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Serving the Public
"To inculcate in its members the principles of duty and service to the public, to improve the administration of justice, and to advance the science of jurisprudence."
~ From the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar
The organized bar in Florida began in 1889 with a small group of lawyers. The Florida State Bar Association was formed in 1907 and continued until the summer of 1949 when the Supreme Court of Florida approved the formation of a “unified” or “integrated” bar with mandatory membership. In April 1950, the name was changed to The Florida Bar and 3,758 lawyers were grandfathered in as members.
The Florida Bar’s charter of service to the lawyers and citizens of this state is embodied in the preamble to its governing document, set forth above. Throughout its existence, The Florida Bar has been faithful to these ideals, placing service above all else as its primary reason for being. The result has been a well-deserved national reputation for leadership among state bar organizations and at the highest levels of our nation’s judiciary.
How did we achieve this standard of excellence? Through our one basic, indispensable resource: our members.
The services provided and successes achieved by The Florida Bar are due totally to membership involvement — to dedicated service by many lawyers, from the elected representatives on the Board of Governors, to volunteer section and committee members, local and other voluntary bar associations, and numerous contributions from individual lawyers.
Because of this intense membership interest, The Florida Bar has always had an extraordinary array of activities underway at any given time. This page features a summary of Florida Bar programs and operations to help you gain a full understanding of the many Bar services available to you and to the public.
Professional Standards — One of the primary purposes of The Florida Bar is to ensure the highest standards of professionalism in the practice of law for the benefit of members and the public. Toward that objective, Florida Bar programs include:
Ethics and Lawyer Advertising: The authority for the establishment and maintenance of The Florida Bar as a unified bar association is based on the Florida Supreme Court’s constitutional authority to regulate the practice of law in Florida. The Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted by the court, provide lawyers with standards of professional practice.
In addition to disseminating the rules to its members, the Bar assists them in interpreting its provisions by publishing reports of attorney discipline by the Supreme Court or Board of Governors, and featuring periodic ethics guidance in its official publications and on its website. The Bar also provides both informal and formal opinions on certain ethical questions posed by its members.
A toll-free ethics hotline was established in 1985 as an exclusive member service, connecting inquiring attorneys directly with ethics counsel at Bar headquarters in Tallahassee. Informal advisory opinions on an attorney’s own proposed conduct can be sought by calling (800) 235-8619. Bar members may leave a message for an ethics attorney to return a call within one business day by calling (850) 561-5780. Lawyers may also obtain a written opinion or e-mail regarding proposed conduct from the ethics department. The department’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
If a written staff opinion is contested or denied, advisory ethics opinions may be requested from the Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee. Proposed committee opinions are previewed in The Florida Bar News for lawyer comment and are subject to review by the Board of Governors.
Ethics opinions are also rescinded as necessary to reflect contemporary standards in the practice of law. The formal opinions are available on the Bar’s website.
The Ethics and Lawyer Advertising Department, as staff to the Standing Committee on Advertising, evaluates and provides advisory opinions on attorney advertisements and direct written communications mailed to prospective clients. The department responds to inquiries and general questions from the membership concerning Rule Subchapter 4-7, governing attorney advertising and solicitation. Information on lawyer advertising can also be found on the Bar’s website. The department also provides educational programs about attorney advertising.
A Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, published by the Standing Committee, is available on The Florida Bar website.
Admissions: Although often misunderstood by the public and many attorneys, The Florida Bar as an organization has no control over attorney admissions. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is the Florida Supreme Court agency charged with ensuring that only qualified persons will be admitted to the practice of law in this state. The board of lawyer and public members — together with its executive director and staff — investigates the character and fitness of applicants, develops and administers the bar examination for attorney candidates, and submits for Supreme Court approval the names of those qualified for admission to practice. Admission to The Florida Bar is only finally accomplished by action of the Florida Supreme Court.
Persons requesting information on admission to the practice of law in Florida, administration of the bar exam, or other information relating to entering the field of law in Florida should contact the Florida Board of Bar Examiners at 1891 Eider Court, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1750, telephone (850) 487-1292 or visit www.floridabarexam.org.
Professional Growth — Another responsibility of The Florida Bar is to assist its members in enhancing their professional skills. Toward this objective and the ultimate goal of more effective delivery of legal services, the Bar conducts several programs, including:
Continuing Legal Education:
Live Seminars and Programs. The Florida Bar continuing legal education (CLE) provides an ongoing series of educational courses at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels to keep its members up-to-date with the law.
Course presentations are produced with the assistance of Bar member volunteers from throughout the state. A variety of programs are provided, ranging from half-day seminars to multi-day theme institutes. The Bar annually offers its members some 65 different CLE programs, presented in multiple formats, comprising more than 600 approved credit hours of continuing legal education. CLE courses approved for credit are available on the CLE page.
Live Webcasts/Virtual Seminars. Bar members will see more seminars being delivered via live webcast/virtual seminars. These programs are literally transmitted via video/audio feed over the Internet in real time simultaneously with the live program. A listing of all live webcast programs is available on The Florida Bar CLE website.
Audio CD/Video DVD Programs. Nearly all of The Florida Bar’s seminars and programs are recorded for subsequent sale to law firms and individual practitioners, in-state and out-of-state. A listing of available titles, format details, policies, and prices may be obtained from the CLE Registrations office or the Bar website, www.floridabar.org/cle.
