief is considered short.

As a contrast, I thought I would try my hand at a few really "brief" remarks--legal tips, information, comments and criticism worthy of mention.

* Halt, a national legal reform group, has issued its "people's report cards" on the legal systems of 50 states. California was ranked the highest in the nation, but received only a "C." At least our state passed; 43 failed the test.

Each state was evaluated on its do-it-yourself laws, access to legal service providers and lawyer-client relations. California fared well because it has fill-in-the-blanks statutory wills, a successful small claims system in which lawyers are not needed, mandatory written lawyer-client fee agreements, and a statewide program of lawyer-client fee arbitration.

In California, a portion of the interest on money held in lawyer trust accounts is donated to legal service programs. This gave the state a few additional points on the test, but California lost points because it does not permit paralegals to provide simple legal advice. (The State Bar is considering a proposal to license legal "technicians" to provide such advice.)

There's still room for improvement here, but at least California compares favorably to the rest of the country.

* Ever wonder what particular judge to vote for? Or what lawyers think of the judge hearing your case? The Los Angeles County Bar Assn. has just released a report of its Judicial Evaluation Committee, which rates the 14 candidates in contested Los Angeles County races for Superior and Municipal Court judgeships on the June 5 ballot as either "well qualified," "qualified" or "not qualified." Of the 14, nine were rated "well qualified," two were rated "qualified" and three were rated "not qualified."

The rankings reflect the opinion of the 56 lawyers on the committee. To receive a free copy, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to Judicial Evaluation, Los Angeles County Bar Assn., P.O. Box 55020, Los Angeles, Calif. 90055.

* Last fall, the California Supreme Court approved minimum standards for lawyer referral services in the state. No one is allowed to legally make referrals to attorneys without State Bar certification. This was done, in part, to guard against those who used sham referral services to solicit new legal clients. If you are using a lawyer referral service, make sure it is certified by the State Bar to be in compliance with these minimum standards.

Now, if we could only shorten those real legal briefs to a paragraph or two.

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