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How Much Do I Owe in Bar Dues?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For those of you who are now sworn-in and certified attorneys, you will finally get a chance to pay your bar dues.

We know, paying hundreds thousands of dollars for student loans, bar exam registration, and bar study really didn't leave you wanting to pay even more -- but your state of practice is here to help you out.

If you're as strapped as most young attorneys, find out how much you actually need to pay in bar dues.

Paying Dues With Discounts

Every state charges varying amounts for the right to practice law in that state, and the amount you need to pay for the privilege varies as well.

If you haven't gotten a fee statement in the mail yet with the bad news, here's what you can expect in most states: anywhere from $200 to $400 in fees.

Mercifully, most states have discounts if you are either a new admittee or within a certain (lower) income bracket. For its part, New York allows either a 25 or 50% waiver of dues for unemployed or hardship-suffering attorneys, and most states have similar waivers or discounts. These waivers are based on your last tax year of income, so get your numbers together just in case you get audited.

However, if you've been earning any decent money while you were in law school (heaven forbid), you might be disqualified. Hopefully it's because you're now working with a big firm or employer who will pay your bar dues for you.

Extra Charges For Charity and Sections

Most fee statements for bar dues will give you an itemized list of the places your money is going, and even assumes some optional donations. The State Bar of California in 2014 recommended donating a total of $210 (50% of the $420 required for bar dues) to be paid to charitable programs like the Justice Gap Fund.

These are often worthwhile, and lawyers should try to phase out the myth that our profession is cold or ruthless with support of social justice programs. You aren't required to donate to these causes because state bar associations tend to shy away from things that would implicate them in First Amendment suits.

You will also likely be asked if you want to pay extra dues to join a special subsection within your state's bar association like Family Law, or Solo Practice. Like joining local bar associations, these sections may offer great tools for young lawyers to access mentors and network with peers in their practice area.

When you're done making your choices, you should have a number that represents the sizeable chunk of change you'll be sending to your state bar association.

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