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Mentoring initiative, rules revisions are on the Board of Governors’ September agenda

Senior Editor Top Stories

Board of Governors Seal

When it meets September 30 on Amelia Island, the Board of Governors will  consider a host of proposed rule revisions, progress reports, and an update on a key Bar initiative.

The Special Committee on Mentoring New Lawyers, a major priority of President Gary Lesser, is expected to deliver a progress report.

Lesser announced the committee in his inaugural address earlier this summer. He said it was prompted in part by a tough job market that is forcing young attorneys, saddled by student debt, to launch solo or small-firm practices straight out of law school.

“In doing that, they are missing out on a mentorship experience that many of us have taken for granted,” Lesser said. “There is often no one they can regularly turn to for advice on ethics and professionalism, substantive caselaw, or the path of their legal career.”

The special committee has been directed to develop programs for lawyers with three or less years of experience and who work in firms of three or fewer attorneys.

Co-chaired by Katherine Hurst Miller and Zack Zuroweste — both former Young Lawyers Division presidents — the committee has been given until the end of the calendar year to complete its mission.

In other business, the board could be asked to decide whether a Northwest Florida law firm’s humorous TV ads, which feature children portraying insurance agents, are permissible under Bar rules.

The ads depict the agents being intimidated by the law-firm’s tough reputation, and feature a firm lawyer stating, “remember the name that they don’t want to hear: Walborsky, Bradley, and Fleming.”

Bar staff determined the ads are “inherently deceptive or misleading” and impermissible under Bar Rule 4-7.13(a), and a comparison of the lawyer’s services that “could not be objectively verified” in violation of Rule 4-7.13(b)(3).

The Standing Committee on Advertising overruled the staff determination after the advertising firm agreed to remove a line of dialogue in which an agent says — “let’s do our best to settle.”

The BRC will meet before the board meeting and determine whether the Standing Committee on Advertising’s decision conflicts with a Board of Governors decision in a previous advertising case.

In that case, the board determined that the depiction of an insurance office celebrating when “they didn’t go with [the advertising] firm!” was inherently deceptive or misleading, and also not permissible as a comparison that could not be objectively verified.

The firm argues that its advertisements feature child actors and are “distinguishable” from the other ads.

The BRC is also expected to consider proposed amendments to Rule 4-7.13 and Rule 4.7.15 that stem from a previous advertising case.

The proposed amendments would allow lawyers and law firms to feature the truthful testimonials of current and former clients in their advertisements, regardless of whether the clients are also celebrities.

In other business, the board will consider a proposed amendment to Rule 1-3.7 (Reinstatement to Membership), that would create an “undue hardship” exception to completing certain continuing legal education or basic skills courses.

The rule prohibited an ailing, 92-year-old Bar member who recently became delinquent, from filing for retirement, according to a staff analysis.

“To do so, he would have to complete the reinstatement petition, pay the fee, and complete 33+ CLE credits,” the analysis states. “In this case, the member was recently deemed delinquent, and his son has requested waiver allowing him to reinstate without the requirements so he can submit a request for retirement.”

The analysis notes that the member missed his reporting cycle because he was in bad health and caring for his 90-year-old wife.

The amendment would give the executive director the authority to waive or extend deadlines for completing the education requirements in cases of undue hardship.

The board is also expected to weigh the following proposed rule amendments, which would still require Supreme Court approval:

  • A Civil Procedure Rules Committee proposal to amend Rule 1.110 (General Rules of Pleading). The proposed amendment would “require pleadings with affirmative defenses to contain a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts supporting the affirmative defense,” according to a staff analysis. The proposal originated with a Florida Bar attorney, according to the staff analysis.
  • A Family Law Rules Committee proposal to amend Form 12.975 (a) (Petition for Grandparent Visitation with Minor Children), Form 12.975 (b) (Petition for Grandparent Visitation with Minor Children When One Parent Has Been Found Criminally or Civilly Liable for the Death of the Other Parent), and Form 12.975(c) (Order on Grandparent Petition for Visitation with Minor Children). The proposed amendments were prompted by recent legislation.


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