The Role of the State Bar: Oversight, Accountability, and Future Initiatives in Orange County

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April 22, 2024

At SmartBean®, our mission is to deliver reliable, accurate daily bookkeeping services. With a personal touch, we inform firms of their business’s financial health to empower informed decision-making when completing legal accounting. In the same way, knowing resources and any expectations of your firm is beneficial in a preventative manner.

Understanding these aspects of business operation correlates directly to the broader scope of legal accountability and ethical practices, which are central to the mission of the State Bar of California.

Upholding Legal and Financial Standards in Orange County: The Role of State Bar Oversight

The mission of the State Bar of California is to protect the public. This includes licensing, attorney regulation, and ethical law practices for law firm accounting. The Bar oversees the legal profession and licenses over 270,000 attorneys to serve Californians across the state.

In a statement on the State Bar of California's website, the organization states that “The State Bar of California’s mission is to protect the public and includes the primary functions of licensing, regulation, and discipline of attorneys; the advancement of the ethical and competent practice of law; and support of efforts for greater access to, and inclusion in, the legal system.” 

The California State Bar, which originated in 1927, licenses roughly 2270,000 attorneys and annually investigates over 16,000 licensee misconduct complaints. Five key values that serve as the foundation of the State Bar Uphold the Bar: clarity, Investing in Our People, Excellence, Respect, and a Growth Mindset. 

Rules to Govern The State Bar of California 

If the State Bar of California governs the legal profession, making decisions on tax law and accounting and the professionals within, who or what is the State Bar’s governance? There is an entire system behind the State Bar of California, with rules that govern the State Bar itself. 

There are three main rules broken down into sectors to regulate it. 

  1. Rules of Professional Conduct: In California, the Rules of Professional Conduct set lawyers' ethical and professional responsibility standards. 
  2. Rules of the State Bar: This rule further outlines the State Bar's rights, responsibilities, services, disciplinary procedures, and governance. The Rules also govern the relationship between the State Bar, licensees, and other entities.
  3. Selected Legal Authority: This consists of multiple statutes related to practicing law, such as the state Bar Act, California Rules of Court, and more. These combined regulations guide the totality of legal practices within the state. 

Future Initiatives 

The State Bar has multiple initiatives in place to continue nurturing growth in the legal profession. They all point back to the initial mission of protecting the public and touch on various areas in which the organization believes the profession can expand. From law firm accounting to the spread of awareness and discipline, the Bar is dedicated to growing the reputation of the legal community. 

The Five Year Goals, initiated in 2022, highlight the inclusion initiatives, engaging Bar partners and stakeholders to spread awareness and compliance, attorney discipline, and increasing accessibility to legal advice and services.

To increase the likelihood of success, many of these initiatives consist of benchmarks for effectiveness, policy change, diversity, and inclusion for both the strategy and implementation steps. The newest goals are to protect the public via: 

The Client Trust Account Protection Program

The Client Trust Account Protection Program aims to protect the public in a slightly different way. 

More specifically, ‘public’ now refers to clients of licensed attorneys requiring funds to be held for services. Given the infancy and specificity of the accounting law program, there are slightly different approaches and benchmarks to its regulation. In the future, some of the upgrades to the program regulating firm’s law firm accounting practices include: 

Reporting to the bar requires attorneys and law firms to follow the rules and regulations to remain in compliance with not only legal accounting and record-keeping but also the additional guidelines and any updates mandated by the State Bar. This includes how you hold funds for your clients.

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