By Hellen Hong and Suma Mathai
Do you know the entities providing resources for California attorneys and their clients? Attorneys are often unaware of the purpose of some of these entities and the many free resources they offer attorneys and our fellow Californians. Our over 20 years of experience serving as staff, consultants, board members, and volunteers for these organizations has given us a comprehensive understanding of what’s available to you and some resources and services you may not have heard of previously. We hope this short guide will help you access resources for your practice and your network.
The State Bar of California is the regulatory government agency that licenses and disciplines attorneys. The State Bar’s primary focus is protecting the public. It does so by licensing attorneys, enforcing Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, disciplining attorneys who violate rules and laws, administering the California Bar Exam, and administering programs to advance access to justice and promote diversity and inclusion in the legal system. Their resources for attorneys include free MCLE and trainings, an Ethics Hotline, Lawyers Assistance Program, Mandatory Fee Arbitration, Trust Accounting Handbook, and volunteer opportunities. You can pay your annual licensing fees, update your contact and employment information, and access e-learning at My State Bar Profile.
The Judicial Council of California, part of the judicial branch, is the policymaking body responsible for the statewide administration of the California courts. The Council allocates funds for the court system, makes statewide court rules and forms, and creates programs to improve access to justice. Their resources for attorneys include fillable statewide court forms, Rules of Court, searchable access to California Supreme Court legal opinions, and volunteer opportunities.
California Lawyers Association (CLA) is a nonprofit, voluntary bar association home to 18 specialty law sections formerly housed at the State Bar. As a member, you may know that CLA offers MCLE and trainings, free access to FastCase legal research software, hosts annual conferences, proposes and takes positions on legislation, and advocates for lawyers before the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive Branch, and the State Bar of California.
CalBar Connect is a platform for special discounts and benefits on products and services for licensed attorneys. From insurance products to legal software, CalBar Connect leverages the collective buying power of 250,000 licensed attorneys to negotiate special pricing or benefits for attorneys. One of the distinct advantages of using CalBar connect — 100% of net revenues fund access to justice initiatives, legal aid programs, and fellowships for law students and new lawyers throughout the state.
There are over 260 voluntary bar associations in California. These associations support their members through MCLE programming, networking, mentorship, and more. Various groups are based on geography, practice areas, race, ethnicity, or specific topics. www.calawyers.org/bar-relations/california-bar-associations-and-organizations/
The entities below offer resources for non-attorneys, which may be helpful for clients, family, and friends.
LawHelpCA is California’s official free legal resource webpage. The site has general legal information and provides resources for low-income Californians by topic based on the user’s location. A LiveChat feature is also available for general questions. In addition, the site is accessible in seven languages.
The Self-Help Guide to the California Courts, maintained by the Judicial Council, offers legal information and step-by-step guides for self-represented litigants on a variety of topics, as well as links to statewide court forms and court-based self-help centers that provide free legal information, help with forms, and resources.
The State Bar of California provides links to certified Lawyer Referral Services, which can help users find attorneys in good standing who can provide advice, representation, and other services. They may be able to direct users to bilingual attorneys or those who offer reduced rates based on the users’ income. Users can search attorneys by name, see disciplinary information, file complaints, and access free legal pamphlets in multiple languages.
Hellen Hong, Esq. is the CEO of CalBar Affinity, Inc., which operates CalBar Connect. She has held multiple positions in public interest law firms, the State Bar of California, and nonprofit organizations.
Suma Mathai, Esq., MSW, is a legal consultant with the Judicial Council of California and an adjunct lecturer at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She previously practiced family law at public interest law firms in Los Angeles.