The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

September 1, 2023 Letters

Letters

CLE Costs

On behalf of the Family Law Section, I am writing to address the questions and concerns voiced by William J. Leininger’s letter in May and Rosely Torres’s June letter regarding the costs of CLEs offered by Bar sections.

I am pleased to report that the section has been for many years offering free CLEs to its members. The section will continue this legacy in the upcoming Bar cycle. Free CLEs are offered live through Zoom and are not available for after-market sales on The Florida Bar website which is why they are not found when searching the Bar’s CLE catalog. We advertise them on our website, social media, and, in email blasts to our membership. CLEs available 24/7 On Demand through the Bar website, due to the costs involved in producing and after-market sales, are set under Florida Bar standards.

The Family Law Section uses income generated by its CLEs to further our mission of serving Florida’s families and promoting professionalism. The section takes great pride in charitable giving to benefit the greater Florida community and the legal profession. You can read more about our giving on our website at https://familylawfla.org/about-us/charitable-giving/. Since 2009, the section has contributed more than half a million dollars to The Florida Bar Foundation’s Children’s

Legal Services program in addition to offering about $35,000 annually in scholarships for the section’s most popular live CLE programs of our Marital and Family Law Review Course, Leadership Retreat, and Trial Advocacy Workshop.

While many options may exist for CLE programming, we hope those who choose the Family Law Section’s programming appreciate the unparalleled high quality provided and how proceeds generated by that programming are used to help Florida’s families and promote excellence within the legal community.

Sarah E. Kay
Chair of the Family Law Section

Robert Orseck

The encomium of Peter Prieto in the August News about the late Robert Orseck was a sensitive and touching tribute to one of the best Florida attorneys.

Mr. Orseck not only changed Florida law by his appellate advocacy, but was a real hero in risking and unfortunately giving his life to save several small children playing in the water off the coast of Tel Aviv. Sadly, he left behind a widow and three young children, now grown up.

The tribute to Mr. Orseck should make all Florida attorneys, as officers of the court, appreciate that the practice of law is a noble profession and not simply a business.

Richard Friedman
Beverly Hills, CA

FSCHS

On behalf of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, I extend thanks to the News for the recent coverage of our projects, new leadership, and plans for the next year. The support of The Florida Bar and its members is vital to everything we do: from preserving and honoring the history of our highest court, to assisting with education and outreach.

The society is honored to carry out its core function of informing the public about the court and the value of a strong and independent judiciary in our state. One way we do this is through the publication of our magazine, Historical Review, which will next focus on the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Supreme Court’s building in Tallahassee and the previous structures that housed our halls of justice.

Other society activities in support of its mission include securing donations of papers and artifacts related to the court, assisting with portraits of the justices, publishing a multi-volume series on the history of the court, providing support for functions such as investitures and retirement celebrations, and hosting an annual dinner event, “A Supreme Evening.” We invite everyone to join us in Tallahassee on January 18, 2024, for our next Supreme Evening.

We also now offer an online gift shop featuring premium items imprinted with the Florida Supreme Court seal. Proceeds from the sales benefit the court’s outreach programs, such as tours for school groups, civic organizations and leadership groups, and the production of educational resources about the court’s history, library, and archives.

I encourage lawyers, judges, paralegals, and law students to become part of this important work by joining with us in preserving and promoting Florida’s court system. More information and online editions of Historical Review may be found at FlCourtHistory.org.

Timothy P. Chinaris
President, Florida Supreme Court Historical Society

‘Z’ Words

With great energy and enthusiasm, I support and favor the overzealous, explicitly biased [and most likely implicitly biased in our age of not only mindfulness, but better-than-ever (in our own minds) mind reading], subjective objective (surely guilty of every “ism” ever invented) recently relayed by the Rules Committee to cancel the trust-your-gut “zealous advocacy” sin-of-whims but keep the paste-but-don’t-cut “commitment and dedication” synonyms in Bar rule preamble passages in the interest of keeping and/or making our profession’s predilections non-diverse, non-inclusive, and non-equitable so that particular traditions do not die.
Past history has led to the end result of me being absolutely certain that ditching “zealous advocacy” but still pitching “commitment and dedication” is the culturally correct thing to do. To briefly summarize, my actual experience at this present time is that a blatantly obvious basic fundamental of language is the established convention of joining together in close proximity essentially exact same words for the purpose of emphasis.

