Welcome to the California State Bar Law Office Study Blog administered by the expert injury lawyer, Michael Ehline. 

May 18, 2020

Darrow! Perhaps American History's Most Famous Attorney

A little story about one of our greatest lawyers to spring from American Common Law, Clarence Darrow.

Mar 6, 2019

What are the Different Types of Attorneys?

In law school, or while reading the law as an extern, the same classes/subjects are studied by all prospective lawyers. And each newly sworn lawyer makes the same oath to maintain ethics and professionalism. First-year students must master the concepts of "Contracts, Torts, and Criminal Law," across all American Bar Association-approved schools. The same goes for most State Bar certified schools. So, in general, most licensed practitioners are masters of the basics. ("Jack of all and master of none.") So does it matter which type of attorney is chosen for your particular legal claim? Well, first, you must understand how massive law is now insofar as its various subdivisions are concerned. Yes, there are specialists. Lawyers such as those who handle patent law are one class. But there are also trial lawyers who focus only on a particular area of tort law, like mass torts. Imagine the law is like a giant skyscraper. Each room of the building represents an area of legal knowledge like: "Negligence Law," which would be a small room in the basement. And then, in that tiny room, maybe a desk drawer would contain the legal know-how to navigate a bodily injury insurance claim, mediation, and trial. "Wills and Trusts" with its sub-areas would be in a small room down the hall and so forth. And then for argument's sake, make the first few top floors criminal law. All the lower floors would be civil law, and you can start to see how the law is stacked. So to answer the original question, yes, as a general rule, it does make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer for a PI case. But only so long as your lawyer is reasonably competent in their particular practice. After all, you need someone with an above-average skill for the type of case you have. Lawyers certainly are not all the same. Therefore, it does matter which type of legal expert you selected. Some lawyers are general practitioners who handle cookie-cutter types of cases. Usually, the arguments they feel are not always that complex.  This kind of specialist will be the one you call for a canned divorce or bankruptcy, or a traffic ticket infraction, for example. The takeaway from all of this is that a particular type of lawyer still may not always have the requisite training for your specific claim or case. So as a seeker of help, you must familiarize yourself with some best practices for consumers. Then you'll be able to hire the right type of help sensibly.  So for now, we will drill down into a few of the many types of lawyers. So let's try and understand the similarities and differences, as discussed below. What is a General Practice Lawyer ("GP")? Numerous types of attorneys have specialized knowledge in one particular area of law. And some even practice in a few different areas that are related. As noted, general practice lawyers do not just specialize in one particular area. In fact, GP's usually practice simultaneously in some different areas of law. It is not uncommon for a general lawyer to practice in several or all of the areas of law listed as follows: Security law Administrative Law International law Criminal law Real Estate law Corporate and Commercial Law Civil Litigation Law Tax law Family law Labor and Employment Law Constitutional law Immigration law Environmental law Intellectual Property Law While there are some GP's that limit the types of law they practice, this is rare. So some accept cases and cash from virtually any kind of client, in a multitude of legal claims. But by far, the most popular and notorious lawyers in our culture are the specialized tort or personal injury lawyers. Movies like "Rainmaker" with Matt Damon are a testament to the reputation of the ambulance chaser injury attorney. What Are Personal Injury Attorneys? A personal injury attorney [Click Here] specializes in cases that involve a personal injury to your mind, body, and soul. In cases like this, compensation is sought from those legally liable, for intentional, or negligent damages including: Psychological injury Lost wages Property damage such as with automobile accidents Physical trauma such as with a botched surgery Medical expenses In law school, these types of attorneys fall under your "Negligence Courses." But this area of law has many subdivisions and experts, from: Mass torts Vehicle airbag defects Exploding gas tanks Commercial vehicle accidents, and so forth. The bond between these attorneys is that they know about handling cases of "tort law." So what is a tort anyways? A tort attorney is a personal injury law specialist. A tort is a civil action that has been made against a particular group of people or person that justifies filing the money damages suit, according to the Cornell University Law School. A crime is not considered to be a tort. (watch the video here.) A crime is a wrongdoing against the public or state in general (Learn more.) So one who is guilty of committing a crime may be punished with jail time. But when a crime is determined, the guilty party or their insurance agency may still have to pay monetary compensation. Compensation is money that gets paid to the party or parties that suffered the injury as reparations for the criminal OR civil act. The District or City Attorney prosecutes crimes. The punishment can be a fine, imprisonment, or both. A civil or private lawyer sues for money in torts. There is no jail time. Are you getting this so far? Personal injury attorneys often elect to take only accept specific kinds of negligence law cases. Most of them avoid hourly billing. So they don't usually take on criminal clients at all. Some areas of law he or she may choose to specialize in include the following: Medical accident Automobile accident Work-related accident Dental accidents Motorcycle accidents Assault/Battery/Rape What Are Some Differences between General Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys? A general practice lawyer doesn't just apply their skills to one particular area of law. So this means they know a variety of different case types. A tort attorney has specialized knowledge and skill in cases that involve personal injury and tort laws. So this means the knowledge they have about cases of bodily harm is more in-depth than a "GP." A general practitioner can be a tort specialist, and arguably can be a better lawyer. After all, he understands better how all the law interrelates. For example, elder abuse law cases have elements of crimes and can even involve some probate issues. But in some cases, a GP lacks the specialized knowledge for a complex area of law, such as an asbestos case. So it can be a crap-shoot.

