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Friday, March 21, 2008

Lawyers’ registration fee increased, LCL to benefit

Beginning July 8, Minnesota attorneys will be forking out an additional $8 when they go to pay their annual lawyer registration fee.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court amended the Rules of the Supreme Court on Lawyer Registration, increasing the annual fee and allocating the extra funds to the state’s lawyers’ assistance program. It’s expected that the increase will mean about $400,000 more per year for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.

The request for the increase emanated from the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Life and the Law Committee. Co-chair of the committee, Tim Gephart, said last month that the committee believes in the importance of dealing with lawyers’ problems at the front end. Gephart, vice president of claims for Minnesota Lawyers Mutual, said that the underlying cause of many malpractice claims is untreated addiction or mental illness -- the kinds of things a lawyers’ assistance program can address.

Joan Bibelhausen, executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, was thrilled by the court’s approval of the request. “This gives us the opportunity to expand services and programs,” she said excitedly.

The extra funds will allow LCL to do more with law students and to reach out to Greater Minnesota lawyers and solo/small-firm lawyers who tend to be more isolated, Bibelhausen explained.

The increased registration fee means that attorneys on active status will see their bill rise from $221 to $229. I doubt that most lawyers will be too hurt by the extra $8, and I don’t think there was any serious opposition to the proposal.

I, for one, am pleased that the Minnesota Supreme Court saw fit to make sure that a program that serves such an important function is properly funded. Now, if we can just get the Legislature to do that for the judiciary …

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