To protest against the sin of synonym-binding by lawyers is to free and clear lawyers of tradition and to acknowledge and confess the unintended mistake of insulting the reader. From now and henceforth, forever and ever, all and sundry must have and hold in mind and memory, and perform and discharge all liens and encumbrances of conformity and exclusion for the sake of our heirs and successors.

When all future last will and testament documents are read, the legal profession will, with care and attention and without having to order and adjudge, continue to bring about accord and satisfaction for all intents and purposes lawyers who cease and desist from formulating settlement agreements with terms and conditions that do not devise and bequeath legal doublets.

Do not doubt the power and authority of legal doublets.

Through ways and means of hue and cry, those who aid and abet the high crimes and misdemeanors of abstaining from the allure of legal doublets shall only occasionally be indemnified and held harmless. Such is fit and proper.

Jeff Boston
Rockledge

Certification

For decades, established organizations such as Chambers and Partners, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo, and others have ranked lawyers in specialty areas after performing research, soliciting peer review, interviewing with potential lawyer candidates and in some instances speaking to their clients. At the same time, other organizations provide lawyer rankings but not necessarily based on credentials but in exchange for payment. With ranking organizations participating in social media and elsewhere, all this can be confusing to the public. Consumers of legal services need to have a reliable and meaningful evaluation before retaining lawyers. So, what do consumers of legal services want to know from organizations that rank lawyers?

The consumer seeks to know if the lawyer is competent in a practice area, has a reputation for professionalism, and has the experience to handle a particular matter. If the foregoing considerations serve as drivers, then board certification by state bars and ABA accredited programs should be recognized as a factor when any organization ranks and publishes these rankings. This is because state bars and the ABA certification programs have already performed due diligence by determining that a lawyer is substantially involved in a practice area (generally at least 40% of the time), has passed a written exam, been vetted by peer review in their geographic area of practice and have taken CLE to stay current in their respective practice areas. This undertaking is significant, is conducted by staff, and board-certified volunteers to administer these requirements. Moreover, there are enforcement mechanisms to ensure due process and established procedures to revoke or suspend certification status. The larger state bars expend thousands of hours each year administering certification programs. Florida and Texas have the largest in the nation with 27 certification areas, followed by North Carolina with 14 and California with 11. Others including New Jersey, Ohio, and Louisiana have several certification areas. The ABA has a special standing committee which administers the accreditation process for certification programs offered by eight national organizations. These organizations have a corporate infrastructure, must demonstrate fiscal stability, and the ability to administer specialty board certification examinations. Moreover, these organizations conduct peer review and consider professionalism as a main ingredient, all in compliance with the ABA standards.

These are objective standards imposed by state bars and the organizations with ABA accredited certification programs. With all the diligent efforts by these entities to ensure impartial review and adherence to these certification standards through certification and recertification, generally every five years, it makes sense that credible organizations that rank lawyers should consider board certification of a lawyer as an objective standard when considering if that lawyer should be ranked. By doing so, consumers can be more confident in the selection process of ranking organizations when certification is a factor. Likewise, counsel seeking to refer a matter in a specialty area, may also gain confidence that rankings by national organizations are dependable.

Considering board certification as an element enhances our profession. The ranking organization gains greater credibility when publishing these rankings. Independent research conducted by the ranking organization can confirm whether a board-certified lawyer should be recognized for excellence and confirm their reputation for professionalism, but there are more benefits that can be gained by this approach. Board certified lawyers that recognize the value of being ranked by these organizations, will initiate their own efforts to publicize those rankings when marketing legal services. These efforts will enhance the reputation of the ranking organization. In addition, lawyers that consider becoming board certified may be more inclined to do so to acquire that designation. Finally, the prestige of board certification and becoming ranked would be valuable to the lawyer’s law firm and therefore, the firm may be inclined to support lawyers to become board certified. More board-certified lawyers is good for the profession because it promotes greater competency and professionalism in the practice of law. Most importantly, the public receives credible knowledge as to the qualifications of a lawyer when considering the rankings.

Considering board certification as a factor in ranking lawyers by national organizations is a positive development and makes sense. It is good for the lawyer, valuable for the ranking organization, and best for the consumer that is provided with objective, reliable information as to whether the lawyer is competent, proficient, respected by his or her peers, and can handle a legal matter for the consumer.

Steven B. Lesser
Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Specialization

 

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