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To Pay, or Not to Pay Bar Dues: Is That a Question?

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 25, 2019 12:30 PM

It's that time of year when lawyers pay their annual state bar dues to keep their licenses active.

For most, it is an easy "pay-to-play" decision. But for others, it's a $430 question:

Should I pay when I don't really practice anymore? The answer is:

Yes, Maybe

As some lawyers say, the easy answer is: "It depends." For one law professor, however, it wasn't so easy.

Carol Rose Goforth practiced law in Oklahoma before she became an academic. After five years in practice, she joined the faculty at Seton Hall School of Law.

She later took a position at the University of Arkansas School of Law, where she has been a professor since 1993. In the meantime, she let her Oklahoma license lapse.

In 2018, she had second thoughts and filed a petition for reinstatement. That was just the beginning of her challenges.

Name Stricken

Oklahoma authorities do more than suspend your license for non-payment of fees. They strike your name from the roll of attorneys.

Goforth had to convince the Oklahoma Supreme Court that she deserved to be reinstated without examination. No bar exam, no professional responsibility exam.

In a hearing before the Professional Responsibility Tribunal, Goforth testified that she regretted letting her license lapse. She said she just wanted it back to supervise a law clinic for law students to help clients pro bono.

That was a winning argument, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court reinstated her without further examination. She still had to pay her dues, and the court costs, of course.

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