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Most lawyers pay their bar dues on time

By Dean Kinley
Staff Writer

Nearly 88 percent of California’s attorneys paid their 2007 membership dues by the statutory deadline of Feb. 1, a marked increase from the 73 percent who paid by the statutory deadline last year, according to preliminary figures from the bar’s billing department.

At the same time, bar members continued their tradition of generosity by increasing their voluntary contributions to the entities on the fee statement — the Foundation of the State Bar of California, the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations and the California Supreme Court Historical Society — that are not funded by any bar dues.

Of the nearly 205,000 fee statements sent on Nov. 15, those not paying on time totaled 25,725 members, including 12,512 active attorneys, 6,021 inactive attorneys and 7,192 on “not entitled” status, meaning they are prohibited from practicing law for either disciplinary or administrative reasons. By the close of the statutory deadline in 2006, nearly 52,000 of the 199,614 fee statements distributed that year had not been paid, including 35,172 active attorneys, 10,215 inactive attorneys and 6,424 in the “not entitled” status.

Payments made on time this year have more than cut in half the size of a second mailing that will be sent this month, reducing the bar’s costs in both printing late notices and first-class postage. The bar’s board of governors cited those cost savings last summer when it voted to eliminate a grace period that had allowed members to pay without penalty up to six weeks after the statutory deadline. Following a business analysis, board members reasoned that the majority of members who paid on time were paying the costs of the extra printing and postage to collect fees from the members who automatically took advantage of the grace period.

“As the board noted last summer, this was a sound business decision for the bar, and the numbers clearly prove that,” said bar President Sheldon Sloan. “Our oversight committees will continue to monitor bar operations, and we will move to save resources whenever and wherever we can.”

Bar officials went to great lengths to make members aware of the change. Front page notices ran in the Bar Journal and on the Web site home page every month beginning in August; a personal letter was sent to large law firms and public agencies; the deadline date was printed in red on the fee statement envelope; and an e-mail blast went to all attorneys with a current e-mail address on file who had not paid by Jan. 24.

Attorneys who did not pay now owe all fees plus a $100 penalty for actives and $30 for inactives.

Many more attorneys also went online this year to submit their annual fee payment. As of midnight Feb. 1, 22,140 attorneys paid more than $8 million in dues online through their personal My State Bar Profile account. Of this number, 13,296 created their bar profile account for the first time, bringing the total number of My State Bar Profile accounts to more than 114,000.

Members who have not yet taken advantage of this special feature may find their access code on their 2007 fee statement to the right of their name and address.

If your original fee statement is no longer available and you want to create your own My State Bar Profile, call the Member Services Center at 1-888-800-3400 to obtain your access code.

In voluntary contributions recorded through the statutory fee payment date, members increased their giving to the Supreme Court Historical Society by 9 percent; the Foundation of the State Bar by 7 percent; and the Conference of Delegates by 4 percent. As of Feb. 1, 9,039 members had given $435,000 to the Foundation, up from 8,337 members giving $405,100 last year; 7,402 members had given $181,800 to the Conference, up from 7,064 members giving $174,150 in 2006; and 6,904 members had given $171,700 to the Supreme Court Historical Society, up from 6,370 members giving $156,900 in the previous year.

In optional deductions, 138,210 members chose to contribute the $5 to legislative activity for a total contribution of $691,050, up from 115,271 members giving $576,355 in 2006, and 140,438 members chose to contribute the $5 to bar relations and elimination of bias programs for a total contribution of $702,190, up from 117,455 members giving $587,275 in 2006.

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