California Bar Journal
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reduction to attorneys making less than specified amounts.

More than 9,000 lawyers received a 50 percent reduction for earning under $25,000 a year from the practice of law, and 1,870 who made less than $40,000 got a 25 percent reduction. The scaling cost the bar almost $2 million.

“Hopefully we’ve turned this (scaling) into a positive thing for our members,” said Thomas Warwick, chair of the board’s administration and finance committee.

Bar officials were particularly pleased that the majority of members who made voluntary contributions during the bar’s recent financial crisis did not seek either a refund or a credit.

After the 1997 veto of its fee authorization, the bar could collect only $77 from active members and it shut down nearly all operations. In 1998, it issued a plea to members to voluntarily pay $458, the amount that had been authorized by the legislature before the veto. Almost 24 percent of the membership — 30,356 lawyers — responded, donating $9,824,855 million to the bar.

The following year, 10 percent of the membership — 14,173 lawyers — contributed $1.8 million in voluntary dues, bringing the two-year total to $11,671,164.

Last September, the board unanimously voted to offer those donors either a refund or a credit, creating a potential $11 million liability. At the same time, it asked those who had contributed voluntarily not to seek a return of the funds.

Warwick reported happily that only 358 lawyers asked for a refund (totalling $53,875), and another 188 sought credits for 2001 amounting to $120,794.

The Foundation of the State Bar also received donations through the fee bill of $772,000, far exceeding its previous high of about $40,000.

The foundation primarily supports scholarships to law students whose work benefits the community and it funds law-related educational efforts by state, local and specialty bar associations and legal organizations.

“Some would say that lawyers today are not giving back to the community and to the profession at the same levels they have in the past,” said bar President Andrew J. Guilford. “I think the voluntary donations made to the bar are a testimony to the contrary.”

The large number of contributions to the foundation “similarly is an inspiring testimony to the willingness of lawyers to give back to the community,” he added.

The 2000 fee statement marked the first time the Conference of Delegates, a lightning rod for legislative criticism, appealed for donations to support its lobbying efforts. Now completely self-funded, it received about $76,000 from some 24,000 people.