The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org

ADVISORY FROM THE FLORIDA BAR REGARDING THE GULF OIL SPILL


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2010
CONTACT:
Public Information Department,
The Florida Bar
TELEPHONE:
(850)561-5666


Consumer Assistance:
The Florida Bar is committed to protecting the public from unethical lawyers and from non-lawyers offering legal representation.

To assist disaster victims who may need legal representation, there are several guides in the Public Information section of www.floridabar.org , including "Mass Disaster – A Victim's Guide," "A Consumer Guide to Client's Rights," "How to Find a Lawyer in Florida" and "Who Should I Hire to Help Me with My Legal Problem."

Floridians looking for a lawyer should make sure the person they are considering is eligible to practice in our state. This can be done by going to www.floridabar.org and using the Find a Lawyer feature in the blue bar at the top of the page. The search will link to a profile page that lists the lawyer's eligibility to practice, address, Bar number and, in some cases, areas of legal practice. If you have questions about a lawyer's status, call the membership records department at The Florida Bar toll-free at 1-866-854-5050.

Although there are limited circumstances when lawyers who are not licensed to practice in Florida may be authorized to appear in court, out-of-state lawyers may not be able to represent you. Consumers must also be cautious about non-lawyers or organizations that offer to provide legal representation. If you believe a person offering legal representation is not a lawyer or is not eligible to practice law in Florida, call The Florida Bar Unlicensed Practice of Law Department toll-free at 1-800-342-8060, extension 5840.

Bar-sponsored lawyer referral services are also available statewide; for a referral please call toll-free 1-800-342-8011.

Lawyer Conduct:
In the event of a disaster, such as the current oil spill, The Florida Bar is on high alert for violations of its rules especially with regard to solicitation. The Florida Bar will also be vigilant in investigating all complaints filed against individual lawyers who may be in violation of the solicitation rules.

Solicitation, whether by a lawyer personally or by someone else on his or her behalf, is prohibited, according to Bar Rule 4-7.4. Solicitation includes any direct contact face-to-face, by telephone, by fax or telegraph. It includes passing out business cards or other law firm information.

Lawyers cannot mail solicitations within 30 days of a disaster causing personal injury or actual property damage, however, the 30-day rule does not apply if the only damages are economic. Direct mail solicitations must comply with the bar's lawyer advertising rules and be filed with The Florida Bar for review. Fees from solicitation are subject to forfeiture in cases involving violations of the advertising rules.

Volunteer lawyers who are offering their services to victims at no charge do not violate the anti-solicitation rule.

Anyone with information that a lawyer is engaging in solicitation should report the lawyer to The Florida Bar. Questions or complaints about a lawyer's conduct can be reported to The Florida Bar's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) by calling toll-free 1-866-352-0707.
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EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."

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EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."

[Revised: 05-06-2010]