June 24, 2021
Today the State Bar of California published its second digital annual report. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic drove the State Bar to implement significant changes to continue to meet its public protection mission at the same time it advanced important strategic initiatives and critical policy work.
“Despite the onset of the challenges brought on by the coronavirus, Californians deserve access to a legal system that serves them with integrity and fairness. The State Bar quickly adapted to ensure that our essential work protecting the public continued,” said Donna S. Hershkowitz, Interim Executive Director. “The publication of this report is one of many initiatives we are undertaking to support our strategic goals of transparency, accountability, and proactive communication.”
The 2020 report highlights the following key changes the State Bar implemented amid the pandemic year:
- Established a fully remote call center to maintain service to the public.
- Shifted the fall bar exam and the two First-Year Law Students’ Exams to remote administration.
- Created an entirely new licensing program for recent law graduates to begin practice before passing a bar exam.
- Equipped its 550+ employee workforce with the technology and training needed to enable most of them to work remotely full-time so as to ensure the continued ability to fully serve the public during the height of the pandemic.
The report also spotlights significant accomplishments in 2020, including transitioning the State Bar Court to remote proceedings, making rapid fiscal adjustments to cushion legal services funding from a sudden $20 million loss in interest revenue, and distributing a record $11.75 million through the Client Security Fund.
Key 2020 statistics include:
- Total number of attorneys licensed: 260,000
- New attorneys admitted: 2,630
- Provisionally licensed lawyers approved: 588
- Legal aid funds distributed: $97.2 million
- Victims reimbursed through the Client Security Fund: 832
- Discipline cases opened: 17,500
- Bar exam applicants tested: 13,900
- Attorneys disciplined: 261
- Nonattorney practice cases referred to law enforcement: 317
- Customer service calls handled: 136,000
The report highlights accomplishments, metrics, and initiatives undertaken or completed in 2020 in attorney regulation and discipline, access, diversity and inclusion, and admissions.