Santa Rosa Law Firm (707) 528-2882

Top 27 Tax Law Schools in America

Top Tax Law Schools in America

Since 1861, the United States has had an assortment of federal, state, local, and special-purpose government jurisdictions that impose taxes to help fund their operations.

Taxation in America is not going away, so why not consider a career in this highly-specialized field?

Similar to our popular California Law Schools article, we have comprised this list of the best Tax Law Schools throughout the country.

Merrill, Arnone & Jones is here to help you make an informed decision, so feel free to call us at (707) 528-2882 anytime.



Boston College Tax Law School

Boston College Tax Law School885 Centre Street
Newton Centre, Massachusetts 02459

Phone: (617) 552-4351



Boston University Tax Law School

Boston University Tax Law School765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, Massachusetts 02215

Phone: (617) 353-3100



Columbia University Tax Law School

Columbia University Tax Law School435 West 116th Street
New York, New York 10027

Phone: (212) 854-2640



Duke University Tax Law School

Duke University Tax Law School210 Science Drive
Durham, North Carolina 27708

Phone: (916) 613-7006



Georgetown University Tax Law School

Georgetown University Tax Law School600 New Jersey Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

Phone: (202) 662-9000



Harvard University Tax Law School

Harvard University Tax Law School1585 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Phone: (617) 495-3179



Indiana University Tax Law School

Indiana University Tax Law School211 South Indiana Ave
Bloomington, Indiana 47405

Phone: (812) 855-7995



Loyola Marymount University Tax Law School

Loyola Marymount University Tax Law School919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, California 90015

Phone: (213) 736-1000



New York University Tax Law School

New York University Tax Law School40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012

Phone: (212) 998-6100



Northwestern University Pritzker Tax Law School

Northwestern University Pritzker Tax Law School375 East Chicago Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60611

Phone: (312) 503-3100



Stanford University Tax Law School

Stanford University Tax Law School559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, California 94305

Phone: (650) 723-2465



University of Alabama Tax Law School

University of Alabama Tax Law School101 Paul W. Bryant Drive
East Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487

Phone: (205) 348-5440



University of California Berkeley Tax Law School

University of California Berkeley Tax Law School215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, California 94720

Phone: (510) 642-1741



University of California Los Angeles Tax Law School

University of California Los Angeles Tax Law School385 Charles E. Young Drive East
Los Angeles, California 90095

Phone: (310) 825-4841



University of Chicago Tax Law School

University of Chicago Tax Law School1111 East 60th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Phone: (773) 702-9494



University of Denver Tax Law School

University of Denver Tax Law School2255 East Evans Ave
Denver, Colorado 80208

Phone: (303) 871-6000



University of Florida Tax Law School

University of Florida Tax Law School309 Village Drive
Gainesville, Florida 32611

Phone: (352) 273-0804



University of Miami Tax Law School

University of Miami Tax Law School1311 Miller Drive
Coral Gables, Florida 33146

Phone: (305) 284-2339



University of Michigan Tax Law School

University of Michigan Tax Law School625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109

Phone: (734) 764-1358



University of Pennsylvania Tax Law School

University of Pennsylvania Tax Law School3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Phone: (215) 898-7483



University of San Diego Tax Law School

University of San Diego Tax Law School998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, California 92110

Phone: (619) 260-4527



University of Southern California Tax Law School

University of Southern California Tax Law School699 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90089

Phone: (213) 740-7331



University of Texas Tax Law School

University of Texas Tax Law School727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, Texas 78705

Phone: (512) 471-5151



University of Virginia Tax Law School

University of Virginia Tax Law School580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903

Phone: (434) 924-7354



University of Washington Tax Law School

University of Washington Tax Law School4293 Memorial Way Northeast
Seattle, Washington 98195

Phone: (206) 543-4078



Villanova University Tax Law School

Villanova University Tax Law School800 East Lancaster Ave
Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085

Phone: (610) 519-4500



Yale University Tax Law School

Yale University Tax Law School127 Wall Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511

Phone: (203) 432-4992


New California Laws affecting Small Business

California Laws affecting Small BusinessOver 1,000 new California Laws took effect on January 1st, 2019, affecting not only our favorite Sonoma County small businesses, but California as a whole.

These new laws relate to children’s meals, concealed carry permits, wildfire legislation and more.

We encourage our community’s feedback, so please call Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) at (707) 528-2882 if you have any questions about the below new 2019 laws in California.

