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Board of Governors has a full agenda for its January Tallahassee meeting

Senior Editor Top Stories

Board of Governors SealThe Board of Governors is scheduled to consider a host of proposals when it meets January 31 in Tallahassee, including new comment language for the rule governing contact with prospective clients.

Board members will also be asked, among other things, to weigh proposed changes to a standing board policy that could make it easier for the Out of State Division to promote CLE programs.

Also on the agenda is a renewed request to weigh the permissibility — this time of a revised version — of a tongue-in-cheek billboard with the slogan “Ambulances Chase Us.”

Up for final action is a proposal by the Professional Ethics Committee that would add comment language to Bar Rule 4-7.18 Direct Contact With Prospective Clients.

Under the heading “Permissible Contact,” the proposed comment language would add a discussion of a lawyer’s initiation of the mutual exchange of contact information at a “business-related event” and on business-oriented social media.

“A lawyer may initiate the routine and mutual exchange of contact information with prospective clients who are attending the same business or professional conference or meeting or business-related social gathering if the lawyer initiates no further discussion of a specific legal matter,” the proposed language states.

It continues: “Similarly, a lawyer may initiate the exchange of contact information and profiles via a specific social media platform that is established for the purpose of business and professional exchanging of this type of information if the lawyer initiates no discussion of a specific legal matter.”

The proposed comment language warns the lawyer should decline to discuss a specific legal matter if the prospective client initiates it, “and [to] defer further discussion to a more appropriate location,” when the discussion would endanger a prospective client’s confidentiality.

It also warns that “lawyers should not interpret the above to allow a lawyer who knows a person has a specific legal problem to go to a specific conference or meeting where the specific client will be in attendance in order to initiate the exchange of business cards.”

The proposal has been approved by the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics.

Board members will also be asked to give final approval to a proposal submitted by the Out of State Division that would amend Standing Board Policy 6.21 Bar Division, Section and Committee Programs.

The proposed changes to Subdivision (d), adds “that Out-Of-State Division CLE courses held out of state that are professionally recorded and available as a Florida Bar online course may be co-sponsored by the Bar’s CLE committee.”

According to Bar staff, the proposal updates a 2015 redesign of the CLE administrative fee and overhead structure that was undertaken before the massive shift and availability of online video and on-demand CLE.

The proposal won unanimous approval by the Rules Committee and the Program Evaluation Committee.

The board is also scheduled, at the request of the Standing Committee on Advertising, to decide whether a law firm’s revised version of a billboard slogan “Ambulances Chase Us” is permissible.

The board voted 18-14 in September, after a lengthy discussion, to uphold the Standing Committee on Advertising’s initial rejection of the ad.

SCA committee and board members acknowledged the joke, but expressed concerns that it gave the wrong impression — lawyers are not allowed to “chase” ambulances to solicit business, and it is illegal and unethical for ambulance drivers to refer prospective clients to lawyers.

A revised version of the ad features the image of a Post-it Note thumbtacked after the “Ambulances Chase Us” slogan that says, “Not Really.” A further disclaimer, referring to the image of a speeding ambulance says, “images not based on actual events.”

The Standing Committee on Advertising, after several failed motions, voted 13-0 to send the revised version to the Board of Governors.

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