By Steve Splitt, ARDC Senior Appellate Counsel & Public Information Officer
The Illinois Supreme Court has made it easier for lawyers who have elected retired status, or who have been removed from the master roll of attorneys for failure to register, to return to active or inactive status. The Court amended Supreme Court Rule 756 to lessen the cost for these lawyers to return to the practice of law, or to inactive status, after a time off the master roll.
Previously, a lawyer on retired status who wanted to return to active or inactive status was required to pay the current year’s registration fee, plus the annual registration fee (at the active-status level) for the years the lawyer had been on retired status. The amended rule eliminates the prior-registration-fee requirement, substitutes a fee of $25 per month for each month the lawyer has been on retired status, and caps that fee at $600. Depending on the length of time a lawyer has been on retired status, the new rule may substantially lessen the cost of returning to active status. For example, under the former rule, a lawyer who had been on retired status for five years would have paid $1,925 (plus, of course, the current year’s registration fee), to resume active status. Now, that lawyer would pay only $600 plus the current year’s registration fee, a savings of $1,325. Also under the new amendment, lawyers who had been transferred to inactive status by the Court under the prior procedure for such transfer and who obtain an order restoring them to active status are treated like a lawyer returning from retired status.
Prior to the amendment, a lawyer who had been removed from the master roll for failure to register and who sought to regain active status was required to pay a penalty of $25 per month for each month that the lawyer’s registration fee was delinquent, plus the inactive-status registration fee for each year the lawyer was off the master roll, provided that the lawyer was not practicing law during the period of removal. Now, that lawyer can rejoin the master roll by paying the current year’s active-status registration fee and a $25-per-month fee, with that monthly fee capped at $600.
The amendment to Rule 756 also provides an explicit standard for waiving registration and return-to-practice fees due to economic hardship. Under the new rule, such fees may be excused if, based on an attorney’s income tax information for the preceding year, payment would cause undue hardship to the attorney. The rule provides that the ARDC will employ an income standard equal to two times the applicable household poverty guideline published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The ARDC is also authorized to consider additional extraordinary economic circumstances and other relevant information in determining undue hardship.
The Supreme Court and the ARDC hope that the reduced cost of returning to active practice will serve the interests of the legal profession and result in having more practicing lawyers available to persons who need legal help. By November 1, 2022, the ARDC’s website (www.iardc.org) will be updated and ready to help lawyers navigate these registration changes. ARDC staff will also be available to provide guidance. Lawyers with questions about ARDC registration may contact the agency’s Registration Department at email@example.com or 312-565-2600.