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March 1, 2016
Board to take up referral services and internship rules

A wide-ranging report on private lawyer referral services and companies that link lawyers and people seeking legal services, a potential report on the bar exam and certified legal interns, and a preliminary review of the 2016-17 Bar budget are on a busy Board of Governors agenda for its March 11 meeting.

The board will also see a report on applicants to be the board’s next public member and receive a recommendation for a new certification area, among other matters.

A joint project of the Technology Committee and the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics (BRC), the lawyer referral service report will cover several issues. It began with a Supreme Court order last September rejecting Bar-proposed amendments to lawyer referral service rules. Those rules addressed disclosures lawyers would have to make to clients they got from referral services that also did referrals for non-legal services stemming from the same incident, such as medical care for an accident victim.

Instead, the court ordered the Bar to prepare rules prohibiting lawyers from belonging to private, for-profit referral services unless they are owned or managed by Bar members and any other rules it found necessary to address the court’s concerns.

In addition, BRC Chair Carl Schwait said there will be a recommendation addressing private companies that seek to link lawyers with consumers seeking representation. Those companies claim they provide “matching” services and are not traditional referral services.

Finally, the Program Evaluation Committee, will make recommendations for changing the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service, with the goal of making it more competitive with those private companies and not only help consumers find lawyers but help lawyers find clients.

Schwait said the board needs to review the recommendations at its March meeting so the Bar can publicize its action and meet a May 24 deadline for filing its response with the court. He did hold out the possibility, though, that the Bar may seek an extension from the court.

More potentially far-ranging recommendations may come to the board from a special committee that was formed in January and reported at the board’s January 29 meeting. That committee is made up of law professors, Florida Board of Bar Examiners members, Supreme Court justices, and board members and came about following a summit of law school deans held at the Bar’s Winter Meeting by the Young Lawyers Division.

That special committee is looking at deans’ concerns that FBBE background checks for law students applying under Bar rules to be certified legal interns are taking too long and discouraging students from seeking the internships, and that too many subjects are covered on the Bar exam that requires more classroom time in law school and leaves less time for internships and practical experience training.

Reporting at the board’s January meeting, YLD President Gordon Glover said the plan is for the special committee to report at the board’s March or May meeting.

Aside from those issues, Budget Committee Chair-elect Paul SanGiovanni will present the board’s 2016-17 budget. At the board’s January meeting, SanGiovanni reminded board members that the budget would be presented. He did not provide any details, but warned next year’s budget will be “challenging.”

The budget will not call for an increase in annual Bar membership fees, which will remain at $265 for active members and $175 for inactive members. This is the 15th year in a row that membership fees have remained at that level.

Other matters coming to the board include:

• The Program Evaluation Committee will present a proposed new certification area in International Litigation and Arbitration.

• The board will vote on allowing the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section to change its name to the Solo and Small Firm Section.

• A screening committee will report on applicants to be the board’s next public member, replacing St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, who has served the maximum two terms allowed in Bar rules. The board will select three finalists and forward those names to the Supreme Court, for the final appointment.

• The board will vote on a rule change which will authorize state and federally chartered credit unions to hold attorney trust accounts.

• The board will appoint one lawyer to the Supreme Court’s Bar Admissions Committee and one lawyer to the Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee.

[Revised: 07-21-2018]