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Full agenda awaits the Board of Governors in December

Senior Editor Top Stories

The Florida BarWhen it meets December 2 on Amelia Island, the Board of Governors is expected to weigh a much-anticipated mentoring proposal, and a host of proposed rule amendments, including one that would make it easier to use sealed or expunged criminal records in Bar disciplinary cases, and proposed bylaw amendments designed to make Bar elections more efficient.

The Special Committee on Mentoring New Lawyers is expected to deliver a thorough presentation on a new program that would serve attorneys with three or less years of experience and who work in firms with three or fewer lawyers.

President Gary Lesser formed the panel in June, saying he wants to help a growing number of beginning lawyers who, under pressure to pay off student loans, are launching solo practices straight out of law school.

“Twenty or 30 years ago, people got good jobs at law firms, or government agencies, there were many more natural places to find good mentors,” Lesser said. “There’s no one to give them advice on professionalism, there’s no one to give them advice on substantive law.”

Special committee Co-Chair Zack Zuroweste told the board in October that the panel has recruited a vendor that offers an app-based mentoring program to Fortune 500 companies.

“Fortune 500 companies leverage technology and data,” he said. “They put people together who have enough in common to facilitate a successful program.”

Meanwhile, the committee is designing a curriculum that will guide participants through “milestones,” including such things as career planning, lawyer/client relationships, lawyer advertising, and local civic and charitable service. The program would require beginning lawyers to complete “real world” activities, such as attending court proceedings or monitoring real estate closings.

Zuroweste promised to deliver a more thorough presentation in December.

In other business, the board is expected to weigh a proposed amendment to Bar Rule 3-7.2 (Procedures on Criminal or Professional Misconduct) that would add a new subdivision (i) “Use of Expunged or Sealed Records.”

The subdivision would state: “The Florida Bar may use sealed or expunged arrest or court records of a Florida Bar member in a disciplinary proceeding in the bar’s possession or obtainable by the bar regardless of the record’s expunction or sealing.”

The proposed revisions were prompted by a recent disciplinary case, according to Bar staff.

“The respondent contested the bar’s use of a conviction that had been expunged, although the bar’s records pre-dated the expunction,” the analysis states. “Adding this issue in the rules will make any bar case in which the lawyer’s criminal record was expunged or sealed easier to prosecute.”

Another provision of the proposed amendment would strengthen notice requirements that apply to state prosecutors when an attorney has been charged with a felony.

The provision would add language to Subdivision (c) that would require the state attorney “whose office is assigned to the case,” to provide a copy of the indictment or information to the Bar’s executive director “within 10 days of its entry if the state attorney is aware the defendant is a member of The Florida Bar.”

The current rule requires prosecutors to provide the Bar with copies of a lawyer’s felony indictment or information, but it does not establish a time frame.

If the board approves the proposal, it would be forwarded to the Supreme Court for a final determination.

The board is also expected to consider revisions to Bylaw 2-3.6 (Election), and Bylaw 2-4.6 (Election of President-Elect), that would promote electronic voting. The proposed changes would shorten the election period to two weeks “as an interim measure,” according to the staff analysis. “As a permanent measure when the bar’s process permits, the bylaw is amended to is by electronic ballot only and the election period is shortened to 10 days.”

Eliminating the need to mail paper ballots would save thousands of dollars, Bar staff estimate. “With electronic voting, a 3-week election cycle for voting is unnecessary,” according to the analysis.

“Ultimately, the bar would like to move to only electronic ballots as an efficiency and cost-saving measure.”

In February, Election Services Corporation, which administers The Florida Bar’s elections, noted that 5,254 members consented to receive only an e-ballot this year, on top of the 6,773 members who opted for an e-ballot last year and automatically received an e-ballot this year. The rest of eligible voters received courtesy e-ballots and paper ballots, with instructions on how to cast their vote online with the Bar’s election company. If a member voted online, the paper ballot was voided.

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