State Bar Amends Rules Addressing Public Licensee Information and Required Reporting

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By Alaina Dye

On January 24, 2020, the State Bar Board of Trustees voted to approve proposed amendments to State Bar Rule 2.2 and to repeal Rules 2.3, and 2.4 regarding the information attorneys must report to the Bar as a condition of licensure.  According to the staff memo, the proposed amendments (attachment A) compile all existing licensee reporting requirements into a single rule under Rule 2.2 by repealing both Rule 2.3 and 2.4. Furthermore, the proposed amendments align Rule 2.2 with Objective ‘g’ of Goal 2 of the State Bar Strategic Plan, which seeks to “require all attorneys to report firm size and practice type to the State Bar.” Specifically, amended Rule 2.2 now requires licensees to report to the State Bar: law firm size, practice sector, and law firm website information. The new rule also discontinues the collection of undergraduate school information, as well as the option for licensees to submit a professional photograph. Additionally, staff also reported that the new rule resolves a potential conflict with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), which applies to the State Bar of California pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 6026.11, by clarifying what information licensees must report to the State Bar for official licensee records, and adding language notifying licensees that all reported information is subject to public disclosure pursuant to CPRA.

At its September 2019 meeting, the Board’s Programs Committee authorized a 60-day public comment period on the reporting, display, and public nature of licensee information. The public comment period ended on December 15, 2019, and the State Bar received 116 public comments (attachment C).

The public comments expressed concern for confidential attorney information being made public on the State Bar website, potential discrimination stemming from required attorney photographs, and disadvantages to solo practitioners in reporting law firm size. In response to these concerns, the Bar made some additional modifications to the final rule (such as deleting the professional photo option), and also advised commenters the State Bar will not publicly display licensees’ nonpublic email addresses, practice sector, law firm size, IOLTA account information, and other jurisdictions the licensee was admitted or disciplined.

The new rules become effective with the launch of the 2021 billing cycle.

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