Paying state bar association dues may seem like a no-brainer, but failure to pay those dues could lead to suspension as it did for several RI lawyers in 2010.
The purpose of bar association dues vary from association to association, but payments of these dues is mandatory in many states in order to practice. It’s pay or stop practicing, something 23 Rhode Island lawyers discovered the hard way. A supreme court judge suspended their licenses for their failure to pay bar association dues, which were nearly one year overdue. Most associations require attorneys to pay their dues by July 1.
In the Rhode Island case, the attorneys were notified three times of their lapse, and the vast majority paid up immediately. However, the 23 that did not were suspended. Dues are different amounts, depending on where the attorney is practicing. For example, in Rhode Island, lawyers pay $200 per year for lawyers who have been licensed for more than five years and $115 per year for less senior lawyers.
Bar associations take these due seriously. In Georgia, for example, if a lawyer in any state fails to pay their dues during a two-year period, their membership is suspended for five years. A lawyer can be recertified through Georgia’s Fitness process with Bar Admissions, and must also complete administrative requirements and paying additional penalty fees, dues and late fees. After the five-year period, lawyer there have to retake the Bar Exam.
States that require bar association membership include including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana,, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming and the District of Columbia.
Typically, the dues are below $200, a fee that most lawyers manage to pay to keep their practices in good standing, and the longer an attorney is in practice, the lower the dues.
Why let something this small create such a big problem? For some attorneys, it’s simple oversight and others are aware of this lapse and the consequences.