Santa Rosa Law Firm (707) 528-2882

4 Crucial Steps to Become a Lawyer in California

becoming a California lawyer

Becoming a California lawyer is one of the most prestigious and well-paid jobs sought out by millions of people all over the world. But wanting to become a lawyer and actually working towards achieving this long-term goal are two different things.

So, what does it really mean to be a lawyer and which steps need to be taken to become one?

What is a California Lawyer?

A California lawyer’s job is to act as a legal defense representing different types of clients in civil or criminal proceedings, as attorneys for a plaintiff in civil proceedings, or they can also act as prosecutors representing the government in criminal proceedings.

As a lawyer, you will be required to initiate or work on lawsuits representing private citizens or companies and corporations. Depending on your choice, you might work for the government or simply serve in an advisory position. Regardless of which direction you go, and who you choose to represent, you still will be required to take a couple of heavy steps before you attain this title and obtain your dream career.

Steps to Become a Lawyer

The late-night study, countless hours of work, a ton of research and complete devotion are all part of the must-have package of becoming a lawyer. You are officially a lawyer and you can legally practice law after completing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree – a professional doctoral degree and successfully passing the Bar Exam in the state or states in which you will practice and work.

Although becoming a lawyer itself can be the ultimate goal, for many people, becoming a lawyer is the stepping stone towards opening your door for many other careers, such as becoming a corporate attorney, a prosecutor, corporate executive, teaching law at colleges and universities, running for judge, or even entering politics. Regardless of what your ultimate goal is, first you will need to go through these steps to obtain your lawyer title.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

This can be in any subject. Most of the law schools will require you to have a bachelor’s degree for admission, however, most of them won’t require a specific major. Typically, people choose political science, pre-law or liberal art degrees as common choices as they are still in the orbit of law and will serve as somewhat of a base for further education.

Step 2: Pass the LSAT

LSAT which is short from Law School Admission Test is a necessary, half-day standardized test administered seven times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. If you want to become a lawyer you not only need to take this test, but also, you should get a good score.

LSAT will put to test and asses your critical reading, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and persuasive writing skills which are the required key skills that are necessary for law school. All ABA-accredited law schools and common law schools will require you to pass this test. The better the score, the higher the chances of getting into a better law school.

Step 3: Attend Law School to Acquire Juris Doctor Degree

A Juris Doctor degree – the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree or JD for short, is a graduate-entry professional doctoral degree that you will need to get as it represents the professional recognition that the holder has a doctoral degree in law. This is the minimum educational level for lawyers and without it, you won’t be able to take the bar test nor practice law in most states.

Going to an ABA-accredited school is the most prestigious route to becoming a lawyer. On one hand, you will not only get a higher, more secure education but also you will have more doors open for you in the future as many law firms only accept graduates from ABA-accredited schools. Furthermore, research shows that grads from ABA-accredited law schools earn bigger salaries as well.

However, there is an exception to this rule, as in some states, like in California, you might get accreditation and take the Bar Exam if you attended a school ABA or CBA-accredited or even an unaccredited school. But the catch is, the California Bar Exam is most certainly the toughest in the U.S. and has rightfully earned the title of “exclusionary bar” as it not only measures competence but also regulates the number of lawyers who can practice in the state.

Step 4: Take the MPRE and Bar Exam

MPRE, which is short for Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, is a required 2 hour, 60-question, multiple-choice ethics examination which you need to take (excluding Maryland, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico) before your Bar Exam. This is developed by NCBE and it is available only 3 times a year. Once you pass, you will need to take the Bar Exam.

The Bar Exam is the ultimate test, oftentimes more than half of the applicants fail. This test consists of multiple-choice and essay questions that evaluate your knowledge of state law and your ability to apply the law under various different fact scenarios. Once you pass it, you will be able to work as a California lawyer.

It is always good that you complete a clerkship at a local law firm while you are doing your tests and studies. Many law-firms offer internships and some of them may even offer you a job once you pass all the exams. With a law internship, you will be able to gain experience and practice and become more familiar with the job.

If you’d like to learn more, call us at (707) 528-2882 or visit our Sonoma County Law Firm in Santa Rosa.

FINRA Law in California

finra law in california

Merrill, Arnone & Jones can help investors, brokers, and employees diligently through the process of FINRA arbitration.

Our attorneys have experience in various areas of FINRA law and can provide representation in claims and defense.

Below is more information on what FINRA is and how we can help.

What is FINRA?

