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Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services

Mission

The mission of the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services (Special Committee) is to study whether and how the rules governing the practice of law in Florida may be revised to improve the delivery of legal services to Florida’s consumers and to assure Florida lawyers play a proper and prominent role in the provision of these services.

The Special Committee will address lawyer advertising, referral fees, fee splitting, entity regulation, regulation of online service providers, and regulation of nonlawyer providers of limited legal services. Additional topics consistent with the subject of the study may also be addressed. The Special Committee will issue quarterly reports to the Supreme Court of Florida and The Florida Bar Board of Governors.

The work of the Special Committee will be completed by July 1, 2021.

Q. Why was the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services formed?
A. Across the country, the legal marketplace continues to change rapidly, and the Florida Supreme Court is monitoring the national trends in the delivery of legal services. In late 2019, the court directed the formation of the special committee and asked it to conduct a study to ensure that current regulations meet Floridians’ access needs while protecting against lawyer misconduct and maintaining the strength of Florida’s legal profession. The study includes looking at innovations to address access to legal services while protecting the public and the core values of the legal profession.

Q. What did the Supreme Court specifically ask the special committee to study?
A. The court asked the committee to look at lawyer advertising, referral fees, fee splitting, online service providers, and nonlawyer providers of limited legal services. Additional relevant topics may also be addressed.

Q. What is the time frame for the committee’s work?
A. The special committee was created by the Florida Supreme Court effective January 1, 2020. Meeting agendas and minutes are posted on this Florida Bar webpage along with background materials. The final report is due to the court and The Florida Bar Board of Governors by July 1, 2021.

Q. What are some of the concepts the special committee has studied and formed tentative recommendations on?
A. Thus far, the committee is considering several tentative recommendations as further study continues on these and related issues:

  • Following a long-standing District of Columbia model for non-lawyer ownership that allows minority ownership only by nonlawyers actively assisting in providing legal services. Passive ownership, such as from outside investors, is not being recommended.
  • Maintaining rules on solicitation and advertising, but allowing sharing fees with nonlawyers, such as online legal service providers, who are not otherwise nonlawyer partners of the firm.
  • Simplifying — but not relaxing — advertising rules, including ending mandatory Bar review of lawyer ads that provide more than basic information. Optional reviews would still provide protection from grievance prosecution if the Bar found an ad compliant with rules.
  • Considering a way to have pilot programs or limited tests of innovative regulations to determine if consumers’ access to the legal system improves and whether the pilots have a negative impact on quality.

In addition, the special committee has agreed to recommend that the Bar work to increase members’ knowledge of existing Rule 4-1.2(c), which allows lawyers to limit the scope of their representation and provide unbundled legal services. This rule ensures that clients can get needed legal services and keep costs down by limiting the scope of the services the lawyer provides.

Q. Is there data to support such conceptual changes?
A. The special committee is balancing a lack of data about proposed changes with the considerable amount of information about the changes already underway in the legal marketplace. The background materials collected and reviewed by the committee and are posted on its webpage.

Q. How would nonlawyer ownership benefit law firms when we can already hire nonlawyer employees?
A. It’s important to remember lawyers would maintain a controlling interest in their firms but this change helps attract nonlawyer talent who provide useful ancillary services to clients. That could include a key technical support staffer or a doctor employee of a personal injury firm who evaluates claims.

Q. What is the status of the proposed Chapter 23 voluntary registration program for online legal service providers?
A. The court has deferred consideration of proposed Chapter 23 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar until after it reaches a decision on a pending UPL case and receives the special committee’s report.

Q. Who are the members of the special committee?
A. Chaired by Vero Beach attorney John Stewart, committee members include: Miami attorney Cesar Alvarez, Palm Harbor attorney Joseph Corsmeier, Miami attorney Josias Dewey, West Palm Beach attorney Santo DiGangi, Lake Worth attorney Adriana Gonzalez, Tallahassee attorney John F. Harkness Jr., legal technology expert Shawnna M. Hoffman-Childress, Tampa attorney Lanse Scriven, and Sarah Sullivan of Three Rivers Legal Services Inc., in Jacksonville. There are no members of The Florida Bar Board of Governors on the special committee.

Q. How can Florida Bar members learn more about the special committee’s ongoing work and how can we provide input?
A. The Florida Bar News regularly covers the meetings of the special committee. Please provide input or feedback via email.

Q. What are the next steps after the committee submits its final report?
A. The report will be studied by the court and the Bar’s Board of Governors. The court may act on any of the recommendations, but there is no timetable. Any action to be taken by the Board of Governors, which would require subsequent court approval, will be noticed in The Florida Bar News and on the Bar’s website, and an all-member email will be sent prior to any board meeting with relevant discussions on the agenda. Emails summarizing all board actions will also be sent to members.