24/7 Online Programs. The Florida Bar CLE courses offered online are available any time at The Florida Bar website. Select the Legal Span icon to access Florida Bar CLE programs.
Course Materials Sales. The Florida Bar maintains a limited reserve of printed course materials and speaker outlines produced for live and videotaped CLE presentations, which are available for post-program purchase. Interested members should contact the CLE Registrations office to determine the availability and cost of these items.
CLE Practice Manuals. The Florida Bar publishes a series of practice manuals covering various areas of the law. These publications are extremely useful and convenient in the day-to-day practice of law. Each manual is written by experienced practitioners; staff lawyers carefully edit all material both for substance and to ensure a quick reference in easy-to-read style. Currently, about 45 of these how-to manuals, handbooks, and practice systems are available for sale. Updated price lists are published in the Bar News and on the Bar website. Descriptions of books are available at www.lexisnexis.com/flabar. Manuals can be ordered online or by calling (800) 533-1637.
Court Rules Pamphlets. The Florida Bar produces separate pamphlet editions of the official court rules and procedures governing various areas of practice, and also provides the full text of the rules on the Bar’s website. Pamphlets are available through (800) 533-1637 or www.lexisnexis.com/flabar.
Sections: The Florida Bar includes 21 sections, the Young Lawyers Division, and Out-of-State Practitioners Division comprising thousands of attorneys who focus a great deal of their involvement in specific areas of the law. Section membership is voluntary and membership rates are modest. All sections/divisions are involved in the production of specialized CLE seminars or publications in cooperation with The Florida Bar’s Continuing Legal Education Committee. From these efforts come many of the fine continuing education programs and publications that are so essential to the Bar’s advancement of professional growth for its members. Section/division members also enjoy the benefit of reduced fees for their section’s own CLE programs.
Meetings and Convention: The Florida Bar offers its members a full range of opportunities to meet annually with other lawyers. The Midyear Meeting provides committees and sections an opportunity to interact and meet to develop a plan of action for carrying out goals for the coming year. Midyear also provides educational opportunities for Bar members. Annual Convention is the largest Florida Bar meeting held annually in June. Sessions feature CLE seminars with many respected legal scholars, advocates, and technical experts, open forums, and workshops. The installation of incoming Bar officers takes place during the General Assembly, held in conjunction with the Annual Convention. Annual Convention also incorporates exhibits by law-related vendors, alumni gatherings, and many other exceptional opportunities to share experiences and network with members of The Florida Bar.
The CLE calendar and The Florida Bar master calendar are prepared and maintained by the Meetings Department. If you are interested in making reservations for the Tampa meeting rooms, contact the Meetings Department at (850)561-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lawyers Advising Lawyers (Formerly SCOPE):The Public Service Programs Department operates the Lawyers Advising Lawyers program, which is sponsored by the Young Lawyers Division. The Lawyers Advising Lawyers panel is composed of volunteer attorneys with at least five years of experience in designated areas of practice who agree to provide general advice to attorneys in areas of the law unfamiliar to them.
Lawyers Advising Lawyers provides a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, the exercise of independent judgment. Even a brief consultation should assist the attorney in making the critical professional determination of whether he or she is capable of undertaking the matter, and, if so, what might be the best approach for resolving the particular legal problems involved. In any case, both the Bar and the public are better served.
Assuring Integrity: Ideally, attorneys should conduct their practices in such a way that no complaints are ever filed against them. The processing and investigation of inquiries and complaints is a basic responsibility of the Bar as mandated by the Supreme Court of Florida. A complaint of unprofessional conduct against a Florida Bar member is a serious matter. It immediately puts the investigative processes of The Florida Bar into action.
Attorney Discipline: All lawyers must meet the minimum standards of conduct set forth in the Rules of Professional Conduct and the other provisions of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, as adopted by the Supreme Court of Florida. Failure to meet these minimum standards subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action. Investigation into inquiries of members is conducted in the office of The Florida Bar in Tallahassee and, if needed, the branch disciplinary offices located in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami.
Preventive Action: In addition to programs that resolve disciplinary problems, The Florida Bar conducts special activities aimed at preventing them. They include:
Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP). The Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program is a tool for consumers and attorneys alike. It operates to serve the needs of the membership and the public. This program is designed to field calls and written inquiries from people who have a question about an attorney’s conduct. It assists both the attorney and the consumer in resolving minor problems before a formal complaint is initiated.
This program serves as an “information clearinghouse” and directs these complaints to the proper agency, program, or Bar department. The program’s mission includes:
1) Giving the public an outlet and/or remedy to resolve differences with attorneys;
2) Providing assistance to attorneys having difficulty with minor complaints;
3) Improving the current disciplinary system by removing minor complaints;
4) Saving time and effort of attorneys in responding to these minor complaints.
This program is tailored to complement the current disciplinary procedures and screen minor types of complaints that ordinarily would not be processed through the formalized complaint procedures. ACAP is an alternative method to “divert” calls and written inquiries away from the discipline system to various other assistance resources within and without the Bar to free up the discipline process to concentrate on the more serious complaints with greater speed and efficiency.
The Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program of The Florida Bar produces an outgrowth of goodwill and public relations toward consumers who contact the Bar frequently for help and other information. If you have any questions about ACAP, call toll-free (866) 352-0707.
