Member dues drop for first time in history

For the first time in its history, the State Bar has reduced its annual membership dues by $20 -- to $458 a year for most California attorneys.

The dues cut results from budget reductions and cost savings achieved by the bar over the past several years.

The reduced dues are expected to remain in place in 1998 and 1999 as well. The membership fee has not increased since 1991. The legislature authorized the bar to set its dues at an amount up to $478 for '96 and '97.

A new fee bill will determine future levels, but bar officials do not expect the dues to increase.

Since 1991, the bar has reduced its budget every year through attrition and travel reductions.

During the past two years alone, the Board of Governors trimmed $4 million from the budget. Many of the reductions were made to the discipline system, which consumes the lion's share of the budget, by layoffs and reorganization.

In 1995, for instance, a total of 23 positions were eliminated across the board, accounting for a large portion of the $2.5 million cutback that year. In the current fiscal year, staff was reduced by another 20 positions.