FINRA is an acronym for the Financial Industry Regulatory Industry. They are a non-governmental, private corporation focused on regulating security firms and securities professionals.

Every stockbroker and brokerage firm must be a FINRA member to operate.

Thousands of securities firms, offices, and representatives are overseen by FINRA, to ensure they have been following the rules and regulations that protect market integrity.

FINRA works to protect investors, regulators, policymakers, and other stakeholders by analyzing billions of daily market events and activity.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution. If any issues arise within the securities industries or between customers/brokers, it is meant to be settled through the arbitration process.

Most broker contracts include a ‘mandatory arbitration clause’ requiring any disputes within the securities industry to be resolved by FINRA arbitration as opposed to a court of law.

How can a California attorney help?

FINRA arbitration operates under different rules than a court of law. It is essential to find an attorney with FINRA specific experience to help navigate the arbitration process.

At MAJ Law, we provide representation for the following types of matters:

  • Investor arbitration claims involving brokers and investors
  • Promissory note arbitrations between brokers and securities firms
  • Employment matters between individual brokers and securities firms

If you are an investor who needs to settle a dispute, be sure that your representation is familiar with the process of FINRA arbitration and securities law.

The arbitration process can be challenging to navigate due to the specific rules and regulations FINRA operates on. A local attorney can help prepare you throughout the process.

For more information on how we can help with your FINRA arbitration and other matters, contact our law firm in Sonoma County.

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 BusinessIn 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several laws that impact California’s small business owners.

These bills made significant changes to employment law in California for 2020.

Some of the new laws relating to paid family leave, sexual harassment training, reclassification of independent contractors / employees and more.

We encourage our community’s feedback, so please call Merrill, Arnone & Jones at (707) 528-2882 if you have any questions about the below new 2020 laws in California.

NOTE: Find your county’s website and official Facebook page below.

2020 California Laws affecting Small Business

  1. Assembly Bill No. 5: This law limits the use of independent contractors – companies in certain industries are required to reclassify some independent contractors as employees. This affects workers whose employers control the work or if their work is part of the company’s core business.
  2. Assembly Bill No. 9: Employees who claim to be aggrieved by an alleged unlawful practice has an extended period of time 3 years to file a complaint from the date the unlawful practice occurred.
  3. Assembly Bill No. 51: Mandatory arbitration agreements that require people to resolve conflicts with an arbitrator outside of the court system are now banned. Employers cannot make employees sign this agreement as a condition or benefit of employment.
  4. Assembly Bill No. 333: Whistleblowers have expanded protections in California specifically in the health care field.
  5. Assembly Bill No. 1748: Airline employees and those who have donated an organ have expanding leave protections.
  6. Minimum Wage: California’s minimum wage increased to $12 per hour for employers with 25 employees or less and $13 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees. Many cities will increase their minimum wage beyond the state minimum.
  7. Senate Bill No. 83: Paid Family Leave will be increased from six to eight weeks starting July 1st, 2020. This program provides partial wage replacement benefits for those caring for a seriously ill family member or child under 1.
  8. Senate Bill No. 142: Companies must now provide appropriate lactation accommodations for nursing mothers. This room cannot be a bathroom or office closet. It must be near a sink and refrigerator.
  9. Senate Bill No. 188: Workplaces and schools cannot discriminate against a person due to their hairstyle. These hairstyles include braids, locks, and twists.
  10. Senate Bill No. 778: Businesses with 5 or more employees must provide sexual harassment training. Two hours are required for supervisory employees and one hour for nonsupervisory employees. The deadline is January 1st, 2021. This will have to be renewed every two years.

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.

Want to learn more about new laws affecting your county in California? Find your county below to visit their local website, or message them on their official Facebook page.


County Name

Alameda County

Alpine County

Amador County

Butte County

Calaveras County

Colusa County

Contra Costa County

Del Norte County

El Dorado County

Fresno County

Glenn County

Humboldt County

Imperial County

Inyo County

Kern County

Kings County

Lake County

Lassen County

Los Angeles County

Madera County

Marin County

Mariposa County

Mendocino County

Merced County

Modoc County

Mono County

Monterey County

Napa County

Nevada County

Orange County

Placer County

Plumas County

Riverside County

Sacramento County

San Benito County

San Bernardino County

San Diego County

San Francisco County

San Joaquin County

San Luis Obispo County

San Mateo County

Santa Barbara County

Santa Clara County

Santa Cruz County

Shasta County

Sierra County

Siskiyou County

Solano County

Sonoma County

Stanislaus County

Sutter County

Tehama County

Trinity County

Tulare County

Tuolumne County

Ventura County

Yolo County

Yuba County


19 Top California Law Schools

top california law schools in 2020Below you will find a list of top California Law Schools approved by the American Bar Association in 2020.

