What is the big deal? It is only $500.00

  • Feb 4, 2016
  • Voluntary Bars

The Bar requires those of us who have been licensed for some years to currently pay $490.00 annually, which soon enough increases to $520 to maintain our license to practice law in Arizona. Five hundred dollars for what?!

In order to earn my law degree, I made sacrifices. I applied to law school late in life. I earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Accounting from ASU, College of Business in 1988 when I was 24. I went to work as an Accountant. I got married and started my family.

As is the case in half of the marriages, mine ended in divorce. So in 1995, I found myself, single, with a two year old son. I still owned a home, but I had no idea just how I was going to afford the expenses that would naturally arise. How was I going to finish raising my son should my ex-husband not live up to his responsibility?

Thus, the idea to become a lawyer was born. I decided to go to law school. By doing this, I would be able to command a greater salary, and I would not have to get remarried to do so. Problem solved!

I applied to ASU College of Law and was accepted. I sold my house and moved my son and me in with my parents. I started law school in 1997. I did not have a savings so, like many others, I financed my education through student loans. I did this over three years. Like my other colleagues, I did not work as I was a full-time student. Sacrifices.

I loved law school! It was challenging, of course, but I never regretted my decision. I graduated in 2000. I clerked for a Superior Court Judge for one year and then I went to work as a Prosecutor. My education taught me to handle the issues that arose in the courtroom. Clerking and government work were not high paying positions. But they allowed me to learn and grow. Again, sacrifices.

In 2015, I started my own firm. I focus on Criminal Defense and DUI Defense. I named my firm after my parents. My parents were two people in my life who exhibited service and dedication, daily. I wanted to honor them as they are the inspiration for everything that I have achieved. Talk about sacrifice, they sacrificed a great deal.

My first year in business was 2015. It was a very lean year, as many businesses experience. This past year, I barely earned enough to feed myself. I sacrificed everything but food.

What is the big deal? It is a big deal. Like many other lawyers in Arizona, I am in business for myself. I am a sole practitioner. I defend people when they are charged with a crime, that is, people who can afford to pay my fee. I am told that my fees are reasonable. That is good. They should be reasonable. People should be able to afford to hire an attorney if they are charged with a crime. I focus my practice on service, dedication and value.

To do this, it costs money. I have expenses, such as malpractice insurance, online legal research fees, postage, cell phone, gas, website hosting, post office box fees, business licenses, reference manuals, and oh my favorite-discovery fees! These expenses do not pay for themselves. And, these expenses are not cheap! But, they are necessary in order to operate my business well and successfully. So I pay them. I sacrifice.

To sum up, in order to practice law, I made sacrifices. I upended my housing situation. I quit a full time job. I attended school full time for three years, and graduated. I studied and passed the Bar exam. I submitted my background to the State and passed a Character and Fitness investigation. And I was sworn in.

The Arizona State Bar’s position is that all of that is still not enough. In the wake of all of the discussions about whether the State Bar should be mandatory, the Bar’s position is that a mandatory bar is necessary. And they insist that in order to accomplish this, I must pay $500.00 a year.

My response to this is why? Why do I have to pay $500.00 a year to maintain a mandatory bar? Where is the sacrifice here? Where is the value?

I accept and concur that the profession needs to be regulated. And I agree that I should have to pay for that regulation and discipline. But I do not accept that is costs $500.00 annually to accomplish regulation and discipline.

So, this is why I am for a voluntary bar. I have lived a life of service and dedication. And I have made sacrifices. It is time for the Bar to follow suit!

— Andrea L. Angulo Gutierrez, Owner, The Angulo Law Firm, PLLC