Report from The Florida Bar Board of Governors
The Florida Bar Board of Governors met May 18 in Key West. The major actions of the board and reports received included:
NEW COMMITTEE ON MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS OF FLORIDA LAWYERS
The Florida Bar’s work to improve the health and wellness of Florida lawyers will continue to be carried out by a standing committee approved by the board. Efforts will continue to focus on: destigmatizing mental illness in the legal community; expanding education on mental health illnesses of Florida lawyers, on the benefits of balancing personal life and career obligations and on healthy strategies to deal with the pressure of practice; educating voluntary bars on programs to better assist their members and expanding the accreditation definition to broaden the scope for health and wellness CLEs; interfacing with Florida Lawyer’s Assistance, Inc. to broaden its reach to all members; and creating a special inter-disciplinary committee to study and improve rules and programming to ensure that members are aware of mental health issues and are able to access needed services. Visit the Bar’s online Mental Health and Wellness Center for tips on dealing with stress, research, articles, meditations, suggested reading, and more. See story, here.
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON MENTAL HEALTH IN THE COURTS
Special Committee on Mental Health Co-Chair Judge Steven Leifman presented an interim report, which contains 17 recommendations for improving Florida’s Marchman and Baker acts, including changing the criteria for involuntary hospitalization and simplifying the forms families and friends must submit to get help for alcoholic and addicted loved ones. The report and recommendations will be studied and considered by the Board of Governors over the next year. See story, here.
NEW MEMBER BENEFITS AND DISCOUNTS
Two new member benefits were approved and will be added to the more than 60 free or discounted products and services listed at floridabar.org/memberbenefits: Local Hospitality provides worldwide private-label hotel booking website(s), including major hotel providers. eHome Counseling provides counseling services through video and text, with complete confidentiality (no concern about being seen in a counselor’s office).
TRUST ACCOUNTING COMPANY APPROVED FOR PILOT PROGRAM
A final contract with TMI Trust Company was approved for the pilot program of a trust accounting platform that would allow lawyers, if they make the correct entries when they deposit or withdraw funds under certain parameters, to automatically comply with the Bar’s trust accounting rules. At present, the Practice Resource Institute provides trust accounting and monthly reconciliation forms using Microsoft Excel free of charge, as well as other resources including the required compliance notice, FAQS, and forms to open IOTA accounts. The pilot program is expected to be launched this year. See story, here.
RULE AMENDMENT APPROVED REGARDING QUALIFYING PROVIDERS
At the direction of the court, the board approved adding new subdivision (d)(5) to Rule 4-7.22, which would address a qualifying provider receiving a benefit or payment for referring a consumer to both a lawyer and another professional service provider from the same incident. See story, here.
FINAL ACTION ON CREDIT SERVICE CHARGES
A proposed rule change that would delete the current prohibition against charging a service charge for a client’s use of a credit plan and allow lawyers to charge the actual amount imposed on the lawyer by the credit plan was approved. Rule 4-1.5(h) currently permits lawyers to accept credit cards to pay for fees and costs but prohibits lawyers from charging the client the credit card fee charged to the lawyer as a vendor. The Supreme Court must approve the rule change.
COMMENT ADDED TO GRIEVANCE MEDIATION AND ARBITRATION RULE
The board approved adding a comment to Rule 14-6.1, concerning grievance mediation and fee arbitration awards, stating that lack of funds or cash flow is not an excuse for not paying an award in a timely manner. The original version of the rule allowed the losing party in mediation and arbitration proceedings to argue “just cause” as a reason to avoid or delay paying the award within 30 days. The Supreme Court must approve the addition of the comment.
FLORIDA BAR NEWS AND JOURNAL UPDATE
The Communications Committee reported a plan is in place to begin the transition to digitize a portion of The Florida Bar News and Journal, potentially saving $1 million in printing and postage costs. The Florida Bar News reported on this in the January 1 issue.