California attorneys always need to be on top of changes in their education requirements and the law. For 2018, there’s plenty of new information to keep an eye on. Unprecedented and radical shifts are on the horizon and already here. As you prepare to meet your California MCLE obligations during 2018, watch for changing ways the legal profession will need to deal with state bar exam results, document filing and more.
California State Bar Examiners Stripped of Ability to Determine Passing Score
In a totally unprecedented move, the California Supreme Court decided that beginning in 2018, California State Bar Examiners would no longer have the authority to determine what a passing bar exam score would be. Nationwide, bar exam passing rates have plummeted over the past few years. In California, exam takers performances has been extremely poor, which prompted critics to proclaim that the state’s cut-off rate for passing should be lowered. It would allow more law students to pass the bar and become practicing attorneys, they said.
Currently, those taking the California State Bar exam need a passing score of 144, which is higher than in 48 other states. Only Delaware’s cut-off passing score is higher. The California State Bar exam is often referred to as being the hardest to pass in the country. However, the state’s mean scaled scores for its bar exam continue to be higher than average for the nation. The problem may be that the California bar exam is just difficult to pass due to an arbitrarily high cut-off score.
“Deunification” of the California State Bar
Every California lawyer – whether active or inactive, disbarred or disciplined – is now officially divorced or “deunified.” Effective January 2, 2018, the State Bar of California has left to itself the entirety of tasks as they apply to admission and discipline, as well as protection of the public and access to justice. This means that the 16 substantive sections of the State Bar, in addition to the Young Lawyers section, are now on their own. Additionally, the Young Lawyers section will now be voluntary and a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization.
This is uncharted territory and hopefully the separation will remain agreeable to all parties. Right now, the divorce is amicable. But, the details have to be tended to, many of which include dividing up assets and working out future responsibilities. This deunification has been in the works for many years, and at the end of September 2017, Governor Jerry Brown, Jr. finally signed SB 36 to seal the deal. Analysts attribute the official cutting of ties to many mishaps conducted by the California State Bar and to concern about the United States Supreme Court’s North Carolina Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission case decision.
In addition to these changes, there are several amendments to California statutes and court rules that became effective January 1, 2018, including changes to California Rules of Court and C.C.P. 1010.6 regarding eFiling & eService deadlines, eSignatures (current rule 2.257) and document definitions (current rule 2.250(b)(1) and (2).