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Supervised practice program ground rules explained

Senior Editor Top Stories

Florida Board of Bar Examiners SealRecent law school graduates, eager to join a new supervised practice program after the COVID-19 pandemic forced multiple delays in the bar exam, are brimming with questions.

In a September 2 YLD free webinar, “Explaining the Temporary Supervised Practice Program,” Florida Board of Bar Examiners general counsel James Almon supplied a wealth of answers.

More than one webinar participant wanted to know how program participants should identify themselves. The easiest answer, Almon said, is “Supervised Practice Program Participant.”

More creative variations may be permissible, Almon said, but participants should avoid potentially misleading terms such as “associate.”

“You cannot hold yourself out as a lawyer,” Almon said. “Don’t call yourself an attorney…don’t use esquire, it should be very clear…that you are not a member of The Florida Bar.”

To qualify for the program, a Bar applicant must, among other things, have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school, not taken a Bar examination in Florida or another jurisdiction before February 1, 2020, and have received a letter of clearance as to character and fitness from the Board of Bar Examiners.

“The application for this program is very, very easy,” Almon said.

The wording of the one-page form is taken directly from the Supreme Court order that created the program, AOSC 20-80, and can be submitted via the student’s FBBE applicant portal, Almon said.

Alternate forms of submission are available on the FBEE website, Almon said.

Applicants will be notified that their applications have been received, and notified a second time when they are approved, Almon said.

The program is modeled closely on an existing Certified Legal Intern Program, Almon said.

“We had the benefit of not starting this program from scratch,” he said.

Applications can be processed relatively quickly, Almon said, noting that 63 were approved in the first few days of the program. More are being reviewed and more are streaming in daily, Almon said.

Supervising attorneys must be Florida Bar members in good standing for five years and must also receive FBBE approval.

Applicants may have more than one supervising attorney, Almon said, but each supervising attorney must have FBBE approval.

And no, Almon said, five supervising attorneys with one-year each of Florida Bar membership does not fulfill the five-year requirement.

Supervising attorneys assume professional responsibility for all services provided by the supervised practice participant and for the quality of the program participant’s work, and must assist in the practice participant’s preparation to the extent the supervising attorney considers it necessary, according to the Supreme Court order.

The supervising attorney must enter an appearance in any matter in which a supervised practice participant enters an appearance and is required to be present “at all critical stages of the proceeding” in any case in which the graduate represents a person who has a right to appointed counsel.

But the requirement to “be present” doesn’t mean in person at a time when most proceedings are conducted remotely, Almon said.

A recording of the webinar featuring all of Almon’s responses is available on a new YLD webpage.

YLD President Adam White said the website features links to the Supreme Court order and is designed to match program applicants with Florida Bar members willing to serve as supervising attorneys.

Once applicants are admitted to The Florida Bar, they will automatically become Young Lawyer Division members, White said. And YLD membership brings with it a wealth of opportunity for Bar service, he said.

“The YLD is commonly known as the workhorse of The Florida Bar,” White said.

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