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Washington bar association scrambling after lawyers cut dues

The organization that oversees Washington state's nearly 29,000 lawyers is scrambling to deal with a big budget gap, after the attorneys voted to reduce their own dues.

The Washington State Bar Association says it will likely have to cut a variety of programs, including those that support legal aid to the poor.

In a referendum that ended last week, the lawyers narrowly voted to cut their dues from $450 per year to $325. That translates to a $3.6 million hole — about one-fourth of the bar association's budget.

The proponents of the reduction cited the tough economy and concerns that the bar has strayed from its core mission.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen and others says they're worried about the effect cuts could have on the bar's ability to investigate complaints against lawyers, and to support programs that provide free or low-cost legal help to people facing divorce, foreclosure and other civil legal issues.

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