In 1993, the Executive Council of the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar (which represented over 6,000 trial lawyers in Florida) formed a professionalism committee to prepare practical guidelines on professional conduct for trial lawyers. After reviewing the numerous aspirational and model guidelines from Florida and around the country, the professionalism committee determined that, with minor modifications, the guidelines that had been prepared by the Hillsborough County Bar Association were the best model for the entire state. Therefore, in 1994, at the request of the professionalism committee, the Executive Council of the Trial Lawyers Section unanimously approved the Guidelines for Professional Conduct. The Trial Lawyers Section then sought the endorsement of the Guidelines from the Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges; at its meeting held in September 1995, the Conference approved the Guidelines. In so doing, the Conference asserted that the Guidelines do not have the force of law and that trial judges still have the right and obligation to consider on a case-by-case basis issues raised by the Guidelines. Since their endorsement by the Conference, the Guidelines have been followed by lawyers throughout the state and have been endorsed by administrative order in many circuits.
Beginning in 1999, the Trial Lawyers Section undertook to rewrite the Guidelines to clarify certain provisions, to make certain provisions consistent with current law, and to eliminate certain provisions considered unnecessary because they were redundant of either a rule of civil procedure or a rule of professional conduct, which lawyers are expected to follow as minimum standards of professionalism. The 2001 and 2008 editions of the Guidelines were the result of that effort, and the Section has updated and revised those editions. These revised Guidelines are promulgated by the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar. It is hoped that dissemination of these revised Guidelines will give direction to both lawyers and judges concerning how lawyers should conduct themselves in all phases of trial practice. The adoption of the Guidelines by the Trial Lawyers Section also is intended to express support for trial judges who require that lawyers conduct themselves professionally.
For most lawyers, these Guidelines simply will reflect their current practice. However, it is hoped that the use of these Guidelines will continue to increase the level of professionalism in trial practice in Florida.
This 2017 edition supersedes the previous editions of the Guidelines.
(back to top)
The effective administration of justice requires the interaction of many professionals and disciplines, but none is more critical than the role of the lawyer. In fulfilling that role, a lawyer performs many tasks, few of which are easy, most of which are exacting. In the final analysis, a lawyer’s duty is always to the client. In striving to fulfill that duty, a lawyer always must be conscious of his or her broader duty to the judicial system that serves both attorney and client. To the judiciary, a lawyer owes candor, diligence, and utmost respect. To the administration of justice, a lawyer unquestionably owes the fundamental duties of personal dignity and professional integrity. Coupled with those duties is a lawyer’s duty of courtesy and cooperation with fellow professionals for the efficient administration of our system of justice and the respect of the public it serves. In furtherance of these fundamental concepts, the following Guidelines for Professional Conduct are adopted. It is recognized that these Guidelines must be applied in keeping with the advocacy of the interests of one’s client and the long tradition of professionalism among and between members of the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar. These Guidelines are subject to the Florida and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, and the specific requirements of any standing or administrative order, local court rule, or order entered in a specific case. Although we do not expect every lawyer to agree with every guideline, these standards reflect our best effort to encourage decency and courtesy in our professional lives without intruding unreasonably on each lawyer’s choice of style or tactics.
(back to top)