The Florida Bar

Nonlawyer Volunteer Requirements and Information

Volunteer OpportunitiesNonlawyer members of the public can participate in Florida’s justice and legal system through volunteer service. Select a board, commission, committee or group below and click the + button to find individual requirements, application information and more.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors maintains a list of special appointments. Visit the Special Appointment Announcements page for upcoming opportunities.

Please note: This is offered for informational purposes only.

Court Certified Mediation

Mediators are volunteers (though some counties, such as Dade, pay their mediators) who have completed required training to facilitate communication between parties in a dispute and explore the possibilities of settlement in an attempt to avoid a potentially costly and stressful court trial.

Mediators are certified by the Supreme Court of Florida. Rules and standards can be found in the Alternative Dispute Resolution section of the Florida Courts Website.

There are mediators in County Courts (small claims and civil), Family Courts, Circuit Courts and Dependency Courts, and mediations may take place in a variety of settings, including courthouses, schools and private offices.

Type of Work Performed

Mediators in County Court: Each county has its own County Court Mediation program. Mediators may work on:

  • Landlord/tenant cases relating to the nonpayment of rent, evictions and other disputes between landlords and their tenants;
  • Small claims cases for damages up to and including $8,000 (effective Jan. 1, 2020), excluding court costs, interest, and attorney fees; and
  • County civil cases involving claims ranging from $8,001 through $15,000 in damages, excluding court costs, interest and attorney fees. These cases involve contract and indebtedness, and negligence and other county civil claims.

Mediators in Family Court: Mediators assist with issues of time sharing, custody, developing parenting plans, property distribution, etc.

Mediators in Dependency Court: Mediators assist in cases involving child neglect or abuse.

Mediators in Circuit Court: Circuit court cases involve amounts in controversy over $15,000. Although most of the mediators in these civil cases are attorneys, dentists, doctors, teachers and other professionals often mediate cases related to their area of expertise.

Time Commitment

After the initial training and observation time needed to become certified, participation is based on the amount of time the mediator wants to spend.

Meeting and Travel Information

The amount of travel varies widely based on the location of the mediation, but most work is done locally. Florida Statutes section 44.102 Court-ordered mediation states “Whenever possible, qualified individuals who have volunteered their time to serve as mediators shall be appointed. If a mediation program is funded pursuant to s. 44.108, volunteer mediators shall be entitled to reimbursement pursuant to s. 112.061 for all actual expenses necessitated by service as a mediator.”

Application Information

To become a certified mediator, an individual must take a 20-hour certification course, with additional requirements of training and/or observation hours. Continuing education is required. Once certified, mediation participation is largely left up to the participant. Download “How to Become a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator” guide for specifics.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors

The Florida Bar Board of Governors (BOG) is a 52-member governing and policymaking body for the 107,000 members of The Florida Bar. The board includes two nonlawyer members appointed by the Florida Supreme Court with staggered two-year terms (each may serve up to two terms/four consecutive years).

Type of Work Performed

Nonlawyer members are full members of the Board of Governors. They are expected to review materials, join discussions and vote in the same manner as others.

Time Commitment

Time requirements may vary, but approximately 200 to 300 hours a year would not be unusual, which includes not only time spent at meetings, but also extensive review of material prior to meetings. Full-day meetings are typically from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are approximately eight meetings per year.

Meeting and Travel Information

Membership on The Florida Board of Governors requires travel throughout the state and one out-of-state meeting. The Florida Bar reimburses nonlawyer members for reasonable travel expenses and meals associated with attendance at meetings. (See Operational Policies of the Florida Bar for details.)

Application Information

Nonlawyer applicants must fill out the Board of Governors Public Member Application. Following review of the applications, a BOG screening committee selects candidates and conducts and videotapes in-person interviews. Following face-to-face interviews, the BOG screening committee recommends three applicants to the Supreme Court for each appointment. The Florida Supreme Court then selects and appoints the nonlawyer member to the BOG.

The Florida Bar Citizens Advisory Committee

The Florida Bar Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is a group of no fewer than 12 citizens with varied interests and backgrounds who provide two-way communication between the state’s major citizen constituencies and The Florida Bar. The committee serves as a feedback mechanism and sounding board on Bar plans and programs, and advises the Bar regarding public understanding and support of significant legal/justice issues. Three attorney members are appointed to the committee annually to serve as resources.

Type of Work Performed

Members read materials and attend presentations given by various employees, consultants, committees and members of the Bar’s Board of Governors (BOG). CAC members are encouraged to participate in discussions and provide feedback and advice. Members actively participate in Florida Bar projects that disseminate information on government and the legal and judicial systems to Florida communities.