2019 California Laws affecting Small Business

  1. Assembly Bill No. 485: California pet stores are to only sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from shelters, animal control or rescue groups. Pet stores will not be allowed to purchase animals from breeders.
  2. Assembly Bill No. 516: Auto dealers are to issue temporary paper license plates to newly purchased cars to ensure that all drivers pay their required tolls.
  3. Assembly Bill No. 626: Mandates that it is no longer illegal to sell homemade food.
  4. Assembly Bill No. 1066: Agricultural workers will be paid overtime. Within four years, workers on large farms will receive time and a half wages when working more than eight hours a day or forty hours a week.
  5. Assembly Bill No. 1274: Cars eight years old or newer will be exempted from smog checks; however, in years seven and eight, there will be a smog abatement fee of $25.
  6. Assembly Bill No. 1619: Victims of sexual assault are allowed up to a decade to seek civil damages.
  7. Assembly Bill No. 1884: Full-service restaurants are now prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws unless asked for one from a customer.
  8. Assembly Bill No. 1976: Businesses must provide breaks and private lactations spaces other than a restroom for nursing mothers.
  9. Assembly Bill No. 2103: Applicants must undergo a minimum of eight hours of training and pass a live-fire shooting test to receive a concealed carry permit.
  10. Assembly Bill No. 2499: Health plans are required to spend at least 80% of each premium dollar on health care.
  11. Assembly Bill No. 2989: Any person over the age of 18 or older may ride an electric scooter without a helmet on any city street up to 35 miles per hour.
  12. Minimum Wage: California’s minimum wage will rise to $11 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $12 per hour for businesses staffing 26 or more employees.
  13. Senate Bill No. 10: Eliminates bail for suspects awaiting trial.
  14. Senate Bill No. 90: Insurers are prohibited from offering short-term health plans.
  15. Senate Bill No. 179: Nonbinary Californians will be able to obtain a driver’s license or state-issued ID that includes a gender nonbinary option without providing a doctors authorization.
  16. Senate Bill No. 820: Companies are forbidden from forcing employees who settle sexual harassment complaints to sign nondisclosure agreements. Victims will be able to remain confidential, but perpetrators names can no longer be withheld.
  17. Senate Bill No. 826: Public companies must have at least one female director on their boards by the end of 2019.
  18. Senate Bill No. 946: Vendors will be permitted to sell goods on sidewalks with a designated permit.
  19. Senate Bill No. 957: White and green low emission decals will no longer grant access to carpool lanes on the freeway. Drivers must have a red decal or the required amount of passengers to be allowed in the carpool lane.
  20. Senate Bill No. 969: New garage doors installed must have a battery backup that will be able to lift the door in the event of a power outage.
  21. Senate Bill No. 1046: Any California citizens found guilty of driving under the influence will have to temporarily install an ignition interlock device (breathalyzer) into their call until receiving their driver’s license back.
  22. Senate Bill No. 1192: All restaurants must serve water or milk as default with kids meals unless a different beverage is specifically ordered.
  23. Senate Bill No. 1300: Businesses are banned from requiring victims of sexual harassment to sign releases of liability as a condition of continued employment.
  24. Senate Bill No. 1343: All California employees are to receive biannual sexual harassment training.
  25. Senate Bill No. 1346: California has banned all “Bump Stocks.”

Bookmark this page to stay up-to-date on new small business laws affecting local businesses in California, or share on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

21 Top California Law Schools (ABA Approved)

List of ABA Approved California Law SchoolsBelow you will find a list of the top California Law Schools approved by the American Bar Association.

American Bar Association, or ABA, is the largest private organization of American lawyers.

ABA is an authority in formulating guidelines for the practice of law, advising legislation, lobbying for law as a profession, even evaluating federal judges.

Call Merrill, Arnone & Jones at (707) 528-2882 to learn more or visit American Bar Association.



California Western School of Law

California Western School of Law225 Cedar St.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-0391



Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of LawOne University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
(714) 628-2500



Golden Gate University School of Law

Golden Gate University School of Law536 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 442-6630



Loyola Law School

Loyola Law School919 S. Albany St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 736-1000



Pepperdine University School of Law

Pepperdine University School of Law24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
(310) 506-4611



Santa Clara University School of Law

Santa Clara University School of Law500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
(408) 554-5048



Southwestern Law School

Southwestern Law School3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 738-6700



Stanford Law School

Stanford Law SchoolCrown Quadrangle
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-2465


William L. Adams is an alumnus of Stanford UniversityWilliam L. Adams is a Partner at MAJ Law and an alumnus of Stanford Law School

An innovative, solution-oriented attorney, Bill serves as a counselor and an advocate for clients across the spectrum of legal services from proactive risk advice and cooperative transactions to crisis resolution and complex litigation.

