Bar fee statements have been emailed
Members encouraged to pay fees via the new MyFloridaBar portal
Florida Bar members should have already received an electronic version of their annual fee statement and are encouraged to pay their Bar fees and provide the required certifications and pro bono information using the new MyFloridaBar Members Portal that may be accessed via the Bar’s website.
The Bar emailed the statements to all its members at the beginning of May. The email includes a link to the 2017-18 fee statement and looks just like the old paper statement members used to receive in the mail. The body of the email contains the traditional letter from the Bar president that was previously mailed along with the fee statements and includes information about the new MyFloridaBar portal, including links to the instructions regarding login and password setup. More than 60,000 Florida lawyers have already created their new MyFloridaBar portal accounts. If you need help setting up your MyFloridaBar account, call 866-854-5050.
A link is also provided that takes members directly to the fee payment area of the Bar’s website.
The email from the Bar arrived with “Official Notice: Your Florida Bar Fee Statement” in the subject line.
Members do have the option of printing out the fee statement, completing it, and mailing it back to the Bar along with their payment to cover fees and section memberships. The Bar will mail a printed fee statement to all members who have not paid by May 31.
Members will receive one of two fee statements: one for active members or another for those who have elected inactive status.
Annual fees for active members are $265. Inactive members pay $175.
This marks the 16th consecutive year without a fee increase.
Under the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, fees postmarked after August 15 will be assessed a $50 late fee. Members whose payment is not received by September 30 will be deemed delinquent.
Members’ fee statements include options for making voluntary contributions to a number of organizations, including:
• Children’s Legal Services/The Florida Bar Foundation: 100 percent of this contribution goes to help protect the rights of low-income children who suffer most during difficult economic times.
• Florida Supreme Court Historical Society focuses on preserving the state’s judicial history and educating the public about the role of the courts.
• Attorneys Charitable Trust (ACT) formed as a disaster relief fund offering Florida attorneys an avenue to donate aid following disasters that cause the disruption of legal processes and court systems or result in reduced citizen access to the legal system and the pursuit of justice. ACT will help fellow attorneys as well as victims and their families in the aftermath of a disaster.
• Florida Lawyers Association for the Maintenance of Excellence (FLAME) supports activities that promote a positive public attitude toward the legal profession and justice system, such as efforts to secure funding for state courts. Since 100 percent of FLAME, Inc., contributions may be allocated to lobbying they are not tax deductible.
Pursuant to Rule 5-1.2, each year Bar members are required to certify whether they have complied with the trust accounting requirements of Rules 5-1.1 and 5-1.2 during the previous fiscal year.
For many years, the certificate only asked whether lawyers had complied with the trust accounting rules, and the only possible answers were “yes” or “no.” The trust account compliance certificate now specifically includes an option for lawyers who are not required to maintain trust accounts. This group would include lawyers who never receive funds (e.g., cash, checks, money orders, wire transfers) or property (such as jewelry, cars, stock certificates, or other tangible property) from clients or third parties in the course of legal representation. These lawyers may indicate under the second option that they are not required to maintain a trust account.
Lawyers who do receive third-party or client funds or property in the course of their representation of a client should mark either option (1) or (3) of the current certificate, depending on whether they have complied with all the requirements of Rules 5-1.1 and 5-1.2. Lawyers who mark option (3) must provide The Florida Bar with information explaining the way in which they have failed to comply with the trust account and/or the property safekeeping rules.
Pro Bono Reports
This year’s fee form again includes a pro bono section for Bar members to report their contributions toward the Supreme Court’s aspirational pro bono goals. The court asks lawyers to provide 20 hours of pro bono service or donate $350 to a legal aid program each year. While providing pro bono is optional, filling out the pro bono reporting form on the statement is required by Bar rules.
A series of questions promulgated by the court appear on the fee statement, depending on what option the attorney selected. The court wants to know:
• How many hours of pro bono service the lawyer donated, and if the work was done through an organized legal aid program or on the lawyer’s own.
• If the lawyer’s firm provided pro bono collectively under a plan operated by a circuit pro bono committee, with an indication of how much was allocated to the member.
• If the lawyer has contributed to a legal aid organization in lieu of performing the pro bono work.
• Whether the attorney was unable to provide pro bono service or met the provision for deferral.
• How the lawyer fulfilled his or her service if done in some manner not specifically envisioned by the plan.
Bar members may also join sections, including the new Animal Law Section, and the Out of State Division using the fee form. The attorney’s current membership in a section is indicated on the form. To join other sections, members may darken the circles next to the section they want to join and include the appropriate amount with their membership fees.
There is an opportunity to reduce section dues by joining combinations of the Government Lawyer Section with the Administrative Law Section and/or the Criminal Law Section or the Administrative Law Section and the Criminal Law Section. The Criminal Law Section is also available on the Authorized House Counsel and Law Faculty Affiliate member fee statements.
Members may opt for inactive membership by marking the inactive status proclamation located near the bottom of the front page of the active membership statement — or online via the Bar’s website — and paying their fees by a postmark date of August 15.
Those who chose inactive status on last year’s statement will receive an inactive membership fee statement this year. It has many of the same features as the active membership fee statement, but does not allow the inactive member to join sections. Inactive members, however, can become affiliate members of the Out of State Division and/or the Administrative Law; Alternative Dispute Resolution; Animal Law; City, County and Local Government; Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law; Criminal Law; Environmental and Land Use Law; Family Law; Solo and Small Firm; Government Lawyer; Health Law; Public Interest Law; Real Property, Probate and Trust Law; Tax; and Trial Lawyers sections.
By choosing inactive status, Bar members will reduce their annual fees by $90 and receive automatic exemptions from continuing legal education requirements. They will, however, give up a number of privileges, including the privilege to practice or advise on Florida law or hold a job that requires an active Florida law license; to participate in the Bar’s certification program; to vote in Bar elections or be counted for purposes of apportionment of the Board of Governors; and to receive the Journal. During public searches on the website, inactive members are identified as “Not Eligible to Practice Law.”
Inactive members continue to receive the News. Inactive members who wish to become active again must call the Bar’s Membership Records Department at 850-561-5832 or 800-342-8060, ext. 5832.