Jan 12, 2019

How the 40% Bar Passage Rule Hurts the Less Fortunate

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California State Bar Shield - Organization Logo As a graduate of the California State Bar Law Office Study Program [1. LOSP https://ehlinelaw.com/become-lawyer-law-degree/], I always get concerned when I see laws/regulations that make it harder for those less fortunate, or less gifted, from having an equal opportunity (note I did not say “equal outcome.”[2. Communism and Equal Outcomes]) So this new proposal has me taken aback. First, I wanted to point out that law schools don’t teach to the Bar Exam. Law schools teach general legal principles. Also, Socratic types of classroom discussions are the norm today. Sadly, these discussions do little to help a person pass the Bar Exam, in my opinion. This comment above is not to say the conversations and arguments are not helpful. Law Schools Do Not Teach to the Bar Why do I think this? The answer is quite simple because I passed the First Year Law Student’s Exam before ever entering a law school classroom. I stayed at the Law Office Study Program. Later UWLA waived me into law school. But when I was there, I could not understand why the essays weren’t structured more like Bar Exam questions. I asked professors, “why aren’t you teaching us stuff on the Bar, or teaching us how to write essays like on the Bar.” I was met with the usual. “Law schools don’t teach to the Bar, that is what a review course like BARBRI is for” [3. What is BARBRI?]. So when I attended law school, here is what I found: A large portion of the students was English as a second language and thus, could not get the LSAT scores or funds to get into a top tiered school; Many of the students were single mothers; Some students have already experienced litigators who, except for a Bar Card, could out practice and outmaneuver even the most experienced trial lawyers (I had second-chaired three jury trials as a “Certified Law Student” [4. Certified Law Student https://www.courts.ca.gov/cms/rules/index.cfm?title=nine&linkid=rule9_42], and authored thousands of briefs and legal pleadings under several supervising attorneys.) My findings were that these students were just as smart, if not more intelligent than kids at top-tiered schools, but did not have the time, money or resources (wealthy parents, etc.), to get into the “better schools.” So I dislike laws that require a law school to have a special bar passage rate. In my opinion, this will cause many law schools not to take on the risk of one of those less fortunate, such as ESL and single moms, discussed above. The Federal Lawsuit The Southern California Institute of Law filed a federal lawsuit. The filing was over a rule requiring state-accredited law schools in the State of California to maintain a bar passage ratio of at least 40 percent. The lawsuit was filed against 22 sitting and former members of the Committee of Bar Examiners on February 4th. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The lawsuit claims that the newly adopted bar passage percentage and the authority of the committee in overseeing state-accredited law schools is unconstitutional. By taking this rule, the school alleges the committees violated its internal procedures and claimed the committee members have a vendetta. Bar Passage Rate Remains Misplaced? This new rule will help the top schools and shut out a lot of new potential admittees, based upon my finding. And the complaint by the school is a total of 42 pages detailing due-process and free-speech violations, while the focus is on the bar passing percentage rule. The bar adopted this rule in December.  Also, this bar pass provision applies to a cumulative passage rate for five years. And it's also retroactive. Before passing this rule, the committee debated setting bar passage rating requirement at all. The Notice of Non-Compliance This new rule will mean that schools that do not meet the 40 percent rate the committee decided on this year will be receiving notices of noncompliance. The non-compliant schools under this rule will face probation and possible loss of state accreditation, by 2016. The committee had considered the bar passage ratio earlier. But minimum ratios were never set in any event. Committee Chairman Sean McCoy stated in The California Bar Journal, the changes they made were to help the committee determine the quality of education provided at the state accredited schools and to make their expectations clear. The State Bar declined to comment. Out of the 18 accredited law schools in California, many of the administrators opposed the cumulative pass ratio for first-time bar exam takers. The rate was 11 percent for those repeating the bar exam. Hurts the Poor and Disadvantaged? Dean Stanislaus Pulle of the California Institute only said in a comment that “We live in a nation of laws.” The law school claimed the compliance rule is unfair. In that case, Santa Barbara and Ventura, California offer part-time night programs. So many students remain older, of modest financial means and working parents. So they would possibly lack the access to expensive prep courses. The result of this rule would mean the school would need to alter the curriculum. Instead, the suit alleges they would need to focus on bar exam preparation. It also says they need a stricter admission policy to be compliant. The lawsuit says the new rule does not take into account the nature of the student body, the quality of the academic program, the excellence of the faculty and their effort to ensure the chances of success on the bar exam. The new standard fails to factor in the mission of the school and other factors considered in the re-accreditation process. Is Retro Active Fair? The school alleged it could suffer since it didn't know it would have to meet the percentage in advance. Also, they claim the 40% ratio arbitrarily selected. Plus, no evidence exists that the bar passage rate has anything to do with the quality of the school’s education program. The school says the legislative and executive branches, should be the regulators on accreditation standards. The school claims it is unfair to let a panel that functions on behalf of the California Supreme Court decide the fate of law schools. So the school challenged the committee’s regulatory authority. The lawsuit claims the legislature provided no literature in the policy guidelines. Nor did the policymakers provide directions for implementing the new policies. The suit said the defendants acted without legal authority. Hence, their actions are a violation of state constitutional prohibitions. After all, it is unlawful to allow judicial and quasi-judicial rules when there exists a legislative method. The suit claims that they were trying to get rid of Pulle. Numerous individuals with the committee have worked to prevent the ability to secure a curriculum waiver. The committee attempted to get rid of Pulle. Pulle received his education in the United Kingdom. So they introduced a mandate that only U.S. trained lawyers can serve as law school deans. The faculty of law requested an injunction in the enforcement of the bar passage rule.  And they are asking for damages. What do you think? Why not just make law schools into a Barbri course and get a 99% pass rate? Sound off. Is this a fair decision?

