The Florida Bar Board of Governors met on December 9, 2016. The major actions of the Board and reports received included:
Legislative positions for 2016-18 were approved including opposing term limits for any Florida judges; supporting adequate funding of the state court system; maintaining control by the Supreme Court over the practice of law and the discipline of lawyers; maintaining the Supreme Court’s authority over procedural court rules; and supporting allowing state agencies to pay Bar membership fees and CLE costs for attorneys they employ. The 2017 legislative session begins on March 7. For information on legislation of interest to the legal profession, key session dates, Bar and section positions, links to email House members and Senators and other legislative resources, visit www.floridabar.org/legislativeactivity.
A new rule that would allow the lawyer spouses of military personnel stationed in Florida to practice in the state if they meet certain conditions was approved. Those conditions include being a member in good standing in another jurisdiction with a clear record, passing a Florida Board of Bar Examiners character and fitness review, paying Bar annual membership fees, agreeing to follow Bar rules, being subject to Florida Supreme Court jurisdiction, and having a Bar member as a mentor if the spouse has been practicing for less than three years. The rule, drafted by the Military Affairs Committee, will be noticed for comments in the January 1 Florida Bar News and then will be sent with the comments to the Supreme Court for its comment period, review and approval.
The Technology Committee reported that it continues to work on an incubator project to assist new lawyers and lawyers transitioning from public service to private practice in creating law firms to offer affordable services. The overall goal of the project is to teach lawyers how to run profitable law firms serving low- and moderate-income clients. The committee is also studying cyber security to help law firms protect their electronic records and communications.
The Professional Ethics Committee was directed to draft an opinion guiding Bar members who may in some cases split fees with out-of-state attorneys who work in firms that have nonlawyer owners. The opinion will address the issue with the caveat that nonlawyer ownership of law firms is not allowed in Florida. The issue will be published in the January 1 Florida Bar News and discussed during the committee’s January 27 meeting. The proposed advisory opinion will be published for member feedback.
An update on a project to develop trust accounting software for Florida Bar members was given. Recognizing that technical compliance with trust accounting rules is difficult for small firms and solo practitioners, the software will address required trust accounting records and procedures now required by Chapter 5. Lawyers would provide information when they use their trust accounts and all necessary trust accounting paperwork would be done by the program. The software is expected to be very affordable. Florida Bar members currently have approximately 33,000 IOTA trust accounts.
Approval was given to negotiate a license agreement with the ABA for its Free Legal Answers platform, launched in September, to be implemented in Florida. Geared to expand legal services for low-income communities, the web-based program gives income-eligible users the ability to pose civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys. The virtual legal advice clinics at ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org are now available in 21 states including Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Important LinksGet involved in Bar work by submitting a Committee Preference Form by January 13, 2017.
The Florida Bar’s Winter Meeting, will be held Jan. 25-28, 2017, at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee.
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