Wednesday, October 24, 2001
State Bar Board of Governors Cuts Late Fee on Dues
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Lawyers who are tardy paying their State Bar dues next year will still be slapped with a hefty fine, but it will be much less hefty than in past years under action taken by the Board of Governors over the weekend.
Meeting in Santa Barbara, the board voted Saturday to reduce the late payment penalty from 50 percent to a total of 30 percent, with half of that applying on March 15 and the other half if dues remain unpaid on May 15.
That means a savings of more than $200 for lawyers who can’t get their checks in the mail by either the true Feb. 1 due date or mid-March, when the penalty attaches, but still get around to paying by May. The difference is seen as crucial to sole practitioners who sometimes hold back on paying their bar dues until after paying their taxes in April.
With bar dues at $390 this year for most attorneys, lawyers who failed to pay on time ended up paying a $195 penalty. Next year the penalty on the same dues will be $58.50 after March 15 and another $58.50, or a total of $117, after May 15.
Active lawyers will still have to be paid up, including penalties, by Sept. 1 or be suspended. The “not entitled” to practice status can be erased only by paying another fine.
Many California lawyers still have failed to pay their dues for the current year. Numbers were not immediately available, but spokesman Marlon Villa said that in 2000, 9,859 attorneys had not paid their dues by the end of the year.
The Board of Governors on Saturday also voted to continue the State Bar’s scaling policy. Lawyers who earn less than $40,000 a year may receive a 25 percent dues reduction, and those earning less than $25,000 get a 50 percent cut. But paying late erases the dues breaks.
The board also voted to keep dues at $390, the maximum authorized by state law. The vote on dues was part of the 2002-2003 budget package.
The annual dues represents an increase of $50, but State Bar officials said the lower figure charged this year represented a one-time surplus occasioned by 1998 staff layoffs. Staff have been rehired, and the State Bar also must now pay for increased staff benefit costs under a new union contract.
The State Bar also is suffering along with other investors from a decrease in its portfolio value and from a sudden glut in San Francisco office space, and a consequent decline in lease rates.
The board voted to maintain its client security assessment, part of its annual dues bill, at $35. An additional $10 also has been added as part of the $390 to cover the new drug and alcohol abuse diversion program mandated by the Legislature.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company