Educational and Advisory Programs. To supplement regular ethics columns in our member publications, Florida Bar CLE authors and lecturers are encouraged to stress ethical considerations by means of practical examples throughout all educational presentations.
The Florida Bar is proud of its regulatory and disciplinary system. Our officers and staff take part in an active public speaking program explaining the purposes and procedures of our grievance system to attorneys and the public. If you would like someone to speak to your bar association or other group on such topics, submit the online request form or call The Florida Bar Speakers Bureau in Tallahassee at (800) 342-8060, ext. 5773.
A strong program of educating all attorneys about appropriate fiduciary practice and trust accounting procedures is conducted. That effort includes updated CLE presentations on trust account management for lawyers and their support staff, plus a coordinated educational program provided in Bar publications and extending into Florida law schools.
Complementing ethics counsel in rendering ethics advice is a full-time CPA/auditor and a program available to assist Bar members with specific questions regarding trust accounting practices.
Drug, Alcohol Abuse, and Mental Health Program. A separate nonprofit corporation, Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., administers a unique program to assist attorneys who have drug, alcohol, or mental health problems. Lawyers who seek assistance through this Bar-sanctioned service benefit from an experienced counselor and a team of fellow attorneys who are knowledgeable about alcohol and chemical dependency, mental health, and stress management. By court rule, voluntary consultations and assistance from Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., are provided in complete confidence.
Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., also maintains a confidential hotline for immediate assistance to inquiring attorneys. Call toll-free (800) 282-8981.
Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism: The Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism is responsible for the development and implementation of programs, events, and activities to promote professionalism throughout the state. It provides resources and information on professionalism initiatives to members of the judiciary, the bar, law schools, local bar associations and other state bars and conducts training, seminars and presentations. An additional focus for 2013 is that the Center is developing the curriculum for The Florida Bar’s Leadership Academy.
At the direction of the Standing Committee on Professionalism, the Center serves as a clearinghouse for the collection and distribution of professionalism articles, resources and materials from circuit professionalism committees and annual reports from the law schools. The Center publishes a quarterly newsletter The Professional that highlights professionalism initiatives from around the state, provides motivational articles and submissions relating to ethics, civility and professionalism in the practice of law.
To foster professionalism in Florida the Center has implemented three professionalism awards: William M. Hoeveler Judicial Award, Law Faculty/Administration Award, and the Professionalism Group Award. All three awards are presented at The Florida Bar Annual Convention each year. Additionally, the Center is a co-sponsor with FLMIC and the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Law Student Essay Contest.
Increasing awareness about professionalism expectations is a critical mission and was one of the primary motivations in the creation of the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism.
Communications: Florida Bar activities and programs are effective only when they are appreciated and supported by the individuals and groups they affect. A wide range of communications vehicles is used to promote maximum understanding and support, including:
Florida Bar Journal. The Florida Bar Journal, which contains articles selected in a peer review process by the editorial board, is the premier source for scholarly, topical articles on Florida law. It is an essential resource in chronicling the history and current state of Florida law, with a goal to educate lawyers in order to increase their competence as practitioners. The publication is produced 10 times each year (July/August and September/October are combined) and is mailed to all active members and subscribers.
The Bar Journal also provides opportunities for sections to heighten their visibility by publishing practice-specific articles. Section chairs may appoint a column editor to solicit and vet articles for publication in the magazine, thereby creating a prime opportunity for section service. Published authors can be awarded continuing legal education credit.
A searchable index to the Bar Journal is available on the Bar’s website at www.floridabar.org/Journal.
Florida Bar News. The Florida Bar News is the primary means by which The Florida Bar communicates topical information to its members. The paper has been lauded by Bar members for its editorial independence and has been acknowledged nationally as a model vehicle for information about association activities.
This twice-monthly tabloid carries news about all levels of the organized Bar, other law-related organizations, and current legal issues. In addition, the Bar News publishes regular notices of CLE offerings, legislative information of interest to the legal profession, summaries of Board of Governors actions, Supreme Court official notices regarding proposed rule changes, registration forms for Bar meetings, and a variety of member-related items. News issues are sent to all members. The publication’s classified ads pages serve as a helpful placement service for the Florida legal market. The News is posted on the Bar’s website at www.floridabar.org/News.
www.floridabar.org The Florida Bar’s website is a major conduit for communications with members and the public. Florida Bar Online (www.floridabar.org) provides access to a wide range of information—including the Bar organization and services, ethics opinions, consumer topics, membership listings, legislative information, continuing legal education programs, and free legal research for members. A key site feature is the Find a Lawyer link to current listings. The Media Resources area is designed for journalists with news, feature stories, and downloadable images for publication and airing.
Speakers Bureau. The Bar’s Speakers Bureau is a major vehicle for educating the public about the legal profession and our system of justice. The program provides volunteer Bar speakers at no charge throughout Florida for community and civic organizations, school audiences, business, and religious groups. To request a speaker, or to volunteer to serve on the Speakers Bureau, contact the Public Information Office at (850) 561-5773.
Section Publications. As an added resource, most Florida Bar sections publish newsletters covering their areas of professional interest or concentration. Copies are provided to section members and costs are covered by section dues.
Bar Leaders’ Conferences. Three intensive leadership conferences — one for voluntary bar association officers and staff, one for those who head sections, and one for those who head standing committees — strengthen ties among some of The Florida Bar’s most important groups. These conferences keep our volunteer leaders informed about Florida Bar activities and services, Bar Center staff, and other officials and offer an opportunity for two-way communication about problems and concerns at all levels of the organization.
