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Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California October2004
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Lawyers who scaled dues pay another $273,000

Nearly 2,800 of some 20,000 active lawyers who scaled their 2004 membership fees based on financial hardship have reviewed their scaling under statutory criteria and have sent an additional $273,000 in dues to the State Bar. A statistically valid group will now be audited to ensure that the statutory requirements for scaling of either 25 or 50 percent are being followed.

The bar had sent a letter to everyone who scaled their dues this year asking them to be certain they were eligible to reduce their fees and, if not, to pay the difference. The inquiry was a result of confusion about the change in the statutory criteria for scaling based on income level.

California is believed to be the only state that allows members to claim financial hardship and scale bar dues according to income levels, an option that was legislatively mandated in 1999. Depending on income, bar members are eligible for a hardship reduction of their fee by either 25 or 50 percent.

An audit last year of 100 lawyers who scaled found that some who paid a reduced fee in fact posted substantial earnings as arbitrators and mediators.

As a result, the statutory criteria for scaling changed this year, but the change led to confusion. More than 100 people made hand-written modifications to their scaling declaration so that it fits last year’s critera.

Those chosen for the next audit will be asked to provide copies of their tax returns.

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