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June 1, 2014

The Coming Corporate Carnage
When I was born (1943) lawyers were, for the most part, highly respected and for good reason. To succeed in the community, they had to provide professional services or bear the brunt of public disapproval and penury.

Then in 1976 a new commercial force began slowly closing the doors on small firms and solo practitioners who, though professional and competent in every degree, lacked sufficient finances to enter the advertising arena.

At first this seemed harmless enough, and few were affected adversely in those early years of lawyer advertising. However, Virginia State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748 (1976), and its progeny is now rapidly daunting the little guy’s hope to compete for clients going forward with only his skill and honesty for sale.

We’ve not yet seen the full extent of the coming corporate carnage, yet already here in Florida the competition has eliminated all but a very few established firms from the lawyer limelight. Good for the Board of Governors for at least beginning to see the deleterious effect of allowing some firms to “tout past results.”

But, terminating the tout will not stem the tide as the rich crowd out the little guy in what was once a “profession” where honesty and skill were all the “advertising” a young lawyer needed to make his mark.

Soon, like all other businesses in corporate America, the giants will take Mount Olympus with their billboards and TV prattle, and the men and women who hoped to make a difference by fighting for what’s right and good in our courts will find it increasingly difficult to eke out a bare living.

In time, perhaps, the future will see the emergence of a Big Three in lawyer services, giant professional corporations driving the solo and small firm practitioners to either sign on as hirelings, or abandon the practice of law altogether.

No. It’s not here yet.

But, if the board does not take immediate action, the days of succeeding solely on one’s jurisprudential merits will soon be gone forever.

Frederick Graves

Speech = Money
This is in reply to Mr. John DiChiara’s letter regarding free speech and money. His point is that money is a medium that helps free speech to be expressed. This would indicate to me that only those with money can express their speech. The vast majority of us are excluded from the political process.

In my opinion, there should not be any money contribution in campaigns or at most there should be a limit of $1,000 or $2,000 for every individual/entity. This would force the politicians to get support from many people, not only from the privileged few. It would then be really be a democracy.

Everybody says this is impossible, but I simply don’t buy it.

Luis Basagoitia

Parasailing Bill
Just last summer, 17-year-old Alexis Fairchild and her friend, Sidney Good, were critically injured in Panama City when strong winds snapped their parasail free from the tow boat. Despite the fact that between 1982 and 2012, 73 people have died and another 1,600 have been injured in parasailing accidents, the industry operates virtually unregulated. Something has got to change, and we are almost there.

We are encouraged that Florida’s Senate and House have passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, creating regulations that will require operators to have $1 million in insurance, carry real-time weather equipment on board their vessels, and prevent them from operating when weather conditions deteriorate.

We are hopeful that Gov. Scott will sign this most important legislation, which will make parasailing operators more responsible, while reducing the incidence of serious injuries and fatalities. Let’s send a message that Florida is a state that cares about the safety of its residents and visitors.

Debi Chalik

[Revised: 10-16-2014]