The Florida Bar

March 2021 Meeting Summary

Report from BOG

The Florida Bar Board of Governors met via Zoom video conference on March 5, 2021. The major actions of the Board and reports received included:

President Dori Foster-Morales announced that the board intends to meet in person in May, the first time it has done so in more than year. The meeting will feature outdoor activities and will be streamed live via videoconference. President Foster-Morales also announced her March 30 event “Florida Bar Town Hall: COVID-19 Court Operations and Recovery,” a follow-up to the circuit Florida Bar member town halls held in August and September, which will be recorded for additional viewing. The format for the June Annual Convention has not been determined.

The board voted 44-0 to advance the Bar’s General Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 that projects $41.44 million in revenues and $44.09 million in expenditures, with a $2.65 million operating loss. Even with a projected deficit, the projected ending fund balance of $27.5 million at June 30, 2022, will be sufficient to support basic operations for a few additional years and will not require the consideration of a fee increase. The budget reflects a host of spending reductions, including the elimination of selected long-term vacant positions and transitioning several paper operations to digital operations. The operating budget, along with the five other fund budgets that were tentatively approved, will be published for member feedback before the board considers the final proposed budgets at the May meeting. A final proposed budget will be submitted to the Supreme Court no later than June 1.

In other business, the board voted 45-0 to approve a proposed amendment to Rule 5-1.1 (Trust Accounts) that would require banks to pay a set rate for lawyers’ IOTA trust accounts. The proposal would set the minimum interest rate on IOTA accounts at 25 basis points [the current rate averages 11 basis points] and allow it to rise when the interest rates increase. It is estimated that every extra basis point paid on IOTA accounts yields an extra $670,000 for the Foundation and its grant programs.

The Board Technology Committee reported that the “Florida Bar Recommended Best Practices Guide for Remote Court Proceedings” is complete and it is now posted on the Bar’s COVID-19 Information and Resources page and LegalFuel.com and will be updated as needed. Read more in the Bar News.

In another matter, the board voted 41-4 to affirm a recommendation from the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics that a lawyer’s website displaying “500bankruptcy.com” does not comply with Rule 4-7.21(c) as it is a trade name. The rules require a firm to use a trade name consistently on signed court filings, communications, ads, letterheads, business cards, office signs, and fee contracts. Read more about the discussion on this issue in the Bar News.

The board received, on first reading only, a proposed rule drafted by the Special Committee on Judicial Referrals on Discipline Matters titled Rule 3.718 Disposition of Inquiries or Complaints Referred to the Bar by Members of the Judiciary. The proposed rule sets out a series of procedures for reviewing discipline matters referred to the Bar by judges. The proposal will go through the normal rule amendment process, including a fiscal, strategic and procedural review, before the board is expected to take final action in May.

The board also approved three new additions to the Member Benefits Program:

  • Ally Bank: This digital service provides competitive pricing for new and refinanced mortgage loans.
  • AXEL Go: A private file-sharing platform using blockchain that helps attorneys mitigate breaches and prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information elating to the representation of a client.
  • LawMatics: This product assists with the automation of the client intake and marketing process, online custom forms, email marketing, SMS/text messaging automation, e-signatures and document automation, as well as marketing analytics and custom reporting.

Important Links & Reminders

Town Hall Meeting