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Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Thomas Jefferson School of Law1155 Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 297-9700



University of California Berkeley School of Law

University of California Berkeley School of Law215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 642-1741



University of California Hastings College of the Law

University of California Hastings College of the Law200 McAllister St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 565-4600


Michael J. Fish is an alumnus of University of California Hastings College of LawMichael J. Fish is a Partner at MAJ Law and an alumnus of University of California Hastings College of Law

Michael Fish has counseled clients on matters as diverse as family law (divorce, child custody and support); real estate development; business entity formation, operation, and termination; acquisitions and sales of businesses; attorney-client fee disputes; FINRA arbitrations and estate planning.

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University of California Davis School of Law

University of California Davis School of LawKing Hall
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 752-0243


William Arnone is an alumnus of University of California, DavisWilliam Arnone is a Partner at MAJ Law and an alumnus of University of California, Davis

Bill started his career with a high-tech boutique law firm in Palo Alto, CA. From there, he sharpened his litigation skills representing leading multiple technology firms in intellectual property disputes.

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University of California Irvine School of Law

University of California Irvine School of Law401 E. Peltason Drive, Suite 1000
Irvine, CA 92697
(949) 824-0066



University of California Los Angeles School of Law

University of California Los Angeles School of Law385 Charles E. Young Drive East, Building 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(310) 825-4841



University of La Verne College of Law

University of La Verne College of Law320 East D St.
Ontario, CA 91764
(909) 460-2000



University of San Diego School of Law

University of San Diego School of LawWarren Hall
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4527


Ross Jones is an alumnus of University of San DiegoRoss Jones is a Partner at MAJ Law and an alumnus of University of San Diego

Former director of the North Bay World Trade Association, Ross focused on international business issues and served on the Sonoma County Bar Association Board of Directors, where he was elected to two terms as Chair of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law section.

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University of San Francisco School of Law

University of San Francisco School of Law2130 Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 422-6307


Michael Merrill is an alumnus of University of San FranciscoMichael Merrill is a Partner at MAJ Law and an alumnus of University of San Francisco

Mike has practiced law since 1967 with a focus on business law, litigation, labor and employment, and real property matters. He was also recognized by Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce with the “Outstanding Volunteer in Support of Economic Vitality” award for his leadership in bringing commercial air service back to Sonoma County.

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University of Southern California Gould School of Law

University of Southern California Gould School of Law699 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-7331



University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law3200 Fifth Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 739-7191


Marlon Young is an alumnus of University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of LawMarlon Young is a Partner at MAJ Law and an alumnus of University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

Marlon is a licensed pilot and owns a 1967 Citabria that he rebuilt with his father, as well as a Cessna 195. He also represents pilots, mechanics, aircraft owners, FBO’s and aviation-related Non-Profit museums.

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Western State College of Law

Western State College of Law1 Banting
Irvine, CA 92618
(714) 459-1101



Whittier Law School

Whittier Law School3333 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 444-4141

5 Questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer BEFORE you hire them

Drone flying near Airplane - Aviation LawWhom do you call when you’re facing an issue related to aviation law?

Many people contact their regular lawyer, but that would be a mistake.

Always hire an experienced aviation lawyer when faced with an aviation legal issue.

Aviation lawyers are more often than not, licensed pilots; some even have the experience of working as commercial pilots for major airlines in the past.

They have hands-on experience in aviation law and are better equipped to deal with complex aviation practices and regulations.

Go straight to 5 questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer or view / share the Infographic.

What is Aviation Law?

Aviation law is a branch of law dedicated to air travel, the safety of passengers and aviation business transactions.

The aviation industry is highly regulated, and aviation law can be extremely complex.

It covers all legal issues related to aircraft and aircraft operations.

Aviation law operates at the federal level and falls under the jurisdiction of different federal agencies such as:


What does an Aviation Lawyer do?

Aviation lawyers, such as our own Marlon Young at Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) have expert knowledge of the rules and regulations governing flight safety, aircraft operation, aviation regulations and airport security.

It is the job of an aviation lawyer to defend you in legal matters that concern the FAA and other federal agencies.

Here are 5 basic questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer before hiring them.

