August 2011 President's Column
It's That Time of Year -- Again
By: Robert C. Dortch, Jr.
By now you should have received your "invitation" to pay your mandatory dues for the 26th Judicial District. (Please let us know if you didn't receive your invitation and we'll get another one to you right away.) I'm confident some of our approximately 4,300 members question why they have to pay dues to the 26th Judicial District when they already pay dues (to the tune of $350.00) to the North Carolina State Bar. The simple answer is: because we have to.
The 26th Judicial District Bar is a mandatory district bar. Basically (and this is an over-simplification), if you practice law in Mecklenburg County, you have to be a member of the District Bar, and you have to pay the dues. The District Bar is a subdivision of the NC State Bar, subject to the general supervisory authority of the State Bar Council, and an agency of the State of North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. §84-18.1. The District Bar is required to collect membership fees from all active members of the judicial district bar. Late fees not to exceed $15.00 are charged if dues are not received in a timely fashion (September 30, 2011). The district bar is required by statute to report to the State Bar any member who is more than 12 full calendar months in arrears in the payment of the mandatory membership fee or late fee. The Bar would prefer not to do that.
The mandatory membership fees are used to promote and maintain the district bar's activities, programs and administration. The MCB has 11 sections to serve members within particular fields of practice: Business Law, Civil Litigation, Corporate Counsel, Criminal Justice, Estate Planning and Probate, Family Law, Immigration & Nationality, Juvenile Law, Real Property, Sole Practitioner/Small Firm and Tax, and one division: Young Lawyers. Each section sponsors Continuing Legal Education programs on topics suggested or requested by their members, and strives to provide social, networking and educational opportunities for its members. Please consider joining one or more sections.
The Bar is in the process of realigning and reorganizing its numerous committees to better serve you. Presently our committees range from regulatory in nature (e.g., Grievance and Fee Dispute), to membership services (Communications and CLE), to planning and operations (e.g., Strategic Planning, Finance, and Future Bar/Foundation Center). We are also in the process of implementing a "best practices" procedure to ensure that the Bar's committees are regularly infused with new members and chair-persons.
The mandatory dues invoice form you received includes an optional demographics section. The very idea of gathering such data can provoke strong sentiments from our members. Some of the MCB Board's most interesting and spirited discussions have been sparked by issues involving the collection of "demographics-type" information. We're trying to get a better understanding about the overall make-up of the Bar in an effort to understand better who we are as a group. If we have a greater understanding of who we are, then we should be in position to make sure the Bar is providing the activities and programs that best serves you, the members. I hope you will complete the demographics section of the form.
On something of a personal note, I mentioned during my remarks at the MCB Annual Meeting that my father was in the hospital and was not able to attend the meeting. I encouraged him to keep up the good fight, which he did. Unfortunately, Dad passed away on Father's Day. I have received many kind and thoughtful words from my fellow Bar members. Thank you. Those kind words reminded me of the memorial services that the MCB offers through the Memorials Committee, co-chaired by Jonathan E. Buchan, Jr. and George V. Hanna III. I encourage all of you, and especially the young lawyers out there, to attend a Memorial Service for a deceased former member of the Mecklenburg County Bar. I think you'll come away with a little bit of Bar history and certainly a better grasp of who the attorney was as a person, not just an MCB member. It's a shame that the Law Building is no longer here or that we can't roam the back halls of the courthouse like the "old days". (I understand that the judges probably don't miss the "roaming the hallways" part.) Attend a Memorial Service, catch a bit of the history of the Bar and give a show of support to the attorney's family.
As you write your check to the MCB, remember we are a mandatory Bar. We're all required to pay the mandatory dues. The dues are used to promote and maintain the Bar's activities and programs which your committee and section chairs and members work hard to make interesting and relevant to you. Why not take advantage of what the Bar has to offer? Put your dues to work. Please consider joining a committee or section, and to those of you are already on board -- thank you.