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April 03, 2009

Increased Fees for Lawyers Called a Shared Sacrifice

Calling the fee increase nominal at seven cents a day, the Philadelphia Bar Association stated its admiration for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to order a $25 increase in the annual registration fee for Pennsylvania lawyers, which will be used to help support legal aid programs for the poor.

“In these difficult economic times, we recognize the need for shared sacrifice. For less than seven cents a day, we can do our part as lawyers to help those most desperately in need,” says Sayde Ladov, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. “We admire the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s tough decision in stepping up on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society. We’re grateful that the Court has seen to it that lawyers across the Commonwealth continue to have a financial stake in providing access to justice for all its citizens.”

The funds from this increase - the first such adjustment in eight years – will be used to bolster the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account Program (IOLTA), which distributes funds for civil legal assistance to Pennsylvanians unable to afford lawyers. Because of plummeting interest rates on lawyers’ trust accounts with banks, IOLTA’s ability to provide grants to legal aid organizations has decreased from $13.5 million in 2008 to a projected $6.5 million this year. (source: Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts)

For years, Pennsylvania’s attorney registration fee of $175 has been among the lowest in the nation. Even with this increase, the new annual fee will be lower than fees across 39 states.

The Philadelphia Bar Association has a long and proud history of supporting legal services at public service organizations, both through the Philadelphia Bar Foundation and by its support of individual programs. In 1981, the Philadelphia Bar Association co-founded the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP), which serves as the hub of pro bono legal services in Philadelphia. VIP continues to serve as the Bar Association’s premier pro bono referral agency.

Ladov adds, “ Although this is a small increase, it’s a big help during tough times.”

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