The Florida Bar

July 2019 Meeting Summary

Report from BOG

The Florida Bar Board of Governors met July 19, 2019, in Key Largo. The major actions of the board and reports received included:

An update on the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice was presented by Florida Bar past president Greg Coleman, who chairs the commission’s executive committee. He said the commission has been focusing on family law, where statistics show that as many as 85% of litigants appear in court without a lawyer, and on veterans’ access issues. The commission’s Council of Business Partners and commissioners are now speaking to business groups to point out that when people are unable to resolve their civil legal issues, they, their communities and workplaces, and the state are all negatively impacted. Coleman praised Florida Bar members who, through various legal aid societies, are making a substantial effort to help the estimated four million Floridians who live below the federal poverty level and lack access to the courts.

TrustBooks, web-based software designed for law firms to easily manage trust accounts while staying compliant with Bar rules, was approved as the newest member benefit. The benefit, which should be available later this summer, includes a free demonstration and an individual on-boarding telephone session, as well as webinars to keep members updated. TrustBooks will offer Florida Bar members discounts on its “DIY” and “TEAM” subscription plans. Learn more about the more than 70 discounted products and services available to Florida Bar members for practice and personal needs.

The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics reported to the board that they declined a request for an ethics advisory opinion regarding the approximately 150 lawyers in Florida who serve as Guardians ad Litem. The decision was based on the determination that the request did not meet required parameters for the Board of Governors to issue an advisory opinion. This Florida Bar News article provides information on the request.

Discussion on a proposal for registering online legal services providers was deferred to the September 20 meeting. Approved by the board’s Special Committee on Technologies Affecting the Practice of Law, the voluntary program would strengthen protection of the public and expand economic opportunity for Bar members while promoting cooperative relationships with unregulated providers. The proposal was noticed to Bar members on April 15 and appeared on first reading at the board’s May meeting. If approved by the board, it would still require approval by the Florida Supreme Court. Members should contact their Board of Governors representative(s) with any questions or input. Read more in this May 10 Florida Bar News article.

The Board of Governors reversed the Standing Committee on Advertising and found that a law firm name that does not include the owner’s official bar name is not misleading, under Bar rules. The narrow ruling was confined to the facts of this specific situation: the filer’s original and current official bar name are unique, the lawyer continues to use her original official bar surname as part of her official bar name hyphenated with her married name, the firm has built a reputation using the original official bar surname, and the firm has existed in a continuous line of succession with its name unchanged. Members can pose questions about advertising, conflict dilemmas, confidentiality questions, communication concerns, trust accounting problems, and other ethics difficulties unique to the profession by calling the Florida Bar Ethics Hotline at 800- 235-8619. Hotline attorneys are authorized to respond to inquiries from members in good standing asking about their own future conduct.

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