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Bar provides hurricane recovery resources for lawyers and the public

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Bar provides hurricane recovery resources for lawyers and the public

'Unfortunately, Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. We have endured them before, and we’ll do so again with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, working together for our respective communities and members'

As the cleanup and recovery from Hurricane Ian continues, The Florida Bar Hurricane Information page includes important and timely updates on court closures and other resources for lawyers and consumers alike.

Gary Lesser, president of The Florida Bar

Gary Lesser

“Unfortunately, Florida is no stranger to hurricanes,” said Bar President Gary Lesser and Communications Committee Chair Josh Chilson in an email last week to every member of the Bar. “We have endured them before, and we’ll do so again with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, working together for our respective communities and members.”

In an effort to keep members up to date, the Bar’s social media accounts are sharing helpful news and resources from the courts, clerks, local bar associations and others.

BAR FEES AND CLE DEADLINES EXTENDED

The Florida Bar Board of Governors Executive Committee is extending the fee delinquency deadline by two weeks from October 1 to October 14 and extending the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and Basic Skills Course Requirement (BSCR) Phase I and Phase II reporting deadlines for Bar members, with a CLE or BSCR cycle ending September 30 to October 31. This one-month extension to complete and report CLE only impacts cycles ending September 30. Florida Registered Paralegals are included in the fee delinquency and CLE reporting extensions.

HOW LAWYERS CAN HELP

To quickly connect Florida Bar members offering office space and legal support services for attorneys and law firms impacted by Hurricane Ian, the Bar has added a Hurricane Ian section of The Florida Bar News’ Classified Ads for temporary office space or other resources. If you would like to assist, email the offered resources and your contact information to Editor Mark Killian.

The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division has activated the YLD/FEMA Disaster Hotline (866-550-2929). Volunteers return calls placed to the YLD’s hotline or at FEMA centers. Florida Bar members interested in volunteering may enroll online now. Counties covered under the disaster declaration include Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has also been included in the federal disaster declaration.

The Florida Free Legal Answers 100% online pro bono project has added a Hurricane Ian category. Florida Bar members may volunteer now to provide online pro bono assistance through Florida Free Legal Answers.

MEMBER BENEFITS ASSISTANCE

Several approved member benefits of The Florida Bar offer assistance:

  • The Fastcase Hurricane Ian page lists available services and includes Bar, court, and ABA information and resources; non-profits; federal resources; and psychological and counseling resources.
  • Clio has created a disaster page with resources for lawyers and law firms.

BAR RESOURCES

Florida Bar members may contact the Practice Management Advisors at LegalFuel for free guidance and resources online or by chatemail, and phone at 866-730-2020. LegalFuel also has free CLEs that can assist with a variety of practice management topics including remote work and cybersecurity assistance.

The Florida Bar Tech Helpline is a free resource for Bar members who need assistance with most of the typical software, applications, services, and hardware used in the practice of law.

Florida Bar members may call the Florida Lawyers Helpline 24/7 to speak to mental health professionals at 833-351-9355. This service is free and completely confidential. The Florida Bar Mental Health and Wellness Center includes additional mental health and wellness-related resources.

UNLAWFUL SOLICITATIONS

Florida citizens should use caution and good judgment in any emergency, particularly when dealing with representatives of insurance companies or direct contact from lawyers. Any contact by a lawyer or a lawyer’s representative in person or by telephone asking to handle a specific case is a direct violation of The Florida Bar’s disciplinary rules unless the injured party has asked the lawyer to contact them. Only a lawyer can give legal advice and provide legal services. Florida Bar rules also prohibit a lawyer from writing or emailing within 30 days of an accident unless they have been specifically asked to provide information. To report an unlawful contact or the unlicensed practice of law, please contact The Florida Bar by calling toll-free 866-352-0707.

UNETHICAL CONDUCT & PRICE GOUGING

Attorney General Ashley Moody has activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida. State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber, and equipment, needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Anyone who suspects price gouging during this declared state of emergency should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Any problems with an insurance company can be directed to the Office of the Attorney General of Florida at (866) 966-7226 or the Florida Department of Financial Services at 800-342-2762.

Those who feel they have been unfairly treated by a lawyer should contact The Florida Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 866-352-0707.

INSURANCE REGULATION

The Florida Division of Consumer Services is assisting insurance consumers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Their insurance experts can answer the many insurance-related questions that arise following a storm. You can call their toll-free insurance consumer helpline at 1-877-693-5236, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST, or file a complaint online by visiting their Get Insurance Help homepage.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation provides an insurance resources webpage with useful information and links including consumer alerts, links to other state agencies and hurricane claims data information. Call the insurance consumer hotline 877-693-5236.

All Florida Bar offices have reopened. Please check the Florida Supreme Court webpage for updates on all court closures and tolling orders. The Florida Bar website will also be updating information as it is received.

“Thank you for your commitment to your communities and to your fellow lawyers, we appreciate your service and your time,” Lesser said.

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