Message from Florida Bar President Stewart & President-Elect Foster Morales
May 8, 2020
Colleagues and Members of The Florida Bar:
We hope this email finds each of you, your friends, families and colleagues all well and safe. It has been a busy week with the Florida Supreme Court’s May 4 Administrative Order, the Governor’s updated Executive Order to re-open Florida, and decisions regarding Bar functions in June, including Annual Convention. Information and assistance for members continues to be updated on The Florida Bar website COVID-19 page.
Please know that during these unprecedented times and as we all face new and unforeseen personal and professional challenges, The Florida Bar strives to be here for you: our members. Below you will find some highlights about our activities to assist you as we navigate this pandemic as well as the May Board of Governors meeting preview.
2020 CONVENTION TO BE HELD VIRTUALLY
A considerable amount of time was spent looking at every conceivable option for Annual Convention including postponing or canceling the convention altogether. In the end, it was determined that the Annual Convention will be held exclusively as a virtual or remote event. There will be no in-person events for the 2020 Florida Bar Annual Convention.
Meetings, CLE seminars, and certain events will be held virtually or remotely the week of June 15-19, rather than holding the in-person annual convention in Orlando, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A detailed schedule with confirmed functions to be held via electronic methods will be distributed in the coming weeks. We expect there will be many exciting features to this event.
FLORIDA LAWYERS HELPLINE
Our new member benefit, Florida Lawyers Helpline, was launched May 1, 2020. With a phone call, the Helpline will connect Florida Bar members with professional counselors who can provide strategies for dealing with challenges and professional pressures. The Helpline can refer Bar members for up to three free sessions a year with a licensed mental-health professional via phone or virtual video service to ensure members’ physical well-being with appropriate social distancing. Calls to the Helpline are unlimited; the in-person sessions will be offered as an option when offices are cleared to reopen.
The Helpline’s professional counselors can also assist with other situations Bar members might face during or after the pandemic – such as providing a case manager to help find long-term care facilities for family members or financial consulting to help members with debt management, budgeting and retirement planning.
COURT CONTINUITY WORKGROUP WEBPAGE
The Supreme Court’s 17-member workgroup to recommend ways for a staged return to full court operations as the course of the coronavirus pandemic changes in the months ahead has created a website to keep the profession and public informed about its work. The website provides the administrative order, meeting agendas and a summary of the functions. Minutes will be added as approved. Section and substantive law committee chairs are providing concise, pertinent input for the workgroup via the subcommittees.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING AGENDA
The following items are up for action or discussion at the May 15, 2020, Board of Governors virtual meeting as of today (changes may occur before the meeting). Please contact your board representative(s) if you have any input or questions. For more information on any of the following items, read this Florida Bar News article about the meeting and view the agenda here.
- A recommendation from the Board’s Rules Committee on a proposal by the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice to create an “Advanced Florida Registered Paralegal” (or AFRP) in Bar rules will be considered. The Access Commission requested conceptual approval by the Board before it forwards its proposed amendments to the Supreme Court for consideration. The proposal is intended to expand access by allowing designated AFRPs to provide limited civil legal services to clients while still under a lawyers’ supervision. This Bar News article provides additional information on the proposal and the committee’s recommendation.
- A proposed change to the standards for board certification in Rule 6-3.5 is up for final action. The amendment would clarify that the practice of law may be further defined in individual certification areas. The purpose is to assist board-certified members who transition to mediation or arbitration in later years of practice in maintaining their certifications.
- A final report and recommendations from Special Committee on Non-Voting Board Appointments will be presented. Tasked with reviewing implementation of a standing board policy to ensure diverse representation and inclusion in the Board’s deliberations, the special committee met numerous times, held a town hall meeting during the Bar’s Winter Meeting, and conducted a survey. Recommendations focus on assisting future presidents in applying the policy to best address ever-changing issues and challenges in the profession. Florida Bar News coverage of the special committee’s work begins here.
The Florida Bar will continue to explore ways to help members as the COVID-19 crisis persists, with particular focus on practical ways to support you in your daily lives and practices. We are all in this together; and, together we can recover and restore our legal system and law practices to normal operations as soon as possible. We are working hard but we know we can do better. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns or if you have any other ideas on the way the Bar can assist you.
John M. Stewart, President
Dori Foster-Morales, President-Elect