Jan 3, 2019

How to Become a Lawyer With No Law Degree

Yes, you can do it because I did it. And no, you don't need law school or a college degree to become a lawyer in several states, including California. I have first-hand knowledge of this fact. I know this because I am one of approximately 64 people in the State of California to have passed both. For instance, right, I passed the Baby Bar Exam and General Bar Exam before obtaining any higher degree.  You heard right! (Hear the podcast now.) I now have a successful injury law firm and am an expert on the subject of how to become a lawyer with no college or law school in California. After that, many major media outlets interviewed me. And I am passing this below information to assist people just like you to make the world a better place. The only formal education I had before I began the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, was some foreign language classes, a stint in the United States Marines, and some useless typing lessons at a community college. One cool thing about this program is that you don't need to waste tons of money when you study using the time-tested method of mentoring in a judge's chambers or law office. You will Already Know Everything the Practicing Lawyers Know By Study in a Law Office? Yes, you should! I became an experienced civil litigator by reading the law. The basics are: Take the CLEP, or "College Level Equivalency Program" test. After one year of consistent study, pass California's First Year Law Student's Examination. And this is also known as the Baby Bar "FYSLX. " Once I passed the Baby Bar, I sat for the California Bar Examination 36 months or so later. But this was only after dedicated training under several skilled attorneys in various types of practices. How to Become a Lawyer With No Law School? You can also become an attorney in CA and a few other enlightened North American states using this method. Of course, the naysayers, especially law school grads, claim you only must attend law school and college to be a successful lawyer. Let us dis-spell this thought. We understand that the ABA accredits law schools. At the time of this writing, the ABA discouraged candidates from becoming a lawyer without law school. This fact remains true. Sadly, this remains the case even though this was the only way to become an attorney until the creation of expensive schools later on in U.S. history. The States that Still Follow Historical Methodology: As far as I know, 7 U.S. states will still let you read the law in a law office with no law school degree: (Source): Vermont; Virginia; Washington; Wyoming; California; Maine; New York; California's program is known as the California State Bar Law Office Study Program. "Applicants who obtain legal education by . . . law office study must have four years of law study and take an examination after their first year. Applicants who pass the examination within three consecutive administrations of first becoming eligible to take it will receive credit for all law study completed to the date of the examination passed." But "Applicants may have completed 2/3 of graduation requirements from an ABA-accredited law school and within 12 months after successful completion pursued the study of law in the law office of an attorney in the active practice of law in Maine on a full-time basis for at least one year . . ." New York: "Law office study permitted after successful completion of one year at an ABA-approved law school." (See also) Vermont: "Four-year law office study program; must have completed three-fourths of work accepted for a bachelor's degree in a college approved by the Court before commencing the study of law." Wyoming: "Law office study permitted as a structured course comparable to 2 years at an ABA-approved law school Prior approval of independent study required." No special requirements are needed to become an attorney without law school in Virginia or Washington as far as I could determine. All of the above information came from the "Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2004." And this document was published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Famous American Lawyers, presidents and Supreme Court justices who became attorneys without school. Lincoln Law School Method 101? Most of all, reading for the law is the way President Abraham Lincoln and other Supreme Court justices were able to become lawyers in the past, as well as me. Those high powered men learned by doing it in a law office as law clerks and apprentices. Historically, lawyers themselves read from Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England to learn the law.  