California Bar Journal
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A confusing fee statement

I did not think it was possible for the bar fee statements to become more confusing than last year, but somehow the bar managed to do so.

Several lawyers in my office independently reached the same conclusion - the statement appears designed intentionally to confuse lawyers into paying more than the minimum amount due by requiring a "negative check off" of non-mandatory fees.

The form should be revised to reflect the minimum payment required and then offer options to add other amounts for sections membership, charities, etc.

The current form is an example of muddlement all lawyers should strive to avoid.

Gary Gross
Monterey Park

Or is it deceptive?

To my eye the 2001 membership fee statement is deceptive and is a disgrace to the State Bar and the legal profession. I'm confident that most lawyers are busy and we rely on the State Bar to be clear and honest with its membership. To state that the "mandatory fees" are $390 only to find out (if one takes the time to read the litany of fee possibilities) that the membership is entitled to "deduct" $10 from the "mandatory" amount is a farce. 

If a private business sent out this type of mailing as a way to extract an extra $10, the private business might very well be sued under our consumer protection laws. 

Raymond McKown
Los Angeles

Study says otherwise

In response to several complaints about the 2002 fee statement, the State Bar is looking into this issue. The annual fee statement was developed as a way to consolidate information regarding both mandatory and voluntary payments to the bar. The cost of mailing is a consideration and we strive to be efficient in using print and postage. This one invoice includes a multitude of payments, programs and regulations.

The annual fee statement has included both mandatory and voluntary donations and deductions for many years. In 2001, we redesigned the statement using the services of a firm specializing in organizing similar mailings.

In 1999/2000, the board of governors set the current policy regarding the layout of the fee statement. The goal was to efficiently and fairly provide for payment of both mandatory and optional items.

An independent research organization surveyed 5,000 paid members and found that approximately 80 percent of the members thought the statements were clear, 75 percent thought adjustments were easy to make, and 78 percent thought that the total amount due was easy to calculate.

 The State Bar is striving to meet the needs of its many constituents. If a member believes he or she made a mistake by not taking a deduction or by inadvertently making a contribution, our billing department will make the appropriate adjustments and/or refunds.

Elyse Cotant
Director, Membership Services