In a recent speech, Florida Bar President Ramón Abadin advocated for the state’s legal industry to change with the times and explore new ideas for the delivery of legal services. Abadin advocated that the Florida Bar consider allowing:
- Fee splitting with non-lawyers, such as online companies that deliver legal services;
- Unbundling of legal services;
- Reciprocity with other states (right now Florida isn’t reciprocal with any state);
- Legal Technicians (LLLT’s) or some other kind of non-lawyer licensing program; and
- Non-lawyer ownership of law firms.
Abadin emphasized that lawyers can no longer believe they have a monopoly over the delivery of legal services, and must begin to think of themselves as part of the greater legal marketplace.
Florida’s Bar Association, like those in many states, has kept its head in the sand for far too long. This is a state where lawyers are allowed to have LinkedIn profiles but, until recently, were prohibited from saying they had “Skills and Expertise” in certain areas.1 Only LinkedIn changing the heading from “Skills and Expertise” to “Skills and Endorsements” fixed that intractable ethical problem. Florida’s ethics rules still prohibit direct solicitation by telegraph.
Other states are starting to allow the licensing of non-lawyers. The specter of state bar associations losing their immunity to antitrust suits is rising. But my guess is that any changes will come slowly, if at all. The real issue will be whether state bar associations and lawyers can change themselves to fit the times, and do so responsibly and ethically, or whether the times will change without them.
Update: At least one newspaper is reporting that Florida lawyers are incensed by the proposal to make the state reciprocal with other states. Here’s the main reason why, from the article:
In the Bar survey published last year, 49 percent of Florida lawyers who responded said the state already had too many lawyers. Since 2000, the number of licensed Florida attorneys has swollen from 60,9000 to 101,093, of whom 88,000 are currently eligible to practice. In the same period, five new law schools have opened, cranking out even more lawyers.
It sounds like this reaction may be due to a problem of Florida’s own making.
Featured image: “Legal Advice Compliance Consulation Expertise Help Browsing Concept ” from Shutterstock.
This was because under Florida’s ethics rules only board-certified attorneys can say they’re experts in anything. ↩