  1. Can you tell me about your background in aviation law? Experience counts for a lot in this field. An experienced aviation lawyer knows exactly what to do in your situation; their inside knowledge of the aviation industry and the federal agencies could help with your case. If you’re being prosecuted by a federal agency such as the FAA, for example, you will want to hire a lawyer who has worked with the FAA many times in the past.
  2. What types of cases do you normally take? What type of cases does the lawyer specialize in? Do they have the relevant experience or background that could help with your case? Are they really capable of handling a complex issue related to aviation enforcement?
  3. How do you plan to handle my case? Every case is different. The facts are different, as are the circumstances. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all defense for every case, especially when it comes to enforcement matters. The lawyer should give a very detailed and specific answer, such as how they would look into the actions and behavior of various agencies or people involved in your situation; how they would analyze the relevant radio communications and radar data and so on.
  4. Do you belong to any industry-specific trial association? It is not easy for a lawyer to get into an industry-related group or trial association. Only lawyers with a high level of expertise are offered membership by such organizations. Find out if your lawyer belongs to any such group.
  5. Will you be handling my case directly? When you hire an aviation lawyer, you should be working with them directly. What you don’t want is for your case to be passed on to another lawyer within the firm. Only the lawyer you’ve talked to about your situation should handle your case.

And finally, what should you look for in an Aviation Attorney?

Find a lawyer who has an excellent track record of winning positive jury verdicts for their clients in aviation lawsuits.

You should feel confident about your lawyer’s ability to take the case all the way through to trial or negotiate for a favorable settlement.

If you need to talk to an aviation lawyer in Santa Rosa, call our office at (707) 528-2882 to explore your legal options.


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5 Questions to ask an Aviation Lawyer

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What is California Probate Code?

California ProbateYou are probably familiar with the California Probate Code, and the hassles that can come with it if someone you love has passed away.

The California Probate Code governs what happens to the property of a person after they die or become incapacitated.

This code provides provisions that regulate wills and other estate planning instruments, as well as laws that dictate what happens to a person’s possessions after they pass away if they did not have a will.

The California Probate Code can affect your estate because it can dictate how possessions can be passed on, how debts against the estate are settled, what waiting period must be followed before assets transfer, and what assets can skip the probate process entirely.

Probate courts make decisions on guardianship for minor and handicapped children or conservatorships for the elderly.

The Probate Code even dictates whether or not a will is valid – and if it isn’t (or if there is no will) who inherits.

Most importantly, the Probate Code in California specifies what happens during probate (the process by which a deceased person’s estate is assessed, valued, and passed on).

How Does the California Probate Code Affect Me?

It’s easy to assume that the probate code hardly matters to the average person.

If you want to take care of your family after you pass away, you need to carefully comply with the provisions in the California Probate Code when creating an estate plan.

Otherwise, your best intentions can be thwarted by lesser-known provisions.

This can lead to stress for your loved ones during an already difficult time, or even unintended outcomes that may leave individual you want to inherit your estate with nothing.

That’s why it’s important to gain a clear understanding of the Probate Code in California before ever drafting a will or drawing up a trust to bypass the months-long probate process.

In fact, we suggest that you get expert help with any documents that may be subject to Probate Court.

While the Probate Code isn’t intentionally confusing, it is quite specific, which means that even a small misunderstanding of the Code could have major consequences.

At MAJ, we have a team of experienced California probate attorneys ready to help you ensure that your estate plan complies with the Probate Code and even minimizes the impact of the probate process and other annoyances like estate taxes.

Let our probate lawyers help you master the California Probate Code and take care of your loved ones with a carefully thought-out estate plan.

To learn more, please call Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) at (707) 528-2882 today.

What is Complex Litigation?

Courtroom LitigationEvery company faces litigation at some point.

Many of these are fairly standard lawsuits related to real estate or disputes with vendors.

Almost any experienced business lawyer can help you resolve these matters with the best possible outcome.

Not so with complex litigation.

Understanding Complex Litigation

So, what is litigation anyway?

Litigation is the process by which counsel for one party to a lawsuit intends to integrate their actions with anticipated events and reactions to achieve the overarching goal of the litigation.

While any lawsuit may be complicated, complex litigation refers to a specific type of large civil case that companies may face.

Complex litigation encompasses any court battle with multiple parties in multiple jurisdictions, large amounts of money at stake, lengthy trials, or complex legal issues.

These are the kind of lawsuits that can draw serious media scrutiny, and they will likely cost the company serious time and money, even if you eventually win the case.

Many kinds of lawsuits can fall into the category of complex litigation.

Class action lawsuits, contract disputes involving subcontractors, international arbitration, and even simple sale of goods agreements across state lines gone wrong can evolve into fairly complex legal battles.

These involve unique legal issues rarely faced by corporate lawyers without complex litigation experience.

Unless your attorney knows exactly what obscure laws may come into play, your company can wind up paying big, especially since complex litigation can involve thousands, millions, or even billion-dollar judgments.

How can I mitigate the impact of Complex Litigation on my company?

Complex litigation requires an expert touch, or cases can drag on for months and even years, draining your company of much-needed resources.

