The Florida Bar Board of Governors met on March 24, 2017. The major actions of the Board and reports received included:
West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer was announced as president-elect designate of The Florida Bar. Also decided in the voting, which ended March 21, were elections for The Florida Bar Board of Governors in the: 8thCircuit – Stephanie Marusak Marchman, Gainesville; 13th Circuit – Amy S. Farrior, Tampa; and 20th Circuit – Marcy L. Shaw, Fort Myers. Suskauer will be sworn in as president-elect at the Bar’s annual convention in Boca Raton on June 23, when current President-elect Michael J. Higer of Miami becomes president, and will begin her term as Bar president in June 2018. The Florida Bar News covered these election results.
As the Florida Legislature continues to meet in Tallahassee for the 2017 session, The Florida Bar is advocating positions including opposing term limits for judges at all levels, monitoring legislation of interest to the legal profession and posting weekly summaries for Bar members and additional information at www.floridabar.org/legislativeactivity. Business organizations have joined the Bar and other legal groups in opposing the proposed joint resolutions for term limits on appellate judges. The outlook on the state budget is that it will be lean, especially with predictions of a revenue shortfall for next year. The Florida Bar is working to ensure that the judicial system is adequately funded as directed in the Strategic Plan. The court’s 2017-18 state budget request is covered in an April 1 Bar News article. Additional legislative positions of the Criminal Law, Family Law, and Business Law sections were approved; advocacy by sections is wholly supported by the separate resources of the voluntary sections and must be conducted solely in the name of each section.
A pilot project to test a real-time, browser-based solution for asset management and trust accounting to assist Bar members in complying with trust accounting rules, was approved. The pilot for the trust accounting solution, AddVantage, is set to begin around August 1. The trust accounting solution is specifically designed to automatically bring lawyers who enter information correctly in compliance with Bar rules 5-1.1 and 5-1.2, and would be free to Florida Bar members who choose to use it. Through this proposed program, pooling trust account funds would also allow a higher interest rate and boost The Florida Bar Foundation’s IOTA income. The April 15 Florida Bar News (available online the afternoon of April 10) will provide more information on the AddVantage trust accounting solution pilot project and the benefits of the software.
Two new Florida Bar Member Benefits were approved to be added to the more than 60 free or discounted benefits now available to members. Bar members will soon receive discounts on products and services purchased from Office Depot and Office Max and a discount for 360 BizVue, which optimizes search engine results. All member benefit programs, including free legal research through Fastcase, free CLEs through the Practice Resource Institute (PRI) and discounts on practice resources, legal publications and forms, travel, banking, shipping and insurance, are listed at www.floridabar.org/memberbenefits.
A report was given by representatives of a special committee on a proposed new Rule of Judicial Administration regarding granting continuances of court cases for parental leave. The rule would require that such continuances should be granted unless it would cause substantial prejudice to a party. The board will vote on the recommendation at its May 26 meeting. A notice of proposed board action requesting comments be submitted no later than May 15, 2017, is posted online and will appear in the April 15 Florida Bar News (available online the afternoon of April 10) along with complete coverage of the special committee representatives’ comments to the Board of Governors.
The Florida Bar’s Florida Free Legal Answers online virtual legal pro bono project now has more than 370 Florida Bar members enrolled, and additional eligible volunteers are encouraged to participate. The website, launching to the public May 1, will provide an additional way for low-income Floridians to access a volunteer attorney to answer civil legal questions online. Details on the project are available at https://florida.freelegalanswers.org.
The proposed 2017-18 Florida Bar budget, which will be published for member comments in the April 15 Florida Bar News (available online the afternoon of April 10), the keeps annual membership fees at $265 for active members and $175 for inactive members for the 16th consecutive year. The budget projects revenues of $41.7 million and expenses of $42.9 million resulting in a $1.1 million deficit which will be adequately covered by reserves, if needed. After Bar member comments, the Board will approve the final proposed budget for submission to the Florida Supreme Court for approval.
A change requested by the Florida Supreme Court to proposed Rule 4-1.19 on collaborative law was approved. The change would require that clients be provided with information about and give informed consent to fees to be charged by the involved lawyers and mental health and financial experts.
Beginning April 3, ALL Bar members MUST log in to the Bar’s website www.FloridaBar.org and follow the instructions to create a new unique username and to activate a new account for the upgraded MyFloridaBar Members Portal.
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