Individual Member Services: Over the years, The Florida Bar has developed a number of services of direct benefit to individual Bar members including:
Practice Resource Institute (PRI). The Practice Resource Institute (PRI)provides a broad range of law office management information and services to members of the Bar. Practice management advisors, and an administrative assistant, are available to answer questions on a wide variety of law office management issues.
Affordable and confidential telephonic or video-conference consultations are offered to any Florida Bar member upon request. Office consultations cover topics chosen by the firm and often include such specific office concerns and issues as law firm structure and governance, personnel management and concerns, financial management and trust accounting, case and matter management, marketing, staff education, records information management, software selection, space planning, facilities management, Of Counsel arrangements, attorney departures, law firm splits, dissolutions, mergers and incoming lateral attorney integration.
PRI maintains a comprehensive library collection which addresses all facets of law office and practice management, from “how-to” guides and office manuals to impartial evaluations of office equipment. Newsletters and periodicals with technology updates are maintained. PRI has arranged a discount for Florida Bar Members with the American Bar Association Bookstore, including all the publications by the ABA's Section of Law Practice Management. In addition, PRI maintains an extensive reference database of articles on all aspects of law office and practice management. PRI continues to develop many DVD and on-line CLE seminars on important topics in law office and practice management.
More information about PRI may be obtained by calling The Florida Bar PRI office toll free at (866) 730-2020, or at the Bar’s website: www.flabar.org/PRI.
Member Benefits. The Member Benefits Program operates to assist members in both their professional and private lives via specialized group programs. The Member Benefits Committee seeks programs designed to offer products/services of a significant or unique benefit to lawyers or products/services available only to members of recognized groups. Overall questions or concerns should be directed to The Florida Bar, (850) 561-5622.
Certificates of Good Standing. There are times when members may need a certificate of good standing from The Florida Bar. The Florida Bar membership records offices can provide one within three or four business days without charge. Call (850) 561-5832.
Serving the Public
The concept of service at The Florida Bar extends beyond membership services. The Bar is active in many areas jointly affecting our membership, the legal profession as a whole, and the society in which we live. These programs are premised upon one or more of the purposes stated at the beginning of this presentation. Just as with our membership programs, maximum service is the cornerstone of their existence. Among them are:
Grievance Mediation and Fee Arbitration — The Florida Bar Grievance Mediation and Fee Arbitration Program is established as a means to empower clients and attorneys with the ability to resolve disputes without the involvement of formal disciplinary processes. Fee arbitration is a service provided by The Florida Bar to resolve legal fee disputes. The arbitration process may be initiated by either the client or the attorney, or by attorneys with an issue concerning the division of fees and may be used instead of a lawsuit to settle a fee dispute. The sole purpose of the arbitration hearing is to resolve disputes over a fee paid, charged, or claimed for legal services rendered by a member of The Florida Bar. Participation in the program is not mandatory. Consent by both parties is required in order to participate in the fee arbitration program.
Mediation is a private, informal way to resolve a dispute. A mediator is a neutral third person who tries to aid the disputing parties in reaching a mutually agreeable solution for their differences. The program has jurisdiction to mediate the issues in a disciplinary file referred to the program in which the public interest is satisfied by the resolution of the private rights of the parties to the mediation. The program does not have jurisdiction to resolve the issues in a disciplinary file if any issue involved in that file must remain for resolution within the disciplinary process. Consent is required by both parties in order to participate in the mediation program.
If arbitration or mediation is not an option, the dispute may require resolution through the courts. There is no fee for utilizing The Florida Bar’s mediation or fee arbitration programs.
Grievance Procedure — Inquiries into the conduct of an attorney may be initiated by a member of the public, the Bar, or any other person who has information regarding alleged misconduct. Inquiries are screened by ACAP and reviewed by Bar staff attorneys. If a possible violation warranting action is indicated, the inquiry is treated as a complaint.
Supreme Court rules require that complaints be in writing and signed under penalty of perjury. The Bar may proceed with a complaint in its own name without a sworn complaint. If the complaint cannot be proved or does not warrant discipline, Bar attorneys may dismiss the complaint. The complaint may be referred to a local grievance committee composed of lawyers and nonlawyers located in the judicial circuit where the attorney practices or where the events occurred.
The grievance committee is responsible for continuing the investigation of possible lawyer misconduct. If the committee finds probable cause to believe unprofessional conduct has occurred and further proceedings are warranted, a formal complaint against the accused attorney is filed with the Supreme Court of Florida. The court then appoints a judge as a referee to hear the case.
The referee hears testimony and receives evidence. Bar attorneys act as prosecutors before the referee, and the accused attorney is entitled to participate in the trial and may be represented by counsel.
The referee makes a report regarding whether the accused attorney has been proven guilty or not. If there is a finding of guilt, the referee will then make a recommendation to the Supreme Court as to the appropriate discipline. This report is filed with the Supreme Court of Florida. The report is reviewed by the Board of Governors to decide whether the Bar will appeal. The accused attorney also has the right to have the report reviewed. The court will ultimately issue an order regarding disciplinary sanctions that may include an admonishment, a public reprimand, suspension, or disbarment.
