Frequently Asked Questions About the Proposed License Fee Increase

Like all states, Michigan requires attorneys who practice in the state to pay an annual license fee. The fee consists of three separate amounts set by the Michigan Supreme Court to fund the Attorney Discipline System, the Client Protection Fund, and State Bar of Michigan operations. 

The Representative Assembly has exclusive authority on behalf of the State Bar to recommend to the Court a change in the SBM portion of the licensing fee. At their April 24, 2021 meeting the RA will vote on whether to recommend to the Court an increase of $80 to the SBM portion of the fee. Currently, the SBM portion of the fee is $180.

Below you’ll find answers to common questions about the proposed license fee increase.


Why now? It’s been a difficult year for everyone.

The license fee has not increased (even to account for inflation) since 2003, when today’s 1Ls were in kindergarten. At that time, nearly two decades ago, the increase was expected to sustain the State Bar for several years, but nothing indicated it would turn into the longest fee cycle in SBM’s modern history. That feat was only made possible through careful financial management by the State Bar. Now, however, the current fee cycle has reached its natural –and overdue – conclusion. Recognizing the extreme financial stress that COVID-19 has placed on many attorneys, SBM has undertaken extraordinary measures to extend its operations and will do so for another bar year, meaning the proposed license fee increase would not take effect until the 2022-2023 bar year.


Why can’t the increase be gradual?

A gradual increase would require an overall larger increase over the same time span.


What will this money be used for?

The money from the license fee increase will be used to maintain SBM’s current level of service to the public and members, both of which are crucial to fulfilling the goals of the State Bar’s strategic plan. While SBM collects the entire license fee on behalf of the Court, only a portion of it remains with the State Bar. That portion funds the operation of the State Bar to assist in the regulation of the legal profession and improve the quality of legal services available to Michiganders. The rest of the license fee is used to fund the Attorney Discipline System and the Client Protection Fund.


How does Michigan’s attorney license fee compare to other states?

Michigan’s $315 cost of licensure falls below the $362 national average. With the proposed increase, Michigan would be in the middle tier or lower nationally for the eight-year period that the fee cycle is expected to last.


What has SBM done to save money?

The State Bar of Michigan has automated manual transaction processes and member interactions such as license renewal, pro hac vice applications, and new member applications. Paper, printing, and mailing costs have been reduced by not mailing license fee statements, no longer printing the alphabetical directory, providing a voluntary opt-out of bar cards and the printed Bar Journal, and using more electronic communication. Staffing levels and benefits have been carefully controlled. The downsizing and restructuring of the SBM annual meeting are the most recent examples of cost-saving changes.


What would happen if there’s not an increase?

Without an increase, SBM simply will not be able to sustain its current level of service to the public and members.


If you’d like to offer feedback to the RA about the proposed license fee increase, please do so here by April 24. If you prefer to share feedback directly with your representative, RA contact information can be found here.