What Does “Life’s Legal Moments” Actually Mean?
The Florida Bar recently launched a public education program called “Life’s Legal Moments.” What does this phrase mean? It refers specifically to important life moments when a person really needs legal representation — such as executing a will or buying or selling a home. In these pivotal life moments, “going it alone” can result in serious financial or other consequences.
Given the ever-increasing gap between the legal profession and the public, this program is one of many important initiatives The Florida Bar is working on. The increasing lack of connection between knowing you have a legal issue and the knowledge that a lawyer can help protect you and your family has been growing for decades. The good news is that there are several things Florida lawyers can do about this.
The data points are well known. A significant and increasing majority of the population no longer retain lawyers for legal matters, even for important life moments when retaining counsel can protect themselves and their families.
On the other hand, there is clear data that shows the path to follow. In a Florida Bar survey, 91% of respondents thought retaining a lawyer would help protect their rights or interests, and 84% believed it would reduce the stress of dealing with a legal issue.
The new initiative’s website, www.floridalawyerscanhelp.com, has numerous resources to educate the public and point them in the right direction on how to hire a lawyer for a specific life legal challenge.
This is only the beginning, and there’s a lot more that Florida attorneys can do to help educate the public. First, look for the regular social media posts from The Florida Bar about Life’s Legal Moments, and take a moment to share this information. This is an easy “grassroots” way to get this information out to the people we know and to the public we serve.
It is very important that lawyers be “in the public square” talking about these issues. I have been a longtime member of my local Chamber of Commerce and encourage other lawyers to join their local chambers. This remains one of the best ways to connect with people in your community, particularly those in the business community. We plan on collaborating with these local business organizations and supplying Life’s Legal Moments materials to many local chambers of commerce. One chamber CEO pointed out to me that small businesses face similar challenges in terms of not hiring a lawyer for significant legal matters. Many business owners think they don’t need a lawyer or that they can’t afford one; however, a decision to forego legal counsel can result in losses where a small business may have to close its doors, and we don’t want to see that happen.
Our goal is to reach members of the public, as well as civic groups, charities, and other organizations. I have already made brief presentations on these topics to several groups, and any Florida lawyer willing to do so can be given talking points and other resources by The Florida Bar. A good friend of mine pointed out that this information would be of great interest to her sorority whose members range in age from 18 to almost 100 years old. I am speaking soon to my synagogue and to a local business development group.
Simply put, while there is no “magic wand” that can instantly fix the growing disconnect between the legal profession and the public, there are many things that lawyers can do to move the needle back in the right direction with this type of public engagement and communication.
Separately, The Florida Bar, at the request of the Florida Supreme Court, has prepared a detailed report regarding greater access to legal services in Florida. The focus of those efforts was threefold: making it easier for pro se clients to utilize our system of justice; increasing resources in the world of pro bono and legal aid; and providing solutions for more affordable and accessible legal representation for the general public. Although the Life’s Legal Moments campaign is about helping the public identify significant moments where a lawyer would be helpful, this important report looks at circumstances where the legal need is apparent but feels beyond reach for too many Floridians. We look forward to working with the Florida Supreme Court on evaluating and implementing these recommendations. This will be a long-term project that potentially can make Florida a model for the rest of the country to follow.
I am certain that Life’s Legal Moments will be an ongoing part of The Florida Bar’s efforts to help increase knowledge and accessibility of legal services, as this program is all about lawyers helping and serving the residents of Florida.
Many other states are addressing these same challenges. Florida will be a national leader with this approach and avoid the dangerous and data-less approach of fee-sharing with non-lawyers and profit-driven companies.
Florida’s lawyers, working with the Court, are best positioned to help increase public access to legal services, and together we will change the trajectory to make sure that more Floridians are able to identify how to hire a lawyer during important life moments when they want to protect themselves and their families.