And students studied while clerking for a lawyer or judge. After that, the candidate received an oral examination by state supreme court judges. (Source.) The Bar Exam came along hundreds of years later. Here is a list of famous men who did it the old way. Patrick Henry (1736-1799), member of the Continental Congress, governor of Virginia; John Jay (1745-1829), first chief justice of the Supreme Court; John Marshall (1755-1835), chief justice of the Supreme Court; William Wirt (1772-1834), attorney general; Roger B. Taney (1777-1864), secretary of the treasury, chief justice of the Supreme Court; Daniel Webster (1782-1852), secretary of state; Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873), senator, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), president; Stephen Douglas (1813-1861), representative, a senator from Illinois; Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), a defense attorney in Scopes trial of 1925. [Clarence Darrow went to law school for one year and preferred to study law on his own. He received most of his legal education in a law office in Youngstown, Ohio; Robert Storey (b. 1893), president of the American Bar Association (1952-1953); J. Strom Thurmond (b. 1902), senator, governor of South Carolina; James O. Eastland (b. 1904), Senator from Mississippi Wallechinsky, David, "The Book of Lists," 1977 (Web Source) Importance of the Bar Exam Itself - ABA Resistance to Law Office Study. Also, I feel that the Bar Exam is a helpful way to measure acceptability to the Courts via the California State Bar. But I disagree that people should not be allowed to take the Bar without law school. People in other states should be able to take and pass the Bar Exam without college or law school if they remain otherwise qualified. Also, the less fortunate, who would otherwise be excellent attorneys, should be able to practice law. Above all, I am fearful the California State Bar, and other out of State Bars will eliminate this valuable program. And I think due in large part it comes from pressure from government officials to standardize the study of law in their bureaucratic image. But for now, there is another path to success other than law school. Law Office Study in California - Requirements? First of all, the Bar Candidate must first have the equivalent of an AA degree. Plus, the Bar Candidate will need to score high on the CLEP if no college. (College Level Equivalency Program). [This is what I did] Next, the Bar Candidate must take and pass the First-Year Law Students Exam (FYLSX) (aka "Baby Bar Exam") within the first three (3) attempts. However, in that case, he or she will only receive credit for law office study for the first year and not for the study when retaking the Baby Bar the previous three (3) attempts. First, the Bar Candidate must study law under a judge or lawyer for four (4) years, being tested once per month by a supervising judge or attorney. Next, the Bar Candidate must take and pass the California State Bar General Bar Exam. The Bar Candidate should know enough practice and procedure to go into practice without having to work in a sweatshop defense firm or something. Because of this training, he or she will know as much about the area of practice he or she studied under as a seasoned four (4) year attorney. Tips to Law Study: In conclusion, study law under a lawyer who practices in the field of law that you want to practice. So that way, you will always have work when you finally pass and get sworn. In any event, this knowledge equals freedom! Most of all, Paul Pfau, the Legal-Guru Tutor (CBTR), is an excellent source. So contact Paul Pfau at Cal Bar Tutorial Review and learn how to write for the Bar Exam. Paul Pfau is the law guru. Consequently, he is the master who taught me how to pass the most challenging bar exam in the nation. Most importantly, please bookmark this page so you can use it is a resource in the future.

Jan 4, 2014

How to Become a Personal Injury Lawyer

Michael Ehline at the court
The United States Supreme Court
Attorney Michael Ehline and his tutorials on becoming an attorney for negligence law.