California Bar Journal
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Bar lowers dues by $50
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Staff Writer
spacer.gif (810 bytes)

Most California attorneys will pay $345 in bar dues next year, a $50 drop from the current dues level and a decline of nearly 28 percent from the all-time high of $478 only four years ago.

Although the bar was authorized by the legislature to collect $395 per lawyer, a very happy board of governors unanimously approved lower dues last month after executive director Judy Johnson told them, “We are keeping faith with our membership by collecting only the money that we need and giving back to them the money we don’t need.”

The dues reduction is the result of a one-time $15 million surplus which accumulated primarily because of a staffing shortage.

Between $6.5 million and $7 million will be absorbed by the dues reduction, and the remaining $8 million will be used, in place of taking out a loan, to complete the delayed build-out of staff offices in the bar’s San Francisco headquarters.

Since assuming the top bar job April 1, Johnson has devoted a great deal of her energy to developing a five-year financial plan and a three-year budget “based on what we need and will use,” she said. “This budget is a first step.”

The new dues level places the California bar, the largest in the country, behind nine other state bars in terms of membership fees.

“I expect to be the most popular lawyer in the state,” exulted Presi-dent Palmer Madden after the vote. New board member Judith Copeland of San Diego, attending only her second meeting, joked that she could quit now. “I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to,” she said.

The fee statement, redesigned this year (see graph at right), will be mailed early this month. The redesign was undertaken to make the statement easier to read and use.


New law takes aim at advertising
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Contributing Writer
spacer.gif (810 bytes)

Immigrants seeking immigration and naturalization services may soon find it easier to distinguish between the attorneys who can provide legal help and the “consultants” who cannot — before any money changes hands.

Under legislation effective Jan. 1, California attorneys offering immigration and naturalization services will have to identify themselves as active State Bar members in all advertising, except certain small listings in a telephone or business directory. Law firms will have to include a statement promising attorney-supervised services. And when “immigration consultants” advertise for clients, they will have to disclose that they are not attorneys (or at least not licensed California attorneys) — and include their other authorization, if any, to provide immigration services.

The legislation — AB 1858 (Romero, D-Los Angeles) — takes aim at fraudulent “immigration consultants” who mislead their clients and collect fees, then fail to deliver services. In some cases, language differences can increase a client’s vulnerability to such fraud.

With the new legislation, however, the victims of such consultants can seek up to $100,000 in civil penalties — 10 times the previous maximum.

Such legislation is one of a host of bills recently signed into law which seek to strengthen consumer protection, address the needs of a changing legal profession and beef up the court system.

Here are a few more changes in the law: