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Launch of the Bar’s new mentoring program is on track for Summer

Senior Editor Top Stories

Special Committee on Greater Public Access to Legal Services continues its work

Gary Lesser, BOG President

Gary Lesser

The Florida Bar is on track to launch a mentoring program with personalized matching technology for beginning lawyers by this summer, the co-chairs of a special committee told the Board of Governors at a December 2 meeting on Amelia Island.

In other business, the board approved a series of rule amendments, including one that would make it easier for the Bar to use sealed or expunged criminal records in disciplinary cases, and another that would pave the way for all-electronic balloting in Bar elections.

Board members were also told they will receive a final draft petition early this week by the Special Committee on Greater Public Access to Legal Services.

President Gary Lesser praised the hard work of co-chairs Jay Kim and Wayne Smith, and asked members to review it carefully.

“I’ve looked at the draft report, and it has been a massive, massive lift,” he said. “Please read the report, and really give your edits and comments.”

The Florida Supreme Court earlier this year gave the Bar until December 30 to propose recommendations to “improve the delivery of legal services to Florida consumers and . . . assure Florida lawyers play a proper and prominent role in the provision of these services.”

The Supreme Court did so after declining to adopt most of the recommendations of its Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services, including proposals to test nonlawyer ownership of law firms, fee-splitting with nonlawyers, and broadly expanding the work paralegals could do.

Board members were urged to promote “Life’s Legal Moments,” a new Bar campaign to remind Floridians that investing in affordable legal services now, for such things as preparing a will, or a real estate closing, can prevent hardships and greater expense later.

Josh Chilson

Josh Chilson

Communications Committee Chair Josh Chilson stressed that the public awareness campaign targets people who can afford to hire lawyers, but don’t know it or choose not to.

“We really think we can make an impact,” Chilson said. “You are going to potentially save yourself and your family a lot of heartache and money later.”

Board members were told they will soon receive campaign tool kits, including PowerPoint presentations, to present to local business and community groups.

Lesser said he plans to make a presentation soon to a local chamber of commerce.

“Most people think you don’t need a lawyer, that you don’t get a lawyer unless you’re rich or injured,” Lesser said. “We have the opportunity to be ambassadors to our communities and help educate the public on this important issue.”

Special Committee on Mentoring New Lawyers Co-Chairs Katherine Hurst Miller and Zack Zuroweste, both former Young Lawyers Division presidents, told the board that if their proposal is approved, The Florida Bar would be the first state bar to have a technology-based mentoring platform. The committee is completing a curriculum, and the program will undergo beta testing in the spring, Hurst Miller said.

Miller - Katherine

Katherine Hurst Miller

Program participants can register in minutes on the “MentorcliQ” platform after filling out a digital questionnaire, and an algorithm will give them a choice of matches, each rated for compatibility by percentages, Zuroweste said.

MentorcliQ provides mentoring programs to various Fortune 500 programs, Zuroweste said.

“It should be easy to get through this program and complete it, it should be fun and rewarding,” he said.

Mentors will be required to have a minimum of five years of experience. Mentees will have to have three or less years of experience and be sole practitioners or work in firms of three or fewer lawyers.

Geared to a nine-month academic calendar, the program will require participants to complete four “milestones” together and mentees to participate in five “real world” events, such as attending a jury trial, a real estate closing, government meeting, or administrative hearing, Hurst Miller said.

“That’s [an average of] one a month, we think that’s very doable,” she said.

Zack Zuroweste

Zack Zuroweste

Zuroweste said program administrators will be able to track each participant’s progress, and communicate with them, through the platform.

“When we come back to report to you, we won’t just say, oh, it’s been a success. We will have concrete data,” Zuroweste said.

The committee plans to launch the mentoring program at the Bar’s Annual Convention.

Lesser considers the mentoring program a top priority.

“It’s going to help our new lawyers, and it’s going to help our profession,” he said.

Immediately after the committee presentation, the board voted unanimously to approve a $10,000 budget amendment for the program.

“This budget amendment is to specifically promote and educate members on the MentorcliQ solution you just heard about,” said Budget Committee Chair Melissa VanSickle.

In other business, the board voted to amend Bar Rule 3-7.2 (Procedures on Criminal or Professional Misconduct) by adding 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.”

John D. Agnew

John D. Agnew

Disciplinary Procedure Committee Vice Chair John Agnew told the board that the revision was prompted by a disciplinary case involving sealed records.

“The respondent in that case actually challenged the use of those documents, the Bar already had them,” he said.

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.

The proposal will be forwarded to the Supreme Court for a final determination.

The board also approved a Rules Committee proposal to amend Bylaw 2-3.6 (Election) and Bylaw 2-4.6 (Election of President-Elect) that are designed to promote electronic voting in Bar elections as a cost-saving measure.

The proposed changes would shorten the election period to two weeks “as an interim measure,” and “as 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,” according to a staff analysis.

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

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.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to add two services to the Florida Bar Member Benefits Program:

  • Smokeball “is an industry leader in practice management software focused on delivering solutions for small to mid-sized law firms,” according to the company’s promotional material.  Florida Bar members would receive a 10% lifetime discount “so long as they are members of The Florida Bar and a Smokeball customer.” Smokeball would pay The Florida Bar a flat, one-time 15% royalty as non-dues revenue on the total contract value of each new user.
  • ezBriefs, an electronic platform that assists lawyers and paralegals with their review of complicated legal documents, “specifically briefs, motions, and pleadings,” the company claims.  It offers “a cost-effective, and more efficient approach to reviewing cited authority from opposing counsel’s filed briefs and motions than current solutions allowed.” Florida Bar members would receive a 10% lifetime discount on the monthly and annual subscription/license for ezBrief as long as they are a member of The Florida Bar and an ezBrief’s customer. The Florida Bar would receive a 10% royalty as non-dues revenue on each new user that signs up for the ezBriefs subscription.

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