Time Commitment

Members are appointed for three-year terms. The committee meets at least two times a year with the BOG and also meets at a major Florida Bar meeting each year. Teleconferences are held as needed. Face-to-face meetings typically require at least one overnight stay and approximately 12 to 14 hours of work time. Additional time may be required if a member elects to have additional training to give presentations in the community.

Meeting and Travel Information

Meetings are typically held in Tallahassee, Orlando, Boca Raton or Hollywood. The Florida Bar reimburses nonlawyer members for reasonable travel expenses and meals associated with attendance at meetings. (See Operational Policies of the Florida Bar for details.)

Application Information:

Committee members are nominated by board members, past board members, Bar section chairs and current and former CAC members. The BOG Communications Committee screens nominees and makes recommendations to the Bar’s president-elect for appointment. Call Francine Walker, committee staff liaison, at 850-561-5762 for more information.

The Florida Bar Committee on Advertising

The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Advertising is capped at 20 members with three nonlawyer members. All persons on the committee are appointed for three-year terms by The Florida Bar president.

The committee is responsible for advising members of the Bar on permissible advertising and solicitation practices. This responsibility is accomplished through the issuance of written advisory opinions, the evaluation of advertisements that are required to be filed with the committee, and the development of a Handbook on Advertising. Additionally, the committee is empowered to recommend to the Board of Governors such amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct as the committee believes are appropriate.

Type of Work Performed

Nonlawyers are full members of the Standing Committee on Advertising, charged with the responsibility of evaluating all lawyer advertisements, including direct mail and email communications to prospective clients, for compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

Time Commitment

The committee meets in person at the three regular Bar meetings each year, with an additional three to six meetings “as needed” by teleconference.

Meeting and Travel Information

The three face-to-face meetings per year are in varying locations in Florida in conjunction with the regular Bar meetings. During the face-to-face meetings, travel for two days each time is typically needed. The Florida Bar reimburses nonlawyer members for reasonable travel expenses and meals associated with attendance at meetings. (See Operational Policies of the Florida Bar for details.)

Application Information

Nonlawyer members of the committee can be nominated by members of The Florida Bar. Applicant profiles are reviewed by the Bar president, who then appoints the nonlawyer members to the committee to serve a three-year term. Nonlawyers who have not previously served on a bar committee may email the committee staff liaison for more information.

The Florida Bar Committees on the Unlicensed Practice of Law

The Florida Bar’s Committees on the Unlicensed Practice of Law (UPL) investigate and bring action against individuals practicing law without a license. The Florida Bar has one statewide Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law and 31 local circuit UPL committees. Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 10-3.1 requires the standing committee to have 25 members, of which 11 must be nonlawyers. Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 10-4.1 requires each circuit committee to consist of not fewer than three members, of which one-third must be nonlawyers.

Recommendations to file litigation must be approved by the committee. The committee, in turn, operates under the authority of the Board of Governors. When the Board of Governors approves, based on a recommendation from the committee, the Bar may initiate litigation seeking a civil injunction. The committee also issues formal advisory opinions concerning activities that may constitute the unlicensed practice of law. The proposed opinions are filed with the Supreme Court of Florida.

Type of Work Performed

Lawyer and nonlawyer members do the same work. Bar staff prepares meeting materials including rules and case law governing the unlicensed practice of law to help members understand the cases and be prepared for the meetings.

Time Commitment

There are three meetings per year with approximately three days travel. Each meeting lasts approximately two hours. Committee members have significant reading prior to each meeting.

Meeting and Travel Information

Nonlawyer members must attend an annual meeting in Orlando or Boca Raton in alternating years, a fall meeting in Tampa and a winter meeting in Orlando. The Florida Bar reimburses nonlawyer members for reasonable travel expenses and meals associated with attendance at meetings. (See Operational Policies of the Florida Bar for details.)

Application Information

Nonattorney members are recommended for consideration by attorney(s) in their circuit. Members chosen and approved by the Bar are recommended to the Supreme Court, which makes the appointments. A resume is required for submission and review. On the standing committee, the UPL bar counsel usually conducts a phone interview so the applicant has a better understanding of the committee’s work. Contact the staff liaison for each of the local circuit committees or the standing committee for application information.

The Florida Bar Foundation Board

The Florida Bar Foundation’s mission is to provide Florida citizens greater access to justice. Through strategic grants, the foundation funds legal aid organizations and projects to improve the administration of justice and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the legal-aid-delivery system. The foundation administers the Florida Supreme Court-approved Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) program.

