Free, “automatic” trust accounting software for Bar members and an “incubator” aimed at lawyers setting up their offices are being worked on for the coming Bar year.
The Board of Governors received two reports on those subjects at its July 29 meeting.
Board Parliamentarian Andy Sasso said he had been selected by Bar President Bill Schifino to lead a committee looking at trust accounting.
A common problem for lawyers is finding they are in technical noncompliance with the rules, which brings them into the Bar grievance process, he said.
“The idea is to, hopefully, automate attorneys’ trust accounts,” Sasso said. “This would be voluntary.”
The Bar is working with a company “to try to totally automate attorneys’ trust accounting so that they couldn’t make a deposit without providing certain information and they couldn’t make a withdrawal without providing certain information. Then the program would automatically generate all of the required trust accounting forms,” he said.
As of June, there were around 33,000 attorney trust accounts in Florida holding around $5 billion, he said.
“Smaller firms, they get in trouble with their trust accounts, and even with a technical problem, it results in a suspension that can cause real havoc with an attorney’s practice,” Sasso said. “The goal is to help attorneys with trust accounting. Secondly, it would improve the public perception of lawyers; there would be fewer lawyers suspended. And third, it might even save the Bar some funds as there would be less discipline and less cost to the discipline system.”
He said the committee hopes to know by the end of the year if an automated program is a workable solution. Other members of the committee are board members Renée Thompson, Brian Burgoon, and Zack Zuroweste.
The law firm incubator is being studied by the board’s Technology Committee.
“It’s something that we’re actually working on to help lawyers become better practicing lawyers. This is a new idea,;this is an exciting idea,” said committee Chair John Stewart. “The purpose of the incubator is to develop a curriculum to go along with a suite of technology products that the Bar would offer to participants to teach them how to operate the business of law. This is generally for young lawyers coming out in practice. It doesn’t have to be for young lawyers; it can be for lawyers transitioning from public to private practice, and people who are in solo and small firms. The intent is to help them connect with clients.”
Those helped by the incubator, he said, would have an obligation to help segments of the population that traditionally have trouble finding or affording legal services.
Stewart said the committee will fully address the issue when it meets at the Bar’s Fall Meeting in October.