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Supreme Court issues pandemic order establishing supervised practice program for Bar applicants

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Supreme Court sealThe Supreme Court issued an order August 24 establishing a supervised practice program that will let some applicants for the August 2020 bar exam work in the law during the pandemic under supervision of licensed attorneys.

The program will last until 30 days after the results of the February 2021 bar exams are released. It creates a way for applicants to work despite delays caused by pandemic conditions and online testing failures.

Under the order, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners will establish the supervised practice program by the end of August. The court order outlines the application procedure and provides that each applicant’s supervising attorney assumes professional responsibility for all services provided.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered the creation of this temporary program after an online testing system developed due to COVID-19 pandemic conditions failed, causing the current delay. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners currently is working on details of a rescheduled exam to be administered in October.

To be qualified to participate in the program, a 2020 bar applicant must meet the following requirements:

• Has graduated from an ABA-accredited law school.

• Has not taken a bar examination in Florida or in another jurisdiction before February 1, 2020, or is licensed to practice law and is in good standing in a United States jurisdiction other than Florida.

• Has received a letter of clearance as to character and fitness from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

• Has obtained a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination at the time the person submits an application for temporary supervised practice or is licensed to practice law and in good standing in a United States jurisdiction other than Florida.

• If licensed and in good standing in another U.S. jurisdiction, not be the subject of disciplinary proceedings and agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for disciplinary purposes.

• If not licensed to practice law and in good standing in another U.S. jurisdiction, has been certified by the dean of the applicant’s law school as being of good character and competent legal ability and such certification has not been withdrawn by the dean.

• Has certified in writing that he or she has read and is familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct and will abide by the provisions thereof.

The application for Temporary Supervised Practice may be accessed here.

The supervising attorney will assume professional responsibility for all services provided by the supervised practice participant, and for the quality of the practice participant’s work, and shall assist in the practice participant’s preparation to the extent the supervising attorney considers it necessary, according to the order. The supervising attorney also mut 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.

A supervised practice participant also may not ask for or receive any compensation directly from the client and may not negotiate a fee agreement or be a party to a fee agreement.

A Supervised Practice Participant’s privilege to engage in supervised practice under the Administrative Order expires within 30 days after the board releases results for the February 2021 General Bar Examination.

The order establishing the supervised practice program can be seen by clicking here.

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