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May 15, 2017
Budget, gender bias/diversity, parental leave on board’s agenda

Reviewing objections to the Bar’s 2017-18 budget, getting a report from the Gender Bias/Diversity Committee, and voting on a proposed procedural rule on granting continuances for parental leave will occupy the Bar Board of Governors at its May 26 meeting in Key West.

It will be the board’s last meeting for the 2016-17 Bar year.

The board reviewed the new budget at its March meeting and approved it for publication to members (it was in an official notice in the April 15 Bar News).

For the 16th straight year, the budget keeps annual membership fees at $265 for active members and $175 for inactive members. It anticipates Bar revenues of $41.7 million and expenditures of $42.9 million.

After the final review by the board, it will be submitted to the Supreme Court.

The board got its first look at the parental leave continuance issue at its March meeting when a special committee, made up of members of the Rules of Judicial Administration and the Diversity and Inclusion committees, submitted its final report. The committee recommended creating proposed Rule of Judicial Administration 2.570 to grant up to three-month continuances for parental leave for lead attorneys, unless that would substantially prejudice the opposing party.

Board members extensively questioned committee Chair Robert Eschenfelder and committee member Craig Leen, who presented the rule, which passed the special committee by a 5-4 vote. (See story in the April 15 Bar News.) The board is scheduled to debate the proposed rule and vote at the May meeting. If it passes the board, it will be submitted to the Supreme Court.

The Gender Bias/Diversity Committee, chaired by President-elect Michael Higer, was appointed by President Bill Schifino last year after a survey by the Young Lawyers Division showed many women lawyers are still experiencing bias in law offices and courtrooms. The committee held a symposium in late February, and Higer reported in March the panel was working hard on its final report and recommendations.

The Member Benefits Committee will recommend technological additions to the Bar’s Member Benefits program. Dell and Lenovo are seeking to join the program and will offer discounts on computers and other hardware for Bar members. PracticePanther will offer case management software that works on computers, iPad and Android phones and tablets, and with web-based applications.

The board may get a report on Avvo from the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics. A lawyer has asked the committee whether the Avvo program, which matches consumers and attorneys for fixed-fee legal services, is a lawyer referral service program under Bar rules.

That request comes a month after the Bar, Avvo, and other parties appeared before the Supreme Court in an oral argument on the Bar’s proposed revision to lawyer referral service rules. Those rules would define programs like Avvo’s that match consumers and attorneys as “qualifying providers” who are covered by Bar rules. (See story in the May 1 Bar News.) Avvo argued it is not a referral service and not covered by Bar rules. The court has not acted on the Bar’s proposed amendments.

The board will receive a report on the contentious 2017 Legislation session, along with a possible extension or any special sessions (the session was scheduled to adjourn just after this News went to press, but budget and other differences between the House and Senate threatened to disrupt that deadline or lead to a special session).

The board will also see a report on the Constitution Revision Commission, which held its organizational meeting in March, and, by the time the board meets, will have had nearly a dozen public hearings around the state. The Special Committee on the 2017 Constitution Revision is both monitoring the CRC’s activities and offering the Bar’s expert advice if needed. President Schifino is a member of the 34-member commission.

The Program Evaluation Committee is expected to issue the reports and recommendations stemming from its review of the Leadership Academy, Senior Lawyers Committee, and Citizens Advisory Committee.

The board will also make several appointments at the meeting, including:

• Two lawyers for two-year terms in the ABA House of Delegates.

• Six lawyers for two-year terms on the Florida Legal Services, Inc., Board of Directors.

• Three lawyers and two nonlawyers for three-year terms on the Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., Board of Directors.

• Two lawyers for five-year terms and two nonlawyers for three-year terms on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

[Revised: 11-17-2017]