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More than 10,000 lawyers were erroneously sent letters from New York’s State Office of Court Administration in December, telling them that their attorney registration form and $300 fee were due. The errant letters were the product of a computer glitch, said Tony Lynch, the head of OCA’s Attorney Registration Unit when asked about the snafu Tuesday. Lynch said OCA first became aware of the problem when a number of complaints were received last week. It is in the process of sending another round of letters advising lawyers of the error. Any lawyer who remitted a $300 registration fee to OCA in error will receive a refund, he added. To date, Lynch said, he was aware of having received payments from about 15 lawyers who were already registered. Wednesday, it took more than 15 minutes for an inquirer, who called the telephone number on the registration form, to reach an operator who could answer questions about whether the latest request was valid. Callers to the number — (212) 428-2800 — are offered six options, each of which leads to a live operator. In addition, callers to the main number who dial “0″ will be linked to a live operator. It appears that at the dawning of the year 2001, OCA’s computer had a mind of its own. In addition to notifying attorneys who have biennial registration dates in January 2001, the computer mailed initial notices to lawyers whose registration date was in January 2000. Those lawyers, estimated to number 10,000, do not have to register again until January 2002, because registration is only required every two years. The notices for lawyers with January birth dates are generated and mailed in December, Lynch explained. In addition to producing initial notices, each month “second” and “final” notices are produced. The December 2000 run included 3,000 second notices for attorneys who were required to register in August but had not yet responded. The run also included final notices for about 2,000 lawyers who were first required to register in May 2000. Lynch said that some portion, as yet undetermined, of the second and final notices were inexplicably mailed to lawyers who had already signed up. Because the attorney registration requirement was first imposed in 1982, and all lawyers admitted to the bar at that time were required to register, the number of attorneys required to register on even years is far greater than on odd years, Lynch said. When attorneys register every second year, they are required to pay a $300 fee, unless they certify that they have “retired” from the practice of law. Those attorneys remaining active are required to certify that they have complied with the state’s continuing legal education requirements, and that they have read court rules pertaining to the handling of client funds.

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