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 the 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

225 Cedar St.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-0391

Student Body: Female 59.3% – Male 40.7%
Tuition & Fees: $52,470
Room & Board: $16,320

 Ranked #146 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 





Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law

1 University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
(714) 628-2500

Student Body: Female 58.1% – Male 41.9%
Tuition & Fees: $53,124
Room & Board: $20,700

 Ranked #132 nationwide according to U.S. News 





Golden Gate University School of Law

536 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 442-6630

Student Body: Female59.6% – Male40.4%
Tuition & Fees: $50,000
Room & Board: $16,200

 Ranked #146 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 





Loyola Law School

919 S. Albany St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 736-1000

Student Body: Female 55.3% – Male 44.7%
Tuition & Fees: $57,230
Room & Board: $18,090

 Ranked #62 nationwide according to U.S. News 





Pepperdine University School of Law

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
(310) 506-4611

Student Body: Female 52% – Male 48%
Tuition & Fees: $55,890
Room & Board: $17,500

 Ranked #51 nationwide according to U.S. News 





Santa Clara University School of Law

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
(408) 554-5048

Student Body: Female 55.7% – Male 44%
Tuition & Fees: $50,624
Room & Board: $17,298

 Ranked #104 nationwide according to U.S. News 

Santa Clara University School of Law

Application Deadline: February 15





Southwestern Law School

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 738-6700

Student Body: Female 52.1% – Male 47.7%
Tuition & Fees: $53,966
Room & Board: $20,520

 Ranked #146 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 





Stanford Law School

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

Student Body: Female 49.6% – Male 50.4%
Tuition & Fees: $62,373
Room & Board: $25,998

 Ranked #2 nationwide according to U.S. News 



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

1155 Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 297-9700

Student Body: Female 56.5% – Male 43.5%
Tuition & Fees: $49,500
Room & Board: $18,000

 Unranked nationwide according to U.S. News 





University of California Berkeley School of Law

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 642-1741

Student Body: Female 59.7% – Male 40.1%
Tuition & Fees: $49,325
Room & Board: $24,160

 Ranked #10 nationwide according to U.S. News 





University of California Hastings College of the Law

200 McAllister St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 565-4600

Student Body: Female 58.5% – Male 41.5%
Tuition & Fees: $44,326
Room & Board: $19,008

 Ranked #62 nationwide according to U.S. News 



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

King Hall
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 752-0243

Student Body: Female 58.3% – Male 41.7%
Tuition & Fees: $47,723
Room & Board: $14,809

 Ranked #31 nationwide according to U.S. News 



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

401 E. Peltason Drive, Suite 1000
Irvine, CA 92697
(949) 824-0066

Student Body: Female 57% – Male 43%
Tuition & Fees: $45,099
Room & Board: $23,884

 Ranked #23 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 





University of California Los Angeles School of Law

385 Charles E. Young Drive East, Building 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(310) 825-4841

Student Body: Female 50.2% – Male 49.8%
Tuition & Fees: $45,600
Room & Board: $18,612

 Ranked #15 nationwide according to U.S. News 





University of San Diego School of Law

Warren Hall
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4527

Student Body: Female 55.5% – Male 44.5%
Tuition & Fees: $54,641
Room & Board: $14,694

 Ranked #86 nationwide according to U.S. News 



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

2130 Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 422-6307

Student Body: Female 54.8% – Male 45.2%
Tuition & Fees: $49,820
Room & Board: $19,350

 Ranked #146 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 



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

699 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-7331

Student Body: Female 51.6% – Male 48.4%
Tuition & Fees: $64,908
Room & Board: $17,802

 Ranked #17 nationwide according to U.S. News 





University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

3200 Fifth Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 739-7191

Student Body: Female 55% – Male 45%
Tuition & Fees: $51,312
Room & Board: $13,887

 Ranked #146 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 



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

1 Banting
Irvine, CA 92618
(714) 459-1101

Student Body: Female 52.9% – Male 47.1%
Tuition & Fees: $43,350
Room & Board: $20,616

 Ranked #146 (tied) nationwide according to U.S. News 



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.


Share this Aviation Law Infographic with colleagues, family, and friends.


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 law attorneys 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 law attorney 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.