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March 15, 2013
Plan calls for discipline system education effort

By Gary Blankenship
Senior Editor

Several proposals for improving education and communications about the Bar’s discipline system with lawyers, judges, and the public have been approved by the Board of Governors at the recommendation of the Communications Committee.

Committee Chair Mary Ann Morgan told the board at its recent Tallahassee meeting that the committee was working to carry out recommendations of the Hawkins Commission, which last year studied the Bar’s grievance process.

The board also approved a priority list for developing a series of Bar-related apps for mobile devices.

“We’re very excited about what’s going on with technology and what we’re doing to carry out the resolutions that were passed by the Hawkins Commission,” Morgan told the board.

She reported that a subcommittee, chaired by board member Michelle Suskauer, came back with five recommendations relating to education and two for changes to the Bar’s website.

Those include:

* Adding a 30-minute primer on the discipline system at the start of Bar-produced audio and video CLE programs dealing with ethics, reporting misconduct, trust accounting, and advertising. The content will be taken from the one now presented to new Bar members at the Young Lawyers Division’s Practicing With Professionalism seminar.

* Equipping board members to make five- to 10-minute presentations to voluntary bar associations on the discipline system, including the recognition of audience members who serve on local grievance committees.

* Making annual presentations at each of the state’s judicial conferences about the discipline process. Morgan noted the Hawkins Commission found that judges felt they got insufficient feedback after making a referral to the grievance process. “This will help keep them informed,” Morgan said.

* Making a presentation at the annual Florida Judicial College about the grievance process.

* Recognizing the service of nonlawyers and lawyers who volunteer their time on local grievance committees via acknowledgement in Bar publications, press releases to local media, or recognition by voluntary bars. Lawyer members should be reminded that their service qualifies for ethics CLE credit at the conclusion of their service.

* Centralizing grievance information in a new page on the Bar’s website at floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

* Changing a link on the Bar’s home page from “Client/Consumer Assistance” to “File a Complaint” to lessen consumer confusion. “If a consumer wants to file a grievance against a lawyer, it is very complicated. It’s under client/consumer assistance; a lot of consumers don’t understand what that means,” Morgan said. “We want to change that to be very straightforward. We’re trying to make the website more user-friendly.”

The board approved the recommendations by a voice vote.

On technology matters, Morgan said the committee will have extensive recommendations at the board’s April meeting, including website upgrades.

President-elect Designate Greg Coleman, chair of the technology subcommittee, said his panel welcomes suggestions for the Bar’s website, which was last overhauled about three years ago.

At the February meeting, Morgan asked the board to approve a “priority of apps to be developed.” Currently the Bar has one app which gives access to the News.

Recommended new apps, Morgan said, include a simplified program for the website’s Find a Lawyer function that would include an active link to a lawyer’s email, a way to report CLE hours, a line to Bar rules, the Bar’s master calendar of events, and an app to receive the Bar’s daily news summary.

[Revised: 01-14-2014]