Just any corporate lawyer won’t be prepared to handle the massive amount of due diligence these cases require, nor will they be able to quickly sift through the data to determine the key issues -and the best course of action to address them.

The best way to mitigate complex litigation is to trust a lawyer with experience in other complex cases involving similar legal and factual issues.

It’s also important to consider all your options.

A complex litigation attorney that you trust won’t just show you the best way to win a case in court.

They will honestly assess other options, telling you frankly when an out-of-court settlement may ultimately impact your company the least or when a summary judgment in your favor may be available.

They will put minimizing court expenses and keeping your good name and bottom line in mind as a priority in order to minimize the effects of the lawsuit on company operations.

At MAJ Law, this means staffing cases as cleanly as possible to get results without allowing litigation costs to get out of hand.

As our society gets ever more litigious, even small businesses regularly face litigation beyond what you may be prepared to handle.

Luckily, there are lawyers who can minimize the damage of these complicated and expensive lawsuits.

If your company is facing a lawsuit that sounds like it may be more complex than you expected, it can help to speak to a complex litigation attorney today to find out if you may need special help.

How to protect your business assets

Business AssetsAs a business owner, you know how important your assets are to your company’s success.

That’s why it is vital to protect your business assets the best way possible from day one.

Knowing exactly how to protect your business assets most effectively will depend in large part on the unique details that make your company competitive, including your industry, your business model, your IP, and many other aspects of the business.

While all of these are important, here’s five things you can do immediately to better protect your business assets.

  1. Plan before a claim or data leak ever arises. The first and most important thing you can do to protect your assets is to start now. Once a claim or a leak has happened, it’s too late. This means that you also must regularly update your asset protection plan every time a major change in the status of your business or its assets occurs. Otherwise, you may find these instruments and plans to be lacking.
  2. Apply for as many trademarks, patents, and copyrights as possible. Every company has intellectual property–and in today’s business climate, intellectual property is just as, if not more, important as tangible assets. Keep all IP safe by registering it. At the very least, you’ll have a brand to protect by a trademark.
  3. Use confidentiality agreements and internal security measures to secure trade secrets, data, and business data. Trade secrets from client lists to business practices to operations procedures are often what makes you competitive in your industry. That’s why you must secure these as much as possible. Employee, third-party, and contractor confidentiality agreements will go far. Beyond that, it’s important to invest in other security systems, password protection, encryptions, and security methods to keep these vital business assets secure.
  4. Invest in proper insurance. Too often, small business owners neglect insurance, assuming that disaster won’t happen. When a physical (or digital) asset is compromised, insurance can minimize the impact of its loss. It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but all major company assets should be well-insured.
  5. Use all legal protections that work well for your company’s needs, but keep it simple. There are many other legal protections that your business lawyer can help you leverage to keep business assets safe, but keep in mind that a simple, straightforward plan is best. When the asset protection plan becomes so convoluted that not even you can understand the basics, it’s easy to create an accidental gap in protection. The best way to avoid unnecessary complexity is to let a single attorney or firm keep track of the big picture, so you are getting a comprehensive approach to asset protection, not a piecemeal approach that will fall apart when you need it.

Of course, this alone isn’t enough to fully protect every company’s assets.

After all, every business is unique, so your asset protection plan should be just as individualized.

Talk to an asset protection lawyer today by calling Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) at (707) 528-2882 to see what more you can do to keep your business assets safe.

Third-Class Medical Reform – What does it mean for you?

Medical ReformOn July 15, 2016, as part of the Budgeting Act to fund the FAA, legislation was passed that included the Pilot’s Bill of Rights II.

This included medical reform for certain private pilots, an alternative to the third-class medical exam.

This legislation was due to the efforts of the AOPA and EAA.

I hope to answer some of those questions I had when I reviewed the legislation, and voice some concerns or unanswered questions.

There are some areas that were expanded to our benefit, but one substantial limitation from the original “driver’s license” medical originally proposed.

Regular exams are still required with your own doctor, every four years.

Further, the FAA still has six months to add their regulations and procedures on how to make this happen.