Diversion: The removal of a disciplinary matter from the disciplinary system and placement of the matter into a skills enhancement program in lieu of a disciplinary sanction. The resolution may involve attendance in or involvement with at least one of the following — Practice and Professionalism Enhancement Programs: Ethics School, Florida Lawyers Assistance, Law Office Management Assistance Service, trust accounting, advertising, anger management, or professionalism workshops.
Unlicensed Practice of Law — The purpose of investigating and prosecuting the unlicensed practice of law (UPL) is to protect the public. The Florida Bar, through the UPL Department, functions as an investigatory and prosecutorial agency with orders enjoining an individual from engaging in UPL issued by the Supreme Court of Florida.
Complaints alleging that an individual is practicing law without a license may be initiated by anyone with information in this regard. Complaints are investigated by one of the 31 local circuit committees. A statewide Standing Committee on UPL, half of which are nonlawyers, oversees the activities of the local circuit committees, sets policy, and issues proposed formal advisory opinions that ultimately must be approved by the Supreme Court of Florida.
In addition to investigating and prosecuting the unlicensed practice of law, the UPL department gives guidance to the public and members of the Bar regarding questions involving UPL.
Clients’ Security Fund —The Florida Supreme Court created the Florida Bar Clients’ Security Fund in 1967 as a public interest measure to help compensate clients who suffered financial losses due to misappropriation of funds or misconduct by their attorney. The fund is financed solely by $25 of each Florida Bar member’s annual fees. The Clients’ Security Fund has paid out over $28 million in relief to claimants since its inception.
Claims based on misappropriation are paid on a pro rata basis after the end of the Bar’s fiscal year from the funds set aside for Clients’ Security Fund payments with no payment exceeding $250,000. Claims based on attorneys’ fees where no useful services are provided are paid on an as approved basis throughout the year with no payment exceeding $5,000. Individuals seeking reimbursement from the Clients’ Security Fund should request a claim form from the Bar’s Clients’ Security Fund Department. Requests for fund payouts are thoroughly reviewed and investigated under established rules and procedures. Payments from the fund are at the discretion of the Board of Governors. More information about the Clients' Security Fund may be obtained by calling (850)561-5812 or via the Bar’s website. The claim form is available for downloading in PDF format from this site.
The Lawyer Referral Service — Members may join The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service for $125, after approval of appropriate application forms. Local bar associations administer 12 referral services, operating in most of Florida’s major cities. The Florida Bar handles all other referrals that come from areas without a local service. Citizens in need of a lawyer may call the Lawyer Referral Service number listed in the telephone book Yellow Pages. That service — either a local or The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service — will refer the caller to a lawyer experienced in handling the particular type of problem described.
Under The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service, lawyers charge clients $25 (local programs may vary) for the first half-hour office consultation. If the case referred is a fee-generating case, the rules of the service require the attorneys to remit 12 percent of the fees to the service. The fees are utilized to pay for operational expenses. The Lawyer Referral Service is also on the Internet. LRS Online can be accessed through The Florida Bar’s website. Members interested in participating in Bar-sponsored lawyer referral programs may join their local bar service, if one exists in their area. Otherwise, they may contact The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service in Tallahassee by calling toll-free (800) 342-8060, ext. 5807, or contact Nicole Murphy at email@example.com.
Low Cost Lawyer Referral Service Panels — The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service has established an Elderly Referral Panel, a Low Fee Panel, and a Disability Law Panel.
Those who qualify for referral receive a free, initial 30-minute office consultation. If the legal problem is one that can be handled easily, fees for further legal work may be lower than the lawyer’s normal rate. Participating attorneys are encouraged to use a payment plan or another method of assisting the client in paying legal fees. Fee-generating cases, such as personal injury cases, are not included in this reduced-fee program and are handled at the attorney’s regular rate.
For more information on these unique referral programs, call the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service office at (800) 342-8060, ext. 5807, or contact Nicole Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continuing Legal Education Requirement - www.floridabar.org/cler — Members of The Florida Bar are subject to a continuing legal education requirement (CLER), commonly referred to as mandatory CLE. There are exemptions for out-of-state members who do not practice in Florida or render advice on matters of Florida law, members on active military service, members of the federal judiciary, inactive members, and those claiming undue hardship. State court judges have a separate requirement under the Rules of Judicial Administration. Each member is assigned a reporting date and required to attend 30 hours of approved continuing legal education every three years. At least five of the 30 hours must be in the areas of legal ethics, professionalism, bias elimination, mental illness awareness, or substance abuse. In addition to live seminars, credit is permitted for approved audio, video, CDs, DVDs, and online programs.
Certification - www.floridabar.org/certification— The Florida Certification Plan is a resource for the public to identify lawyers who have met established standards in particular practice areas and who are committed to excellence and professionalism in the practice of law. Lawyers achieve board certification as a visible way to demonstrate their commitment to quality and professionalism in the delivery of legal services. In approving the plan, the Florida Supreme Court acknowledged its responsibility to ensure that the state’s legal system is responsive to public needs and that Florida lawyers have available to them a method for improving their proficiency.
Oversight of the program is the responsibility of the Board of Legal Specialization & Education. Certification committees review applicant qualifications and administer the examinations. Certification standards exist in 24 practice fields: civil trial; tax; marital & family; wills, trusts & estates; criminal–trial; criminal–appellate; real estate; workers’ compensation; appellate practice; health law; immigration & nationality law; admiralty & maritime; aviation; business litigation; city, county & local government; elder; international; labor & employment; antitrust & trade regulation; construction law; state and federal government, and administrative practice; intellectual property; adoption law; and education law.
