Board of Governors to meet remotely in May
At a May 15 meeting, the Board of Governors is scheduled to weigh a proposal by the Supreme Court’s Commission on Access to Civil Justice to create an “Advanced Florida Registered Paralegal” to provide enhanced civil legal services to clients while still under a lawyers’ supervision.
The meeting will convene via videoconference, marking the second time board members have met remotely since Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a COVID-19 emergency in March.
The Access Commission’s proposal would require amendments to Chapter 20 of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, and ultimately, Supreme Court approval. In an unusual move, the Access Commission is asking the board for conceptual approval before it forwards its proposed amendments to the Supreme Court.
At an April 29 meeting, the Rules Committee voted 8-0 to recommend that the board generally support the Advanced Florida Registered Paralegal concept only if the commission works with representatives of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, and the Family Law Section, which have criticized the proposal, as well as the Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee, which supports the proposal but wants some changes.
Rules Committee Chair Amy Farrior is scheduled to present the committee’s recommendations to the board. In addition to the April meeting, the Rules Committee vetted the proposal at meetings on March 9 and March 11.
“I think the result is it’s a good idea conceptually but there still needs to be a lot more work done on these rules to take into considerations some of the good ideas put forward by RPPTL and Family Law,” Farrior told the committee. “If there can be changes to the existing proposed rules that will go a long way to alleviate some of those concerns. . . .”
Some concerns include: ensuring that allowing some paralegals to perform more services would not result in high-volume “mills” churning out substandard work; that the number of AFRPs supervised by one attorney should be limited; addressing whether assistance on wills should be limited; considering whether “advanced” paralegals should be called “verified” to avoid confusion with Florida Registered Paralegals (a suggestion from the Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee); and whether advanced paralegals should be required to take half of their continuing legal education in the area where they are providing service. Farrior said other issues could also be raised.
Ocala attorney and Access Commission member Gordon Glover summarized the proposal in a letter addressed to the committee.
“The proposed rule will allow a paralegal registered as an AFRP [Advanced Florida Registered Paralegal] to provide limited services to limited representation clients who come to the law office of the supervising or employing lawyer in matters involving family law, landlord-tenant law, guardianship law, wills, advance directives, or debt collection defense,” Glover wrote. “In assisting these clients, the AFRP may only help them fill out forms and provide general information. In essence, the AFRP is there to assist individuals who would otherwise be representing themselves – ultimately increasing access to civil justice.”
The board is also expected to recommend final approval of the Bar’s proposed FY 2020-21 budget, which last month was projected to include General Fund revenues of $42.5 million, expenses of $45.2 million and an operating loss of $2.8 million.
At the March meeting, Investment Committee Chair Ian Comisky predicted that the Short-Term Fund, which contained $11.5 million on March 17, would be sufficient to meet the Bar’s liquidity needs through the fiscal year — if fee revenues were not significantly disrupted by the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In other business, President-elect Dori Foster-Morales is scheduled to update the board on the 2020-21 meeting schedule, board committee appointments, liaison assignments, and executive committee nominations.
Board members will also hear a report from Communications Committee Chair Duffy Myrtetus about the Bar’s extensive efforts to keep members informed during the COVID-19 crisis.
The board will also receive a report from Technology Committee Chair Reneé Thompson at a time when COVID-19 has forced the Florida court system and thousands of Bar members to adopt remote technologies to accommodate social distancing mandates.
In other action the board is scheduled to:
- Receive a report from Special Committee on Non-Voting Board Appointments Chair Eugene Pettis; and
- Receive written section chair reports from the Out of State Division; Family Law Section; Criminal Law Section; International Law Section; City and Local Government Law Section; and the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section.