  1. Who Qualifies? An individual holding a driver’s license, who has had a medical certificate issued by an FAA medical examiner within the last ten years. The most recent application for a medical examination may not have been withdrawn or denied. It is okay that the medical has expired, as long as it was issued within ten years, and it must not have been revoked or suspended.
  2. What Are My Obligations to Qualify? If you do not have a current medical, you must have completed a medical education course (to be developed), and completed a “comprehensive medical examination from a state licensed physician.” I could not find a definition of a “physician,” and am looking into who might qualify as an appropriate physician. When your current third-class medical expires, you will need to complete the medical course online and have your personal physician complete an exam. Then, every 2 years you will have to complete the online course, and every 4th year, complete the course, print out a sheet and see your doctor.
  3. What is the Extent of the Exam Required Every 48 Months? The airmen must complete a checklist, which is still being developed. You then provide that checklist to your own physician. The physician must review that checklist with the applicant and perform a “comprehensive medical examination,” in accordance with the checklist. The full extent of the examination is still to be determined, but it will involve 22 separate items a physician must cover, which concludes with “anything else the physician in his/her medical judgment, considers necessary.” It also appears a physician can order tests and must discuss all drugs that the applicant might be taking. Further, the doctor must sign a statement that he certifies you are safe to operate an aircraft.
  4. What Are the Limitations? You cannot carry more than five passengers (applicable to flying a six-passenger aircraft only). Must be at or below 18,000 feet, within the U.S. and not exceed 250 knots indicated. It is not clear whether the aircraft cannot be capable exceeding 250 knots, or if the aircraft is capable of that, you must restrict operations to 250 knots. But, the new medical can apply without limitation to the number of engines, horsepower or gear type.
  5. When Can I Start Relying Upon The New Procedure? It looks like it will be sometime in January 2017, before the new procedure can take effect. The legislation states that no later than 180 days after the passage of the Bill, the FAA must issue or revise regulations to ensure that you can operate an aircraft under the new standards that would be January 15, 2017. If your medical expires before that date, you will have to see an AME and obtain a new medical certificate (if you want to continue to fly) or wait until the FAA has issued their regulations procedures. We will have to wait to see what regulations are developed by the FAA.
  6. Can I Still Just Go to an AME? Yes. Any pilot flying for compensation and hire will need a second-class medical, or for aircraft exceeding the limitations, will need at least a third-class medical. The prior procedures remain in effect, and this legislation provides an additional way to qualify to act as pilot of command of certain aircraft. You can always elect to see an AME every two years and obtain a third-class medical. Further, if you are a new pilot or your last medical was more than ten years ago (before July 15, 2006), you need to get an exam with an AME.
  7. Can I Qualify If I Have Had a Special Issuance Medical? Yes. This may be who benefits the most from the new regulations, especially if you can get a licensed physician to say you are safe to fly.
  8. What Issues Do I See As Being Unanswered? The liability of your physician, and whether or not they will be willing to sign the statement. What about medical programs, such as Kaiser? Will their doctors be willing or allowed to sign the statements? Is there language in some insurance policies that might require an AME issued medical certificate?
  9. What Are My Obligations After Completing The Examination? You must keep the checklist and document signed by the physician in your logbook and make it available upon request.

Hopefully, this will evolve into real reform and not just more ways of doing something, that is as cumbersome as the prior exams with an AME.

To learn more, please call Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) at (707) 528-2882 today.

The “nittie-gritties” of the Sonoma County Bar Association Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program

by Michael J. Fish
Chair, SCBA Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee

Arbitration AgreementOccasionally, a client or in propia persona litigant may ask other attorneys, court personnel or family law advisors for information about how to deal with a fee dispute with his or her own attorney. The purpose of this article is to provide a summary of the basics (“NITTIE-GRITTIES”) of the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Fee Arbitration Program in Sonoma County (and California) to enable everyone to correctly identify when a dispute is a proper subject for mandatory fee arbitration and refer parties or themselves to the Sonoma County Bar Association program.

What is the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program?

The Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program (“the Program”) provides an extraordinary opportunity to have a volunteer arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators) resolve attorney fee and cost disputes between clients and attorneys through an informal, low-cost alternative to the court system.  This has tremendous value to both the attorney and client. The arbitrator determines whether the fees and costs charged by the attorney are reasonable for the services provided.  The Program is authorized by Business and Professions Code section 6200 et seq.  Fee arbitration is voluntary for the client, unless the parties previously agreed to arbitrate their disputes with the Program.  Conversely, Fee Arbitration is mandatory for the attorney if the client requests it.  (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6200, subd. (c).)

How does the Program work?

Virtually all of the Sonoma County fee arbitrations are conducted through the SCBA’s State Bar approved Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program.  Jurisdiction to hear these matters lies in the county where the legal services were provided, where the attorney maintains an office, or where the client lives.  If our program lacks jurisdiction, or, in a rare occurrence, if either party declares that he or she cannot obtain a fair hearing at the local level, the State Bar Office of Mandatory Fee Arbitration will assume jurisdiction of the matter. Either way, the process is the same as described hereinbelow.

