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Adams and Reese Attorney, ABA Treasurer Lucian Pera Explains ABA Dues Increase in Journal Article

4/1/2014

Adams and Reese attorney Lucian Pera, who serves as the Treasurer of the American Bar Association, was interviewed in the ABA Journal article, “ABA House of Delegates Approves Dues Increase,” published on the ABA web site on April 1st.

The ABA House of Delegates approved the increase by voice vote during the ABA Midyear Meeting in early February. Those admitted to the bar less than a year will pay nothing under the new schedule, but most other lawyers will pay annual dues ranging from $140 to $449. The price of individual membership is lower for government and legal services lawyers, solos and judges. In that group, lawyers who have been admitted to the bar for at least a year will pay annual dues ranging from $115 to $255. Dues for those experiencing financial hardship will remain the same at $50.

The changes take effect in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to Resolution 177C, which outlines the dues increase proposal. For the next three years after that, dues will rise to reflect the increase in the cost of living unless the ABA Board of Governors intervenes to reduce or eliminate the COLA.

Pera supported the dues increase. Absent an increase, the ABA was expected to face a $28 million shortfall over the next three years. "This is not a traditional dues increase," Pera said, because it will not close the entire budgetary gap. Instead, it will decrease the projected shortfall to about $4 million. The rest of the shortage will have to be made up elsewhere, he said.

The 13 percent hike is less than inflation over the last eight years, according to a report accompanying the resolution. The increase "ranks well below the average increase of past dues increases," the report says, "and comes after an interval twice the average time between dues increases" enacted between 1990 and 2007. Without a dues increase, important ABA programs and services would be cut, the report says, carrying the possibility that members would quit because their membership would have less value to them.

The recommendation to raise dues comes after a "redoubled effort" to study and stabilize association finances, the report says. Operating costs have been cut, producing savings of more than $17 million in the past four years. Reserves have been recalculated and reallocated to produce an expected $9.7 million in each of the next three years to support operating expenses. And an aggressive approach to nondues revenue is projected to yield at least $5.6 million in net new revenue over the next three years.