Solo & Small Firm

Board of Trustees Adopts Five-Year Strategic Plan; Approves Next Steps on Client Trust Account Protection

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March 25, 2022

At its March 24-25 meeting, the State Bar Board of Trustees set the organization‚Äôs direction for the next five years by adopting a strategic plan for 2022-2027.

‚ÄúEverything the State Bar does must begin and end with its public protection mission,‚ÄĚ said Board Chair Ruben Duran. ‚ÄúThis plan sets out bold goals and charts a clear path to do just that. We have many challenges ahead and a lot of work to do, but it‚Äôs exciting to begin writing the State Bar‚Äôs next chapter.‚ÄĚ

The plan includes four strategic goals:

  • Protect the Public by Strengthening the Attorney Discipline System: Administer an attorney discipline system that is efficient, accountable, and transparent.
  • Protect the Public by Enhancing Access to and Inclusion in the Legal System: Increase access to the legal system through public outreach and education, improved access to legal advice and services, and a legal profession that reflects the diversity of California.
  • Protect the Public by Regulating the Legal Profession: Promote the ethical and competent practice of law and prevent misconduct by providing education, resources, and support for the legal profession.
  • Protect the Public by Engaging Partners: Engage partners and stakeholders to enhance public protection and restore the State Bar‚Äôs credibility, reputation, and impact.

The State Bar‚Äôs commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) both in its own operations and within California‚Äôs legal profession at large, is woven into the plan. The plan‚ÄĒcreated with broad and inclusive input from the public, State Bar Trustees, stakeholders, and staff‚ÄĒoutlines implementation steps under each goal in the areas of effectiveness, consumer focus, DEI, and policy and systems change. It also acknowledges the importance of building effective partnerships and collaborating with the Legislature and other stakeholders to move important policy reforms forward.

Other actions at the March meeting included:

Progress on Client Trust Account Protection Program
Following up on its approval in November 2021 of corrective actions related to client trust account protection, the Board:

  • Received an update on implementation progress;
  • Approved to circulate for 60 days of public comment three rule changes needed to implement the Client Trust Account Protection Program; and
  • Approved a new measure to be added to the program: mandatory reporting by banks of client trust account information. This addition would require legislative action to expand on the overdraft notice requirements currently delineated in Business and Professions Code section 6091.1. 

After the public comment period, the State Bar plans to finalize rule changes for approval by the Board and the California Supreme Court. The plan involves being ready to implement changes in attorney reporting requirements in time for the 2023 licensing fee billing cycle, which begins in December 2022. All California attorneys would be required to provide information on their client trust accounts and sign an annual certification of compliance, acknowledging that they know about and are compliant with the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct rule 1.15, ‚ÄúSafekeeping Funds and Property of Clients and Other Persons.‚ÄĚ The State Bar also plans to launch a public education campaign, attorney self-assessments, and professional development in support of the program. The State Bar intends to phase in other aspects of the program in future years, depending in part on funding availability.

Revised charter for Closing the Justice Gap Working Group
The Board also approved a revised charter for the working group exploring a regulatory sandbox as a means to foster technology-based innovations to expand Californians‚Äô access to legal services. The Closing the Justice Gap Working Group is expected to submit its final recommendations to the Board by May 2023.

Update on data breach
The Board heard an update regarding the inadvertent harvesting and display of confidential attorney discipline records discovered and disclosed by the State Bar in late February. Immediately after the breach was reported, the public website aggregating court records nationwide, judyrecords.com, removed access to all State Bar records on February 26. The State Bar Court public records portal, initially taken offline after the breach was discovered, has since been remediated and restored. The State Bar plans to notify complainants, witnesses, and respondents whose names appeared in the approximately 322,525 confidential records that were available on judyrecords. Current evidence suggests that 1,034 of those were actually viewed, and of those, 6 contained personal information as defined in California‚Äôs consumer privacy law. 


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