There are 18 members on the foundation board, three of which are nonlawyer members. All board members serve three-year terms. Board members are selected in equal portions by the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar Board of Governors and the Foundation’s board of directors.

Type of Work Performed

Foundation board members award all grants, oversee the foundation’s fundraising program, help set investment policies and foundation policies, and adopt the annual operating budget. Nonlawyer members have the same responsibilities and opportunities as lawyer members. Any member may be assigned to a committee and all members fully participate and vote.

Time Commitment

The foundation board meets by phone quarterly and in person twice a year. Additional meetings are scheduled as needed. A nonlawyer member may spend about 50 hours a year in preparation for and traveling to meetings.

Meeting and Travel Information

Two in-person meetings are held in Orlando and Boca Raton. To help achieve the broadest participation, The Florida Bar Foundation “Expense Reimbursement Policy” provides modest reimbursement of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred during board service for attorney members and full reimbursement of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred during board service for public members and members of the judiciary.

Application Information

The Florida Bar Foundation board of directors embraces the concept of diversity and strongly encourages minorities and persons with disabilities to apply for service on the board. An application can be completed online or a hard copy can be requested from The Florida Bar Foundation, 875 Concourse Parkway South, Suite 195, Maitland, FL 32751; 800-541-2195.

The Florida Bar Judicial Grievance Committees

Citizens, judges or other lawyers may file complaints about lawyers to The Florida Bar. Florida Bar attorneys in charge of discipline then submit these cases to local grievance committees that investigates the complaint to determine whether there has been lawyer misconduct.

There are grievance committees in each of Florida’s 20 Judicial Circuits; some of the more populated circuits have as many as 11 grievance committees. All members of local grievance committees are volunteers and have three-year terms. One-third of the members must be nonlawyers.

Type of Work Performed

Grievance committee members review complaints and materials in advance of each meeting. A member is then assigned to investigate the case and gather additional evidentiary material, which may include interviewing witnesses, as well as the respondent and complainant. These interviews may be completed by phone or in person. Nonlawyer members may be assigned a case to investigate, most often with one of the lawyer members.

The investigating member then presents the case for discussion at the monthly grievance committee meeting. All members of the committee, including nonlawyer members, discuss the case as it unfolds and then a vote is taken when the investigative materials and interviews have been completed. This vote is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a lawyer has violated the professional conduct rules imposed by the Supreme Court of Florida and whether discipline of the lawyer appears warranted. Bar counsel assigned to the grievance committee guides the members in the application of the rules.

Time Commitment

Grievance committee meetings are typically monthly and last from one to two hours, with additional time spent prior to each meeting reviewing materials. Investigating complaints requires an additional time commitment.

Meeting and Travel Information

Meetings are typically local and do not require travel. Interviews that occur during investigations may be by phone or in person and may require local travel. The Florida Bar reimburses nonlawyer members for reasonable travel expenses and meals associated with attendance at meetings.

Application Information

There is no need for special knowledge by the public member, but a person must be objective and thorough. Nonlawyer applicants must be of legal age and reside in the grievance committee circuit. Interested nonlawyer citizens must contact the nearest Florida Bar branch office for more information. Offices are located in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

Florida Board of Bar Examiners

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners (FBBE) is an administrative board of the Florida Supreme Court. It consists of 12 attorney members and three nonlawyer public members. The FBBE handles matters concerning admission to The Florida Bar and ensures that Bar applicants have met requirements relating to character and fitness, education, and technical competence. The FBBE makes recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court about an applicant’s admissibility to The Florida Bar.

Type of Work Performed

All members of the FBBE review Florida Bar applications, review investigative reports, and participate in investigative hearings concerning the applicant’s admission to The Florida Bar.

Time Commitment

A nonlawyer member’s term is for three years. As much as 350 hours per year may be required in reviewing and reading material. The FBBE meets about 10 times a year, approximately once a month.

Meeting and Travel Information

The FBBE office is in Tallahassee, but meetings may be held throughout Florida. Travel and lodging expenses are reimbursed by the FBBE.

Application Information

Applications for the FBBE are available on the Florida Bar Website. Selected applicants may be asked for a face-to-face interview. Following the interviews, the FBBE sends three nominations to the Florida Supreme Court for consideration. The Florida Supreme Court is the appointing authority.

Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. Board

Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc. (FLA) is a nonprofit corporation with a mission to help judges, attorneys and law students troubled by alcohol and drug abuse problems, compulsive gambling, and other types of addictive disorders, as well as stress, depression, and similar conditions that may impair their ability to practice law in a competent and professional manner. FLA has a staff of seven and uses a statewide network of volunteer attorneys to provide peer-to-peer assistance, often in the form of support groups and meetings, to promote recovery.

