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The Florida Bar

Voluntary Bar Associations

On This Page
I. Issue
II. Background
III. The Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee
IV. Services of the Public Information and Bar Services staff

I. Issue

There are more than 250 voluntary bar associations in Florida that exist in some instances to complement activities and functions of The Florida Bar -- such as providing CLE opportunities and other member benefits. In other instances, they provide services and programs for lawyers that The Florida Bar may not offer because of its unique nature as a unified bar or because they are outside members authorized functions, such as participation in certain political, social or charitable activities.

Voluntary bars are autonomous. While all voluntary bar associations consist of lawyers, there is often great diversity in the interests of local bar associations and The Florida Bar -- yet there is always the question: "How can we work together to help each other accomplish our mutual goals?''
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II. Background

A "typical" voluntary bar association in Florida has about 100 to 150 members, but some have as few as 10 members and others as many as 4,500 members. Some smaller bars are loosely organized, while many large and mid­sized bars have formal procedures. Forty-one medium­to­large voluntary bars have their own office space, executive directors and staffs to help organize members and plan activities.

The election of officers usually takes place annually, during any month of the year, although the bars have been encouraged to time their elections to coincide with The Florida Bar's administrative year, which begins in July. Most local bar officers first serve in the lower ranks of the bar offices, committees or sections before being elected.

Membership dues for voluntary bars vary widely. For large bars, they can range anywhere from as little as $50 to more than $175 per year. For smaller bars, the dues can be as little as $20 per year.

Most local bars invite judges to participate as members, but honor that membership by not charging dues. Some bars give price breaks to law students, legal assistants, government attorneys, paralegals or retired lawyers from other state bars.

A typical voluntary bar association offers its members the opportunity to meet other attorneys and to develop a professional network in a relaxed, casual, social setting. There is usually a monthly luncheon or dinner meeting; an annual function; a judicial reception; a bar­sponsored law library; continuing legal education programs; Law Week programs; and more.

Many committees exist within the voluntary bars. Committees frequently listed are speakers' bureaus, lawyer referral, public relations, Law Day, Bench­Bar relations, diversity and campaigns and polls, to name a few.

Very often the voluntary bar will perform some kind of community service, such as having attorneys talk to seniors about living wills or powers of attorney, or perhaps even draft wills for them. A cooperative community effort might be made with various other organizations or social service agencies, such as a pro bono initiative in conjunction with the local legal aid office or foreclosure mediation programs with local courts.

Minority bar associations work within their communities to bring legal expertise to those who could not otherwise afford legal advice. Some of the projects include legal clinics, raising funds for college and law school scholarships, devoting pro bono hours to the poor and helping with disadvantaged children.
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III. The Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee

The Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee works to improve communication between The Florida Bar and voluntary bar associations, coordinate programs of The Florida Bar involving voluntary bar associations, serve as a clearinghouse for voluntary bar association projects, advise the Public Information and Bar Services Department regarding public relations needs of the voluntary bars, provide a resource and information bank with regard to activities and issues of voluntary bar associations and advise the Board of Governors regarding interpretation of The Florida Bar programs to voluntary bars and individual members.

The committee coordinates the Bar Journal's Spotlight Page, which recognizes outstanding programs of the local bars. This committee also coordinates the annual Bar Leaders' Conference.
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IV. Services of the Public Information and Bar Services staff

  • Consumer­oriented brochures dealing with numerous legal subjects
  • Local bar visits by the Bar's Voluntary Bar Liaison
  • Pattern speeches for Law Day and other occasions
  • Labels and lists of voluntary bar officers
  • Clearinghouse for information on other member services of The Florida Bar
  • Coordinate the annual Bar Leaders' Conference
  • Coordinate judicial polls for local bar associations
  • Publish Bar­To­Bar E-News, a newsletter for voluntary bar associations
  • Provide advice and counsel regarding public relations activity
  • Daily news summaries and other communication via e-mail to presidents and staff
  • Notification of new Florida Bar admittees and 50-year members

Prepared by The Florida Bar Department of Public Information and Bar Services.
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[Revised: Aug. 16, 2011]