Applicants for certification must have a minimum of five years of law practice; show substantial involvement in the specific area during three of the five years; earn continuing legal education hours beyond the minimum required of all members; pass an examination; and be satisfactorily evaluated by their peers and judges. Each applicant is evaluated as to competence, as well as character, ethics, and a reputation for professionalism. Only certified attorneys may use identifying terms such as “specialist,” “specializing in,” “expert,” “expertise,” and “Florida Bar Board Certified.”
More than 4,500 members of The Florida Bar have achieved certification. They are listed on The Florida Bar’s website at www.floridabar.org/certification. Additional information about this program may be obtained from the Bar’s Legal Specialization & Education Department by calling 850/561-5842.
Basic Skills Course Requirement - www.floridabar.org/cler— New lawyers are assisted in the transition from law school to law practice through courses offered by the Young Lawyers Division. Required programs include “Practicing with Professionalism” and specifically approved basic level courses. Development of the educational programs is the responsibility of the YLD and compliance is managed by the Board of Legal Specialization & Education.
Legislative Program — Legislation significant to the administration of justice or the fundamental rights of the public is of interest to all Florida lawyers. Any member may attempt to have legislation introduced through a senator or representative of his or her own choosing. Lawyers also may seek to have legislation sponsored through The Florida Bar’s legislative program, coordinated by the Legislation Committee and the Governmental Affairs staff.
The Supreme Court of Florida, through the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, has established strict guidelines for legislative advocacy by the Bar. These guidelines and codified policy for addressing legislative matters are available on the Bar’s website.
Sections and committees may draft proposed legislation and submit it to the Bar’s Legislation Committee for consideration and then to the Board of Governors for final action. Legislative concepts and recommended positions are considered in accordance with established policy. If such advocacy is recognized by the Board of Governors, it usually is the responsibility of the proponent group to secure the introduction and support passage of such legislation in its own name. However, The Florida Bar may separately sponsor legislation, giving a bill priority status in its overall program and assuming responsibility for its successful passage through the Florida Legislature.
Members are encouraged to take a personal interest in legislative matters. If you would like to see The Florida Bar take action on an issue or problem, contact a representative of the Bar’s Legislation Committee or Governmental Affairs staff. If you would like to actively participate in the Bar’s legislative program, you may apply to serve as a volunteer in the key contact program coordinated by Governmental Affairs staff.
During sessions of the Florida Legislature, members are kept apprised of pending bills affecting the legal profession via periodic notices published within The Florida Bar News and real-time reports on the Bar website. Other information on pending legislation of interest can be obtained by contacting the Governmental Affairs Office at the Bar headquarters, (850) 561-5661.
Law-related Education — Our state’s young people are our most precious resource. The Florida Bar’s Law Related Education Committee promotes “legal literacy” to encourage the teaching of our laws and legal system, and to produce an awareness of our rights and responsibilities as citizens in society.
Currently each of Florida’s 67 school districts report having some form of law education in their schools — either separate courses of study or integrated into the existing curriculum. At least 50 of these districts report attorney involvement. The Florida Bar Law Related Education Committee advocates the inclusion of quality LRE programs in grades K-12 and provides assistance to local bar associations and attorneys in implementing or expanding involvement in law education statewide. In addition, the committee works with the Florida Law Related Education Association to assist attorneys in the classroom.
Attorneys can become involved in law education in a variety of ways including classroom presentations on specific law-related topics; coordinating mock trial competitions; designing a unit of study; assisting with teacher training workshops; and Justice Teaching. The ultimate goal of Justice Teaching is to pair a legal professional (judge, lawyer, or other law-related professional) with every elementary, middle, and high school in Florida. Through involvement with law education programs, attorneys stimulate students to take part in, support, and improve our justice system. For more information, contact The Florida Bar Public Information Office at (850) 561-5834 or The Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., at (850) 386-8223.
Legal Services Plans — Group legal services, prepaid legal plans, legal expense insurance — all are terms for a variety of mechanisms designed to help reduce the costs of legal services for the average person. Most plans in Florida require prepayment of a fee, although others simply offer services at reduced fees.
Most legal service plans are regulated by the Florida Department of Financial Services under the “Legal Expense Insurance Act,” F.S. Ch. 642. Certain exempted group/prepaid legal service plans are regulated by The Florida Bar under Chapter 9 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Lists of the group/prepaid legal service plans approved by The Florida Bar are available from the Programs Division.
Attorneys interested in developing a Bar-approved group/prepaid legal service plan may obtain from the Bar a package of information containing regulations and an application.
The Florida Lawyers’ Legal Insurance Corporation (FLLIC) is a prepaid open panel plan underwritten by ARAG Insurance Company (licensed by the Florida Department of Insurance) and administered by ARAG Group® Inc. FLLIC was organized by The Florida Bar and is available to interested lawyers for participation and inquiring groups desiring such coverage.
For more information, call The Florida Bar Programs Division at (850)561-3188.
Public Information — The Public Information and Bar Services Department works with virtually all segments of The Florida Bar and all groups served by the Bar and the legal profession.