Type of Work Performed

A nonlawyer may function as a full board member in every regard, including, but not limited to, voting privileges and executing all manner of board responsibilities. The term for all FLA Board members is three years.

Time Commitment

Members may spend about two to four hours per month on board activities. There are approximately four meetings a year, roughly quarterly. Most of these meetings are completed in conference calls, with one face-to-face meeting per year.

Meeting and Travel Information

Most meetings are held through conference calls. The annual board meeting is usually held in Naples. Nonlawyer members are reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses and meals associated with attendance at meetings.

Application Information

The Application for Special Appointment may be found on The Florida Bar website. The appointing authority is the Florida Lawyers Assistance Program Board of Directors.

Guardian ad Litem

The State of Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is a network of professional staff and community advocates working in partnership to provide a strong, independent voice in court for dependent children. There are 20 judicial circuits within the State of Florida and the GAL program is located within each of those circuits. Volunteer Guardian ad Litems are court-appointed special advocates whose job is to serve as the voice of the child — a voice that is separate from the child’s family members, foster care providers, attorneys or social workers. The GAL program has more than 10,000 volunteers but there are still children who need an advocate.

Type of Work Performed

Nonlawyer guardians complete comprehensive training to learn how to assess each child’s specific situation. They are responsible for gathering facts surrounding a child’s case, reviewing reports, visiting a child’s home, school or placement, and providing the Court with an unbiased recommendation on what is required to serve the best interests of the child. Their recommendations are critical to a judge’s analysis and final ruling on the fate of a child.

Time Commitment

On average, volunteers give between eight and 10 hours to their case per month. It could be more or less, depending on the dynamics of the case and how much time the volunteer has to spend on additional case action items. Beyond 12 hours of in-service training per year required of all certified GALs, there is no minimum time requirement to volunteer.

Meeting and Travel Information

Meetings and travel are within the circuit in which the case is pending. Guardian ad Litem reimburses volunteers for certain extraordinary travel expenses

Application Information

GAL volunteers must be at least 21 years old, pass background checks, provide three letters of reference, participate in an interview and complete 30 hours of training. There is online training, classroom training and a field observation, all of which equals the 30 hours total. Each circuit varies on how the training is structured. Once certified, all volunteers must complete a minimum of 12 hours of in-service training per year.

To volunteer, complete the short Volunteer Child Advocate Inquiry form on the GAL website. Someone from the program will call you to answer your questions and tell you about becoming a voice for a child.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

The Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs) are nonpartisan nine-member commissions of lawyers and nonlawyers that locate, recruit, investigate and evaluate applicants for judicial office. These commissions interview, check references and ultimately submit to the governor a list of three to six nominees of the most highly qualified judicial applicants. The governor makes a final selection from the list to fill judicial vacancies.

The Supreme Court, appellate districts and circuit courts have their own Judicial Nominating Commissions. The Supreme Court has one, the appellate districts have five and the circuit courts have 20. Each JNC has nine members, all appointed by the governor. All members must be residents of the territorial jurisdiction served by the JNC for which they are appointed. JNC members serve four-year terms, except when an appointment is made to fill a vacant, unexpired term.

The Governor appoints the nine members of each JNC:

  • Four commissioners must be members of The Florida Bar. The Board of Governors of The Florida Bar submits to the governor three nominees for each position.
  • Five members are appointed directly by the governor. At least two of the five must be members of The Florida Bar. The governor may appoint nonlawyers and members of the public to the remaining three spots.

Type of Work Performed

Nonlawyer and lawyer members perform the same work: interviewing, vetting, checking references and questioning all applicants.

Time Commitment

JNCs meet when there is a judicial vacancy. The amount of time required to fill the vacancy can vary widely, anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of work, depending on the number of candidates that must be vetted. There is no minimum time requirement.

Meeting and Travel Information

Because the JNCs are located within each jurisdiction, meetings are typically local and travel required is minimal.

Application Information

The governor appoints all members and applications must be obtained from and returned to the governor’s office. An interview and background check follows acceptance of an applicant.

Judicial Qualifications Commission

The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) is an independent state agency established by the Florida Constitution in 1966 and charged with investigating allegations of judicial misconduct and/or disability against Florida State judges.

The commission is composed of six judges, five laypersons selected by the governor, and four Florida Bar members. The chair of the JQC selects nine members to serve on the Investigative Panel and six members to serve on the Hearing Panel. The Investigative Panel functions much like a grand jury and investigates allegations of judicial misconduct or disability. If probable cause is found and formal charges are filed, then the Hearing Panel serves as a special master making findings of fact and recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court as to the appropriate discipline. A nonlawyer member of the JQC may serve on either panel.