Are All Disputes With an Attorney Covered by the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program?

No.  Fee disputes where the fee or cost to be paid by the client has been determined pursuant to statute or court order are not covered.  (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6200, subd.(b)(3).) For example, court ordered or statutorily set attorney’s fees in bankruptcy or probate cases are not covered by the Program.  Nor are claims for affirmative relief against the attorney for damages or otherwise based upon alleged malpractice or professional misconduct.  (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6200(b)(2).)  However, evidence of professional negligence or misconduct is admissible in the fee arbitration hearing and may have an impact on the reduction of fees. (Bus. & Prof. Code §6203, subd. (a.).)

What are the Client’s Rights Before an Attorney May File a Lawsuit to Collect Unpaid Attorney’s Fees?

Attorneys are very often ignorant of the state-mandated prerequisites to collecting fees from their clients. Prior to or at the time of service of summons or claim in an action against the client, or prior to commencing a proceeding  as an alternative to arbitration under the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program (i.e., contractual arbitration), the attorney shall forward a written notice to the client of his or her right to arbitration under the Program.  The Notice shall be on the State Bar-approved Notice of Client’s Right to Arbitration form and not a letter from the attorney. It must be on the State-approved form, which may be obtained on the SCBA website here or at the SCBA office.  Otherwise, the notice is invalid for Fee Arbitration purposes and the time for the client’s election to avail themselves of the program is extended.  The client’s failure to request fee arbitration within 30 days of his or her receipt (not service) of the Notice is deemed to be a waiver of the right to arbitration under the Program.  (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6201, subd.(a)) and the attorney may then proceed to collection by filing a complaint and proceeding through the judicial process or contractual arbitration.

If the attorney has already filed a lawsuit against the client for unpaid fees, the client may elect to either respond to the lawsuit or request fee arbitration.  If the client files a response to the lawsuit, after Notice of the right to arbitration is given, his or her right to arbitrate the fee dispute is deemed waived.  (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6201, subd.(b).)   If the client requests fee arbitration, the lawsuit is automatically stayed.  (Bus. & Prof. Code §6201, subd. (c).) To alert the court, the client should file the appropriate notice of automatic stay where the lawsuit is pending using Judicial Council Form CM-180.  To preserve the right to arbitrate, the client should file a request for arbitration with the SCBA promptly. If the client is unaware of the automatic stay provisions, it would be in good form for the attorney to prepare and file the Notice with the court.

What Happens Once Arbitration Is Requested?

To request arbitration, a party submits a completed arbitration request form from the SCBA fee arbitration program and pays any required filing fee.  A telephone call or letter to the program requesting arbitration will not protect the right to arbitration. Most attorneys appreciate the value of the program and, as such, sometimes, in order to keep the matter out of the court system, attorneys initiate the arbitration by paying the filing fee. However, it remains the client’s right to ultimately elect Fee Arbitration unless a provision for such mandatory arbitration is included within the written fee agreement between the attorney and client.

The program will assign a sole arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators (depending on the amount in dispute) to hear the dispute and determine whether the attorney’s fees and costs were reasonable (or unconscionable in the case of the existence of a valid, enforceable written fee agreement).  If the arbitrator determines that the attorney’s fees were not reasonable (or unconscionable, as the case may be), the client may be awarded a refund of attorney’s fees or costs.  Alternatively, the arbitrator may determine that no refund is owed or that the client owes fees to the attorney.

Depending on the circumstances, the arbitrator will consider a number of factors in making a decision.  These may include: whether there was a valid, enforceable written fee agreement; the reasonable value of the attorney’s services; the amount of time the attorney spent on the case; and whether any misconduct or incompetency by the attorney affected the value of the services.  The arbitrator will decide the matter based only upon the evidence presented at the hearing.  The arbitration award will be served on the parties by the SCBA after the hearing is submitted for decision.

Is an Attorney Necessary for a Party in a Fee Arbitration?

Absolutely not. This is the simple beauty and value of the program. Because the program is intended to be a low cost alternative to the court system, parties do not need an attorney to represent them in fee arbitration. While either party may choose to hire an attorney at his or her own expense, the arbitration award cannot include the attorney’s fees incurred for the preparation for, or appearance at the arbitration hearing, regardless of any contractual provision to the contrary.  Any such contractual provision is simply unenforceable by law (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6203, subd. (a).)

What if the Client Believes that the Attorney Engaged in Misconduct or Malpractice?

The Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program cannot help recover damages or offset expenses incurred by attorney malpractice or misconduct.