The department has primary responsibility for working with the public, local and specialty bar associations, Bar members, the courts, the news media, and related specific committees and groups. The department develops and distributes public education/information pamphlets, news releases, and other promotional materials; produces public service announcements for TV and radio; and seeks to evaluate public perception of the Bar’s operations and policies.
The Florida Bar’s website, www.floridabar.org, is a major public information vehicle and resource for information about the Bar, its operations, and the legal profession.
For more information, call the Public Information Office at (850) 561-5834.
News Media Relations — The Bar serves as a resource to the statewide news media on law-related issues. As part of its effort to inform reporters about the legal system in this state, The Florida Bar provides an online Reporter’s Handbook. Anyone can access the handbook at www.floridabar.org/reportershandbook. This handbook is a valuable resource for reporters who need a comprehensive reference to laws related to news gathering, open government and public records, defamation and privacy, cameras in the courtroom, access to juvenile records, and other areas of the law. In addition to the Reporter’s Handbook, the Media Resources provides news releases, disciplinary releases, a Bar resource guide, and the Bar’s legislative positions.
The Bar’s Media Law Conference is attended by representatives of the news media, lawyers, judges, and students. Topics addressed usually include access to courts, privacy concerns, and libel. The Bar also holds an Annual Media Awards competition. Awards are presented to media organizations that have effectively highlighted the system of law and justice as it affects the people of Florida. The Bar also coordinates the annual Reporters Workshop for practicing journalists reporting on the courts and the law.
For more information on the Bar’s media relations program, contact the Public Information Office at (850) 561-5834.
Judicial Polls — The legal profession’s Rules of Professional Conduct admonish lawyers to use their unique qualifications and to assume their special responsibility to aid in the selection of the most worthy judges for our court system. In fulfilling that duty, The Florida Bar administers a merit retention preference poll for state appellate court judges when incumbents periodically stand for retention votes on a statewide or district basis. The results of the survey are welcomed by our state news media and shared with all Florida voters.
A judicial feedback program for appellate and trial court judges has been adopted for statewide use. It provides judges confidential written feedback from the attorneys who appear before them. Local bar associations may also independently administer their own polls. Contact the Public Information Office at (850) 561-5670 for more details or visit www.floridabar.org/judicialfeedback.
Voluntary Bar Liaison — Florida Bar members are encouraged to become active in their local and voluntary bar associations. The voluntary bar liaison program of The Florida Bar maintains officer listings of more than 200 Florida voluntary bar associations.
Community service projects and professional development programs are offered through voluntary bar associations. The Florida Bar assists in these efforts by providing materials for distribution, advising voluntary bar officers on program planning and implementation, and by providing speakers on topics of interest to voluntary bars.
A complete list of voluntary bar associations is on the Bar’s website, www.floridabar.org/voluntarybars. Information regarding services provided by The Florida Bar to voluntary bar associations is available from the Public Information Office at (850) 561-5834.
The Florida Bar Foundation — Although The Florida Bar Foundation is an organization independent of The Florida Bar, much effort and cooperation have been given by Florida Bar leadership in the development of an effective Foundation since its creation in 1956. The ultimate goal is to foster law-related public interest programs throughout the state, such as providing greater legal aid to the poor, funding of law student fellowships, promoting public service, and improving the administration of justice.
The Foundation’s most prominent activity is its administration of Florida’s nationally acclaimed Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program, which has generated millions of dollars in public interest grants distributed in the name of Florida’s legal profession for legal aid to the poor, law student loans and scholarships, and improvements in the administration of justice. The IOTA program — the first of its kind in the United States — has been a model for similar programs now in operation across the country.
In 1991, the Foundation established an endowment to expand support for law-related charitable endeavors by lawyers on a statewide basis. The endowment is also seen as a permanent funding source for IOTA’s charitable purposes. Support for the Foundation’s charitable programs comes from members of The Florida Bar, through the Fellows’ promotion of the Foundation, major and planned gifts, charitable contributions from law firms and corporations, as well as from members of the general public with an interest in the Foundation’s mission of greater access to justice.
In addition to its charitable activities, The Florida Bar Foundation awards its medal of honor to an attorney and a nonlawyer in recognition of outstanding contributions toward improving the administration of justice in Florida. The medal of honor is the highest award bestowed upon an attorney or layperson by the Foundation. In addition, the Foundation has established the Steven M. Goldstein Award for Excellence, awarded semiannually, to recognize a project of significant impact undertaken by a Foundation legal assistance for the poor grantee.
The Florida Bar Foundation presents a unique opportunity for Bar members to broaden their involvement in law-related public service. Membership in the Foundation is available via any attorney’s participation in the IOTA program, or by becoming a contributing member or Fellow of The Florida Bar Foundation.
For further information regarding joining the Foundation and other giving opportunities, operation of the IOTA program, or Foundation grants, contact: The Florida Bar Foundation, 875 Concourse Parkway South, Suite 195, Maitland, FL, 32751, telephone (407)960-7000 or (800) 541-2195 (FL), www.flabarfndn.org
Opportunities to Serve
The purposes, programs, activities, and organization of The Florida Bar function only as well as the people who are involved in them. The essence of the Bar is its members. Any successes we have attained over the years have been due to your energy, enthusiasm, intellect, and dedication. We have been fortunate to have a Bar in which so many have given so much of their time.
