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July 15, 2012
What you need to know about Bar’s new email rule

The Supreme Court has amended Rule 1-3.3(a), Official Bar Name and Address, to require each member of The Florida Bar provide the Bar with a business email address, if the member has one, as part of his or her offical Bar record.

Below is information about why the rule was needed and how it affects Florida lawyers.

Q. What is the purpose of this rule change?

A. The e-filing and e-service being developed for implementation within the Florida state courts system takes advantage of the efficiency of Bar members filing court documents via email. To prepare for e-filing, the Florida Supreme Court opted to require that all members provide the Bar with a business-use email address, if the member has one, as part of his or her official Bar record.

Q. Is an email address now required as part of my official Bar record?

A. The rule change only requires designation of a business email address, if members have one. However, the e-filing system being implemented throughout the state courts is designed for Bar members to use email to file briefs, petitions, and other legal documents.

Q. How do I submit my business email address to be in compliance with the new rule?

A. Member profile and contact information can be updated by accessing the Member Services page on the Bar’s website, or by contacting the Membership Records department, (850) 561-5832.

Q. Does the Bar sell my email address or my other member information?

A. No. As further explained below, basic Bar membership information, including any email address, is considered public record except for those lawyers who claim a recognized legal exemption. That data — and other optional member-posted information — appear on the Bar’s website and is accessible to anyone consistent with applicable law, but cannot be simply downloaded in bulk. The Bar must otherwise allow for bulk requests of its member data from anyone in response to a valid public records request. Then, the Bar may only assess a minimal service fee for copies of its records, or for requests that involve particularly unique aggregations of this data or that seek compilations outside of Excel formats — otherwise, the Bar must essentially distribute its member information free of charge.

Q. What happens if I don’t have an email address?

A. There are providers that offer free email accounts, such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. Bar members should research options and determine the best email provider for their law practice.

Q. If I provide an email address, will I no longer receive communications from the Bar by mail?

A. Communications will continue to be sent by the methods required in applicable rules: no changes in mailing fee statements, certified mail notices, and Bar publications are anticipated at this time.

However, some Bar communications are delivered exclusively by email, such as: certification annual fees invoices; certification exam surveys; materials and admission cards for CLE courses provided by The Florida Bar; and periodic news updates from Florida Bar leadership.

Q. Can I give my personal email address instead of my business one?

The new rule amendment requires only a “business email address.” If you only have a personal email, which also serves as a business email, you can provide it to meet this requirement.

Q. Will my business email address be published?

A. Yes, member profile information is public record and it is accessible to the general public.

Q. Why is my Bar profile a public record?

A. As an official arm of the Supreme Court, The Florida Bar is subject to our state constitution’s public records provisions, the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and the Rules of Judicial Administration: Art I, Sec. 24, Fla.Const., R.Reg.Fla.Bar 1-14.1, Fla.R.Jud.Admin 2.420, and In re Amendments, 608 So.2d 472 (Fla. 1992). The basic personal data that the Bar keeps on all its members is therefore public record unless such information is subject to a recognized exemption under Florida law.

Additionally, the Bar has obligations per R.Reg.Fla.Bar 2-2.3 to periodically publish its membership listing and, by policy, such information is displayed on the Bar’s website without limitation. Unless a member claims a valid exemption under Florida law for protection of such data, the Bar publishes it.

[Revised: 04-15-2014]