Committee explores ‘legal labs’ to test new ideas for the delivery of legal services

The Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services got its first look at an initial draft of a “legal lab” concept, where new ideas and pilot programs for delivery of legal services could be tested using provisional rules and data collected on the results. Meeting via Zoom on April 20, Chair John Stewart…

Q&A on the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services

Why was the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services formed? Across the country, the legal marketplace continues to change rapidly, and the Florida Supreme Court is monitoring the national trends in the delivery of legal services. In late 2019, the court directed the formation of the special committee and asked it to…

Delivery committee prepares Q&A for Bar members, discusses legal lab

The Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services, a committee created in 2019 at the direction of the Florida Supreme Court, is now moving to draft its final report and is working to let Bar members know more about its activities. The special committee consists of 10 members of diverse backgrounds from across…

Board hears reports from special legal services panel and Access Commission

The Board of Governors was briefed on the work of the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services and the Supreme Court’s Commission on Access to Civil Justice at its February 23 interim meeting. The special committee, chaired by former Bar President John Stewart, was created a year ago by the Supreme Court…

Fee sharing, ad rules under committee’s scrutiny

A potential rule change that could allow non-lawyer law firm employees to become partners and ease fee sharing rules with nonlawyers is getting a closer look from a special committee. The Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services, at its February 16 meeting, also voted to approve in concept a simplification of Bar…

Committee continues discussion on sharing fees, nonlawyer ownership

Moving to what its members know will be sensitive issues on fee sharing and law firm ownership, the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services is awaiting results from questions it has placed on the Bar’s annual membership survey. The committee, at its January 14 meeting, discussed a wide range of issues, including…

Lawyer ad, fee sharing, firm ownership rules examined

Bar advertising rules could be shortened and simplified — including ending the requirement that many ads be Bar reviewed before being aired or published — and rules that prohibit sharing fees with nonlawyers and partial nonlawyer ownership of law firms should also be looked at. The Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services…

Arizona ends fee sharing ban

The Arizona Supreme Court has amended that state’s lawyer rules to allow attorneys to share fees with nonlawyers and permit “legal paraprofessionals” to give legal advice in four areas. Arizona Vice Chief Justice Ann Timmer reviewed those changes on November 9 with The Florida Bar’s Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services. The…

Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services learns about English legal regulation

A legal firm in England sees a creative way to meet end of life needs. It not only offers wills and probate services, but also funerals and cremations for its customers. “It sees itself as in the industry of death,” said Crispin Passmore. Passmore was involved with the 2007 law that rewrote legal regulations in…

Special Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services identifies six areas of study

The Special Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services has set up six subcommittees as it begins laying out priorities for its study of lawyer regulation and legal access issues. Immediate Past President John Stewart, chair of the committee, presented the proposed list at the committee’s August 25 meeting and members agreed with his suggestions….

Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services looks at testing regulatory reforms

Setting up a process to experiment with rules that allow new ways for lawyers to practice and improve access to justice is a way to get hard data on how the lawyers can meet modern challenges. Three states — Utah, Arizona, and California — are considering or implementing that approach, which is also called the…

Bar panel studies Utah’s creative legal access approaches

As part of immediate Past Bar President and Chair John Stewart’s desire to have the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services hear how other states are updating their regulation of legal practice, Utah Supreme Court Justice Deno Himonas has presented ways that state is seeking to stimulate innovation to meet consumers’ legal…

Special committee studying the practice expects any recommendations to be modest

While the Special Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services’ mission is to find innovative ways to provide more and affordable legal services for Floridians, Chair John Stewart says, “the priority is that they are met by Florida lawyers.” “We are going to be thoughtful, forward thinking, and provocative,” Stewart told those attending the Bar’s…

Special Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services meets to discuss priorities

The Special Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, charged by the Supreme Court with examining how law is practiced and its regulatory framework, met July 14 to discuss priorities and how best to conduct the review. Topics ranged from lawyer advertising to legal education. But most of the interest revolved around how law is…

Committee sets about its work to improve the delivery of legal services

Finding innovative ways and regulations that provide more and affordable legal services for Floridians and more work for Florida lawyers, while protecting the core values of the profession, will be the priorities of the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services. Chaired by outgoing Bar President John Stewart, the committee held its first…

Pandemic underscores special committee’s regulatory review

Its initial meetings have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Bar President John Stewart thinks the crisis has made the work of the Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services all the more timely. Acting at the Supreme Court’s request, the Bar began setting up the special committee late last year. It…

AZ order amending ad rules

AZ press release on rule changes

AZ order nonlawyer ownership

Utah Court Approves Pilot Program

Chicago Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation Report

Sociologist Rebecca Sandefur on Enhancing Access to Justice

Letter from Court requesting study

State Bar of California Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services

Utah Workgroup on Regulatory Reform Narrowing the Access-to-Justice Gap by Reimagining Regulation

Arizona Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services

Florida Supreme Court orders in response to Covid-19 pandemic

2018 Ca. Legal Market Landscape Report

2016 ABA Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States

2017 Legal Services Corporation The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Need of Low-Income Americans

2019 Clio Legal Trends Report

2017 Oregon State Bar Report on the Future of Legal Services in Oregon

2019 World Justice Project Measuring the Justice Gap

Legal Services Corporation website

2020 Voices in the Civil Justice System

Larry Alexander Presentation

2020 10 01 Passmore Consulting submission to Florida working group

Stanford Paper on Reforming 4-5.4

New York Regulatory Innovation Final 12.2.20

Sandefur article Legal Advice from Nonlawyers

2014 Report Accessing Justice in the U.S.

Modern Complexity Demands New Ways of Working: The Future of the Lawyer-Nonlawyer Partnership

Sandbox Public Report through March 2021

Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers 2015 Report of the Regulation of Lawyer Advertising Committee

Results of the Delivery of Legal Services Survey – Florida Registered Paralegals

New Mexico Report to Supreme Court-Ad Hoc Licensed Legal Technicians Workgroup

ABA Resolution 101 Lawyer Advertising

Assessing America’s Access to Civil Justice Crisis – Sandefur

Utah Supreme Court Amended Order 15

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