Fact-checking the Arizona Bar Mission & Governance Task Force in 2015, I provided a chart to refute the alternative fact in the draft report that “States that have voluntary bar associations by and large do not have lower overall bar dues.”
The Arizona Bar was wrong then. 16 months later having updated the chart — they’re still wrong. Indeed, because compulsory membership dues have gone up for Arizona’s lawyers since 2015, the claim is even more inaccurate.
Coincidentally, for the procrastinatory or penurious, yesterday was the last day Arizona lawyers could pay annual mandatory dues without incurring a $100 late penalty. And for those still cash-strapped or dilatory after March 2nd, add another punitive $100 to the grief quotient — not to mention the risk of summary suspension for non-payment.
While it’s true fees have gone up in some voluntary states since 2015, even at that lawyers in those 18 voluntary bar states are still better off than lawyers in mandatory bar states like Arizona and the 11 other chart-topping most expensive mandatory bars. Annual dues in those not-cheaper-by-the-dozen jurisdictions run from $430 to $660.
Arizona lawyers will be thrilled to read the current Arizona Attorney magazine item on how the Bar Board of Governors’ 2015-2019 strategic plan is “committed to maintaining member fees as approved by the Arizona Supreme Court, without additional increases to members, consistent with the Bar’s duty to serve and protect the public.” Talk about chutzpah. They haven’t even finished rolling out the last dues increase. As it is, Arizona is already the 2nd highest total cost to practice among mandatory bars.
On average, lawyers in the voluntary states pay less for lawyer regulation. This makes sense since lawyers aren’t forced to pay for both regulation and what should be optional trade association functions. The average cost of lawyer regulation in the 18 voluntary jurisdictions is just over $200. Not so in Arizona where lawyers pay for compulsory membership, which includes an undisclosed amount for lawyer regulation.
And even where lawyers choose to join their voluntary bar associations, the average is $477 — still lower than the $505 Arizona lawyers currently pay and which goes up to $520 on January 1,2019. Using the comparably sized 22,000+ member voluntary Ohio State Bar Association as an example, Ohio lawyers pay $175 per year in court-mandated lawyer regulatory registration fees ($350 biennually) and $305 to belong to the voluntary Ohio State Bar. The total annualized cost for both is $480. In my opinion, the Ohio State Bar Association’s membership benefits are even better than those offered by the State Bar of Arizona.
The data on the following chart on voluntary state bar association membership dues is updated from 2015. It was obtained from readily available public online information from voluntary state bar jurisdictions and in some instances, by direct communications with voluntary bar lawyers and association representatives. Attorney registration fee information comes from state court websites.