If the arbitrator determines that the attorney’s malpractice or professional misconduct reduced the value of the attorney’s services, the arbitrator can reduce the attorney’s fees accordingly.  However, the arbitrator cannot offset the fee or order the attorney to pay for any damages the attorney’s conduct may have caused. (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6203, subd. (a).)  If there are concerns about attorney malpractice, they should be discussed with an independent attorney.

In addition, a disciplinary complaint may be filed with the State Bar of California by calling the State Bar’s toll-free number: (800) 843-9053.  A copy of the pamphlet “What Can I Do If I Have A Problem With My Lawyer?” is available on the State Bar website here or by calling the State Bar.

A discipline complaint and a request to arbitrate a fee dispute are separate matters.  Filing a complaint may result in disciplinary action against the attorney; however, the result may or may not require the attorney to pay restitution or unearned fees to the client.

Can the Client Still Litigate a Fee Dispute In Court If He or She Is Dissatisfied with the Arbitration Award?

It depends on whether the fee arbitration proceeded as binding or non-binding.  Fee arbitrations are non-binding unless the parties agree in writing to binding arbitration after the dispute arises but prior to the hearing.  This usually occurs by checking the appropriate box requesting “binding arbitration” when the parties request fee arbitration. If the arbitration is binding, the award is final and neither party may request a new trial in court.  A binding award can only be corrected or vacated for very limited reasons (i.e., bias, failure to allow the introduction of evidence, etc.) within a limited period of time as set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 1285 et seq.  The time period for filing a petition to correct or vacate the award is 100 days from the date of service of the award. (Code. Civ. Proc.§1288.2.)

If the award is non-binding, a party has 30 days from the date of service of the award to file an action in court requesting a trial to reject the award and to request a trial de novo (Bus. & Prof. Code §6204 (c).)  If a trial is not requested within the 30 days by either party, the award automatically becomes binding, with the same effect as if the parties had agreed to binding arbitration.  In small claims court, the parties may use the Judicial Council forms SC-100 and SC-101 to request a trial de novo. Form SC-101 contains useful information on this process.

How Does the Client Enforce An Arbitration Award Against the Attorney?

An arbitration award must become final before it is enforceable.  Generally, that means that the 30- day time period to request trial de novo or the 100-day period to petition to vacate or correct the award must pass.  Either party may then request the court to enter a judgment confirming the arbitration award. The client may then enforce the judgment against the judgment debtor (attorney).  (See Code Civ. Proc.§1287.4.)

Something to consider and understand: If the arbitration award rendered is in favor of the client for a refund of attorney’s fees or costs, the client may request the State Bar for assistance in enforcing the award or judgment. (See Bus. & Prof. Code §6203, subd.(d).) The attorney’s reply may consist of a payment proposal, a claim of financial inability to pay or lack of liability.  By statute, the State Bar is authorized to enforce an unpaid award by imposing administrative penalties on the attorney member.  It may also seek a State Bar Court order enrolling the attorney on inactive status until the award is paid. (Ibid.)

For further information about the Sonoma County Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program, please contact the address below:

Sonoma County Bar Association
Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program
Win Rogers, Legal Program Manager
37 Old Courthouse Sq., Ste. 100
Santa Rosa, CA 95404-4938
(707) 542-1190 ext. 19

Michael J. Fish is a partner with the firm of Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) with locations in Santa Rosa and Novato.  He is a past chair of The State Bar of California Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee and the Marin County Bar Association Client Relations Committee and the current Chair of the SCBA Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee.


Gender Discrimination in Employment – A New Focus

Gender DiscriminationGender discrimination comes to the forefront this year in confirming that an employer shall not pay any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions, except where the employer demonstrates:

(1) The wage differential is based upon one or more of the following factors:

  • (A) A seniority system.
  • (B) A merit system.
  • (C) A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
  • (D) A bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience – which factor shall not be based on a sex-based difference in compensation, related to the job in question and consistent with a business necessity – which factor will still not apply if the employee can demonstrate that an alternate business practice exists that would serve the same purpose with causing the wage differential.

This more robust approach to determining gender discrimination is to be viewed industry-wide not just within the confines of the individual employer’s workforce.

Additionally, it may be enforced by a complaint filed with the Labor Commissioner’s Department of Labor Standards Enforcement or a private right of action that provides for the recovery of attorney fees, interest on the claim and liquidated damages equal to the wages recovered; together with reinstatement to the position if applicable.

Discrimination also includes discharge and/or being retaliated against the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment.

All employers need to take a new look at their workforce where men and women are doing the same job with a view towards avoiding a zealous visit from the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement!

To learn more, please call Merrill, Arnone & Jones (MAJ Law) at (707) 528-2882 today.