Guide to Finding California Attorneys

Guide to Finding California Attorneys

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Guide to Finding California Attorneys
A Californian Attorney is a lawyer who is barred in the State of California, or has special permission from the California Supreme Court to practice within the State for a brief time, and permitted to practice within the California judicial system.  California attorneys are required, by the California Bar Association, to maintain good standing with the California Bar Association, as well as maintain the ethical and moral standards of the ABA model rules of professional conduct.  California attorneys practice law in all different fields.  California attorneys who practice in civil court handle cases for clients involving torts, contracts, real estate, and any other situation where the plaintiff is looking for a form of damages.  California attorneys who practice in criminal law represent defendants who have been accused of a misdemeanor, felony, or other violation that can result in fines or imprisonment.
How does one become a California Attorney
To become a California Attorney an individual must complete 7 years of education as well as pass a series of exams.  Every California Attorney must possess a bachelor’s degree from a 4 year college or university recognized by the Califronia Bar Association.  Secondly, a California Attorney must be a graduate of an accredited law school that is recognized by the American Bar Association.  There are alternatives to being a law school graduate that the California Bar Association will consider in lieu of going to law school.   Any information about these alternatives can be found by contacting the California Bar Association.  
In addition to graduating from law school, a California attorney must take, and pass, the California Bar Exam.  The California Bar Exam is a 3 day comprehensive exam that is administered twice a year by the California Bar Examiners Office.  The California Bar Exam is considered to be the most difficult in the nation with an average pass rate of only 45%.  The first and third day of the exam consists of 3 essay exams both mornings in which the applicant is tested on his, or her, knowledge of California law.  The afternoon of day one and day two is comprised of a Multi-State Performance Test on each day.  The MPT are 90 minute tests that gauge the applicants’ ability to take and analyze evidence and substantive law to compose a persuasive and concise memo or brief.   The second day is the Multi-State Bar Exam.  The MBE is a 200 multiple choice question exam that tests on federal law concerning contracts, torts, evidence, criminal law & procedure, and constitutional law. 
Aside from the substantive knowledge that a California Attorney must have to practice within the State of California the applicant must also meet the ethical standards.  The California Bar Association requires all candidates to become California Attorneys complete a character and fitness application that includes all information that could weigh on an individual’s ability to practice law with in the State.  In addition, an individual must also take, and pass, the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam, or MPRE, with a score of 86; the highest required score in the nation.  Unlike most States, California does not offer reciprocity with other States.  In order to be a California attorney you must sit for, and pass the California Bar Exam; you may not waive in from another State.
California Court System
The California Court System is broken up into 3 branches:  The Superior Courts, the Appellate Courts; and the Supreme Court.
Up until 1981 the trial courts in the State of California were broken up into Superior Courts and Magistrate Courts.  With the passing of Proposition 220 in 1981 the trial courts were consolidated into Superior Courts.  The Superior courts, of which there is one in each county, hear all cases involving felonies, misdemeanors, traffic violations, family law, probate, and juvenile cases.  If the dispute is a civil matters involving $25,000 or less; or it is a misdemeanor the matter is directly appealable to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
The Court of Appeals, of which there are 6 in the State of California, hear all appeals from the Superior Courts.  The California Supreme Court hears all appeals from the Court of Appeals and those cases where the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction.  The California Supreme Courts decisions are binding on all State courts in California.
Discipline
If you have a problem with your California Attorney it is best that you first discuss the matter with your California attorney to come to an amicable decision.  Many times the problem that you have with your California attorney is just a matter of miscommunication and often times what the California attorney has done is far being from unethical.  It is not a violation of the rules of professional responsibility to be rude or ill-mannered to a client.  However, your California attorney is under a legal obligation to uphold him, or herself, in a manner that is legal, ethical, and professional on a 24 hour a day basis.  If you feel that your California Attorney has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct then you may want to contact the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel.  This may be done by calling the attorney complaint hotline at 1-800-843-9053.  You may also download a complaint form at www.calbar.ca.gov and mail a completed and signed complaint form to:
The Office of Chief Trial Counsel

The State Bar of California

1149 South Hill St.

Los Angeles, CA 90015-2299
You should include your name and contact information as well as that of the California Attorney.  Include any case numbers and names as well as copies of documents that may be essential to the case. 
Finding a California Attorney
If you need to find a California attorney then you may want to take advantage of one of the referral services within the State.  The California Bar Association does not offer a referral service, however the bar associations of the counties do.  By going to www.calbar.ca.gov and clicking on the “public” link at the top of the page you will be directed to the lawyer referral services page.  Once there you may scroll through the counties of the State.  When you find your county click on the link and you will be given the contact information for the referral services run by your local bar associations.  You may also go  to the Attorney search link to find out about the disciplinary status of any California Attorney within the State.
If you cannot afford an attorney for a civil matter then you may take advantage of one of numerous legal aid services within the State.  The California Bar Association does not directly offer legal aid but it does give grants to over 100 legal aid societies throughout the State through the Legal Services Trust Fund Program.  Of a complete list of these services go to the California Bar Associations website or call 415-538-2252.

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