Type of Work Performed

All JQC members review complaints against judges. Members of the commission are assisted by staff that provide summaries of each complaint to be reviewed. Commission members are expected to review materials and ask for additional information if necessary. If appropriate, a judge may appear before the commission to respond to the complaint. If formal charges are filed against a judge, a hearing is held.

Time Commitment

Nonlawyer members are appointed for six-year terms. A position on the JQC requires reading materials for review ahead of time, which can take one or more hours. There are monthly meetings for two to six hours, depending on the agenda and number of complaints. Meetings are held in various locations throughout the state, though primarily in Orlando. If a Hearing Panel is convened, more travel and time will be needed.

Meeting and Travel Information

Meetings are set by the chair of the JQC and may occur in various cities throughout Florida. Many of the meetings are in Orlando. Since meeting sites vary, travel is required and may require a stay of one to three days.

Application Information

An application must be completed and submitted to the Governor’s Office. Interested individuals may contact the Governor’s Office or or download an application.

Legal Aid Services

In general, legal-aid services are nonprofit groups and legal-aid agencies that provide legal services pro bono in family law, immigration, evictions and employment cases. Lawyer referral services are available in most of these agencies. Some law schools also provide services, such as helping individuals complete forms, through their law students.

Type of Work Performed

Volunteers are a key element in legal aid services, which often have minimal staff and where attorneys do not charge for their services. Nonlawyer volunteers who have some professional training or advanced education can assist on any aspect of a client’s case. Nonlawyer volunteers sign up for tasks that coincide with their skills and interests.

Volunteers assist attorneys and other professionals with all aspects of serving client cases and needs. They help with outreach events, clinics, document drafting, client interviewing, intake screening, notarizing documents and research. Nonlawyer volunteers also assist in administrative office functions such as answering the phones.

Time Commitment

Most legal-aid offices require a training period and/or orientation to the office. A volunteer then works with that office to set a number of hours a week for volunteer work.

Meeting and Travel Information

Nonlawyer volunteer work is typically within the office and travel is not required. If any travel is necessary, it is local.

Application Information

For more information and volunteer opportunities, contact Legal Aid Services in your county. Some of the agencies and their areas of service include:

Public Guardianship

The Office of Public Guardianship is one of 17 organizations appointed by the Department of Elder Affairs to provide guardianship advocacy and services for incapacitated individuals when a private guardian is not available. The services provided include communicating with the courts, securing and managing public benefits for their clients, and evaluating, addressing and monitoring the clients’ needs. Volunteers are essential to helping the office improve their clients’ quality of life.

Type of Work Performed

Volunteers may be assigned various administrative, program or advocacy tasks based on their interests, skills, talents and/or special gifts. Examples include serving on the board of directors, assisting with clerical and administrative duties, outreach for donations to meet client needs, arranging activities for clients and assisting with fundraising.

Time Commitment

Volunteer hours are set by the volunteer, though some agencies set a minimum of 10 hours a month.

Meeting and Travel Information

Public guardianship volunteer opportunities occur throughout the state and are typically within one’s local community.

Application Information

The Office of Public and Professional Guardians within the Florida Department of Elder Affairs contracts with 16 other organizations to provide services. A list of Florida Public Guardian programs and contact information is available on the department’s website. Call 850-414-2351 for more information.

Victim Advocacy

Victim Services or Victim Advocates is a nonprofit organization that provides individualized services to victims of sexual assault, violent crimes, and traumatic experiences through crisis response, advocacy, therapy and community awareness. Victim Services provides physical and emotional support to victims in the moment of crisis and continues to support them throughout the duration of their healing process through case management, victim compensation, legal advocacy and court accompaniment, information and referrals, and therapy. The Office of the Attorney General funds the programs.

Type of Work Performed

Nonlawyer members are assigned various administrative, program and advocacy tasks based on their interests, skills, talents and/or special gifts. Volunteers support staff to provide the best possible service to clients, help fulfill the organizational mission, and engage the community in the organizational activities.

Time Commitment

The number of hours can be set by the volunteer. Hours may increase when working with a victim that has higher needs and when court appearances occur.

Meeting and Travel Information

Volunteer opportunities are available in one’s own community.

Application Information

There are numerous victim advocate programs throughout the state, and each may have its own application process. Prospective volunteers should use the directory of victim service providers to contact the specific program for more information. Most programs require a Level 2 background screening if the volunteer will work directly with clients. Interviews, orientations, and an advocacy training course may also be required.