The Florida Supreme Court has amended two rules to encourage inactive and retired attorneys to provide pro bono service.
What has changed?
As of February 1, the rules will be more in line stylistically with current rules by changing the word “attorney” to “lawyer.” More substantive changes allow a wider range of lawyers to be considered emeritus and, therefore, able to provide pro bono service.
Who is eligible to be an emeritus lawyer?
Members of The Florida Bar who are inactive or retired from the active practice of law in Florida, inactive or retired members of the bar of any other state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, any person who has served as a judge in Florida or any other state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, any person who is or was a full-time law professor employed by a law school accredited by the ABA, or authorized house counsel certified by the Florida Supreme Court.
Are there any requirements beyond eligibility?
Yes. All emeritus lawyers must not be currently engaged in the practice of law in Florida or elsewhere, except for authorized house counsel certified by the Florida Supreme Court; must have been engaged in the active practice of law for a minimum of 10 out of the 15 years immediately preceding the application to participate in the emeritus program (except for authorized house counsel certified by the Florida Supreme Court); must have been a member in good standing of The Florida Bar or the entity governing the practice of law of any other state, territory, or the District of Columbia, and have not been disciplined for professional misconduct by the bar or courts of any jurisdiction within the past 15 years; must have not failed the Florida bar examination three or more times (except for an inactive or retired member of The Florida Bar); must agree to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct and submit to the jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court for disciplinary purposes; must neither ask for nor receive compensation of any kind for the legal services to be rendered under this rule, and be certified under the rule.
Do these rule changes affect my current emeritus status?
No. Lawyers who already qualify as emeritus will continue to be designated as such. The amended rule’s use of the word “lawyer” rather than “attorney” is not a substantive change that will affect any lawyer — or attorney — currently certified to serve in an emeritus status. This is simply one of many similar and routine changes made when any rule is modified, for consistency and to conform to Florida Supreme Court style.
Do all emeritus lawyers have to be supervised?
Yes. Emeritus lawyers must continue to be supervised by a lawyer at an approved legal aid organization. However, to reduce the burden on both the emeritus lawyer and the supervising lawyer, the rule change no longer requires the supervising lawyer to sign each pleading. Still, the supervising lawyer’s name and Bar number must be included on each pleading or paper filed with the court. The emeritus lawyer must also be identified as a “certified emeritus lawyer” on each pleading or paper filed with the court.