Individual members have ample opportunity to contribute each year to the work of the Bar and the good of the profession. The activities of The Florida Bar are accomplished by its boards, standing and special committees, and sections. Participation by nonlawyers is essential. Sections have open, voluntary memberships. Committees are appointive. Of these two, committees present the widest range of opportunities for direct involvement in the influence of Bar management and programs.
The Florida Bar headquarters building and annex are located in Tallahassee on a five-acre site three blocks from Florida’s Capitol.
The 47,000 square-foot, three-story headquarters building is patterned after the architecture of Colonial Williamsburg. Its design is highlighted by Flemish bond brick work and six large columns at the front entrance. The nearby annex provides an additional 60,000 square feet of available space, in a four-story red brick facility complementing the Bar headquarters architecture.
The headquarters building includes offices for Bar administrative staff and support services; the annex houses the Legal Division, including one of the Bar’s five regional disciplinary offices, conference rooms, and commercial tenants. The Bar’s other branch offices are located in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Ft. Lauderdale.
Conference rooms in the Tampa branch office are available for various Bar meetings and other law-related functions. Attorneys and groups seeking to reserve space at this location should contact the Bar’s Meetings and Convention office in Tallahassee at (850) 561-5830.
Officers and Governing Body — The president conducts meetings and serves as official spokesperson for the Bar and the Board of Governors. All committees are appointed by the incoming president and approved by the Board of Governors.
The executive director is selected by the Board of Governors and devotes full time to directing the overall administration of The Florida Bar. The executive director also performs the task of treasurer of The Florida Bar and publisher of The Florida Bar Journal and News.
The governing body of The Florida Bar is its Board of Governors. The 52-member board consists of the president and president-elect, the president and president-elect of the Young Lawyers Division, representatives elected by members of the Bar from each of the state’s 20 judicial circuits, four out-of-state representatives elected by Florida Bar members who reside outside the state of Florida, and two public members appointed by the Supreme Court. All board members serve without pay, although the public members can be reimbursed for most of their travel expenses.
The Board of Governors has exclusive authority to formulate and adopt matters of policy concerning the activities of the Bar, subject only to limitations imposed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. The full Board of Governors meets bimonthly. Committees and sections or members of the Bar may submit topics to the president for inclusion on the agenda for board meetings.
Divisions, Sections, and Committees — All Bar members are invited to become involved in activities of one or more of The Florida Bar’s sections, divisions, or committees. These various volunteer groups, along with the governing board, do much of the work of The Florida Bar.
Through section and committee membership, lawyers can focus their involvement in an area of the law that interests them the most. Membership offers concentrated information and education as well as providing a forum for lawyers who share similar interests in a specific legal field. Over 31,000 of The Florida Bar’s more than 100,000 members belong to one or more of the Bar’s sections, while more than 24,000 belong to the Young Lawyers Division.
In addition to the Board of Governors committees, there are standing committees of the Bar on which more than 2,000 members serve.
Membership and participation in any Florida Bar division, section, or committee can be a stimulating and rewarding professional experience.
Special Committees — As a service to our membership and the public, special committees or commissions or task forces are appointed as necessary to study and make recommendations in response to issues of significance to the legal profession or system of laws in Florida.
Bar Staff Organization and Responsibilities — The Florida Bar headquarters office has the following divisions: Legal; Programs; Communications; Administration; General Counsel; and Ethics and Advertising, Unauthorized Practice of Law, and Special Projects. All of the Bar’s programs fall under one of these divisions to ensure continuity and effectiveness.
Each division director reports to the executive director, who in turn reports to the Board of Governors.
Departmental responsibilities are created to support programs and activities described elsewhere in this presentation. Each committee, section, and program is assigned at least one staff liaison. An experienced staff of professionals provides strong support for Bar activities.
Financial Organization — The Florida Bar’s operating budget was $42.2 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Membership fees accounted for only 60.4 percent, or $25.5 million, of that amount.
The additional revenues come from nonfees sources, generated by various Bar programs and member services such as: continuing education fees; sale of ad space in The Florida Bar Journal and News; rental of exhibit space at Bar meetings; and through Florida Supreme Court orders directing disciplined lawyers to pay prosecution costs.
A breakdown of the 2014-15 General Fund budget reflects all Bar programs’ costs, including support services and overhead.
In keeping with applicable law regarding certain uses of mandatory membership fees, the Bar’s legislative program is funded entirely from member fees. This amount $6.28 of $265 in individual membership fees for the current fiscal year — is calculated based on the estimated July 1, 2014, Bar membership (active and inactive members) of approximately 100,000 divided into the FY 2014-15 legislative budget of $628,591 as published in the April 30 issue of the Bar News. A portion of this pro rata amount is subject to possible rebate under pertinent Bar rules.
The Florida Bar was the first state bar association to implement a cost allocation system for its various programs and activities with all costs other than General Administration; Board and Officers; and Research, Planning and Evaluation being allocated to the end users based on the best available measure of usage. With a watchful eye toward expenditures and efficiency, Bar leadership and staff have implemented the system to monitor program expenses carefully. Prior to final adoption by the Board of Governors, the proposed Florida Bar operating budget is printed in The Florida Bar News. In addition, members are provided an opportunity to comment on the proposed budget at statewide hearings scheduled by the Bar’s Budget Committee.
An audit of all Florida Bar finances is conducted at the end of each fiscal year by an independent accounting firm, under the supervision of the Audit Committee, and a report is published in The Florida Bar News