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Board votes to expand advertising on the Bar’s website

Senior Editor Top Stories

TFB Seal Sun YellowAssured that it won’t risk eroding the Bar’s professional image, the Board of Governors has agreed to expand advertising on its website.

The board voted unanimously at a December 4 meeting to approve a Board Communications Committee proposal as a way to generate additional non-fee revenue for the Bar.

Communications Committee Chair Steven Davis said the plan would take advantage of the website’s growing popularity without degrading the website’s professional esthetic.

“We’re mindful of wanting to make sure that this is tastefully done and reflects the professional nature of our organization,” Davis said. “The highest interest, obviously, is preserving the image of The Florida Bar, and not in making a few more bucks.”

Sensitive pages and sections would remain off limits, Davis said, including those featuring ethics, rules of procedure, attorney discipline, unlicensed practice of law, and individual member profiles.

Advertisements would be positioned to blend with content, Davis said.

“For the most part, they would be on the lower left or the bottom of the pages that are involved,” Davis said.

A Bar consultant identified a total of 10 pages or sections that could be suitable for expanded advertising, with the potential to serve over 1.7 million impressions per month.

“In summary, all website advertising additions and adjustments recommended in the Blueprint would increase the cumulative ad inventory on FloridaBar.org from about 300,000 impressions per month to nearly 2 million impressions per month,” according to a report from Sachs Media of Tallahassee. “Selling all inventory (based on pricing recommendations) could potentially generate up to $23,500 per month in new monthly revenue ($282,000 annually).”

Some of the additional revenue would be offset by an increase in Bar staff time, Davis acknowledged.

Some board members expressed concern about the content of the advertisements.

“What will the restrictions be on the types of advertising?” asked President-elect Michael Tanner. “I assume we won’t be having flashing lights and bells?”

President Dori Foster-Morales asked if there is a policy for rejecting advertisers that are deemed inappropriate.

The website already features advertising, Davis said, and the same policies would apply.

“It will be done in a way that is consistent with our standards,” Davis said.

In other business, the board learned that much anticipated recommended best practices for remote legal proceedings will be circulated among Bar sections and divisions for comment before they are finalized late next month.

Board Technology Committee Chair Jay Kim said he was eager to post them, but agreed to wait after committee members convinced him that they could be strengthened by further review.

“I was doing my touchdown dance, but I wasn’t in the end zone,” Kim joked.

Sections and divisions, and judicial conferences will be asked to submit comments by January 20, Kim said, and a final version of recommended best practices could be submitted to the board at a January 28 meeting.

Another Board Technology Committee project will move closer to completion next week when Bar representatives meet with Zoom executives to discuss the possibility of adding features to the videoconferencing platform that have been requested by lawyers, Kim said.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force is making progress on a member survey that will help determine which legal proceedings the Bar will suggest continue remotely after the pandemic subsides.

“It’s a big job,” Tanner, the task force chair, told the board.

In other action, the board approved a recommendation by the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics to seek a formal opinion from the Professional Ethics Committee regarding “the ethical obligations of a lawyer in responding to negative online posts by a person other than a client.”

The committee request arose from comments regarding a previous ethics opinion that offered guidance for responding to online posts by former clients.

The question has sparked numerous inquiries to the committee and calls to the Ethics Hotline, according to a staff analysis.

But before the board could authorize the additional ethics opinion, it was required to make a finding that the subject “is likely to be of widespread interest or unusual importance to a significant number of Bar members.”

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