License fees are the main source of funding for WSBA programs, services, and operations. As fiduciaries, the Board must set license fees at a level that enables the Bar to continue to meet our regulatory obligations, advance our mission, provide value to our members at reasonable cost, and preserve a prudent level of reserves. License fees were $450 in 2010-12, when a referendum reduced fees to $325 (the 2001-2002 level) without regard to the cost of doing business. In response, we made extensive adjustments, cutting staff, space, and programs, while maintaining our regulatory obligations. Based on the needs of our members, we also introduced or enhanced a variety of free services, including CLEs such as the monthly Legal Lunchbox series, new lawyer education, legal research tools, job search resources, mentoring and low cost resources, ethics line, pro bono practice opportunities, law practice management tools, and lawyer assistance resources.

As the cost of business continued to rise, we used reserves built up from program cuts made before the referendum in order to cover the shortfall caused by reduced license fee revenue. In doing so, we were able to keep fees at $325 through 2015. We set fees at $385 in 2016 and 2017 in order to slow down use of reserves; however, this approach was not sustainable. In order to maintain prudent operating reserves of $2 million, we needed to increase fees beginning in 2018. On September 29, following extensive examination this year of historical, current, and projected revenues, expenses, license fees, and reserves, the Board adopted lawyer licenses fees for the period 2018-2020 at the following levels: $449 in 2018, $453 in 2019, and $458 in 2020. These levels reflect the Board’s deep commitment to support WSBA as an integrated bar, while preserving minimum operating reserves of $2 million.

2018-2020 WSBA Lawyer License fee graph and chart

Enlarge or download bar graph and chart in PDF

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Find the license fee information starting on page 108 of the September Board meeting public materials.

For additional background and information on the development of the budget and license fees, see the WSBA Treasurer Reports, including the July/August 2016 issue of NWLawyer

Learn about WSBA’s Hardship Exemption, Armed Forces Exemption, and Payment Plan.