Annual reports of committees of The Florida Bar.

 
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Admiralty

The admiralty bar held its midyear meeting in Orlando in September 2011 and provided its members with three CLE hours. Presentations included "Longshore and Jones Act Insurance Issues," presented by David Famulari, Miami; a poignant update on recent maritime personal injury cases by Andy Waks, Miami; and developments in P & I Marine Insurance Cover for Blue Water Marine Risks by Chris Koehler, Tampa.

The committee approved the August 2012 Maritime and Environmental Law Seminar in Naples. Membership was also updated by the new USCG position on lapses of documented vessels and their effect on maritime liens and ship's mortgages.

The committee voted to move forward to publish the fifth edition of the Maritime Law desk reference book. The committee also continues to allow members to appear via teleconference for CLE and meetings. Matthew J. Valcourt, Chair

Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification

When the Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee met in 2011 and 2012, a good deal of time was spent revising the board certification examination. Our committee felt that there were some questions on the exam that did not properly test the applicants' knowledge of the field of admiralty and maritime law and those questions were changed or omitted. The committee had several experts review the exam and meet with the committee to help decide how to better present the test in the future. The committee spent many hours reviewing test questions to make sure they were easily understandable and that the answers were fairly presented.

There was only one applicant that took the examination in 2012. There are currently 58 certified admiralty and maritime lawyers of Florida. The Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee is one of the smaller certification committees; however, the committee is determined to reach its goal of 100 board certified admiralty and maritime attorneys within the next few years. All members of the committee have been working on having their colleagues who are not board certified but would otherwise be qualified to begin the study program and take the test to seek board certification. The committee is working to set up information booths at the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute in June 2012 and other marketing of the certification. The committee is also working to set up more CLE programs that could be used as courses to better prepare attorneys for the test.

Two committee members attended the Florida Board Certification Leadership Conference in 2011, which was very informative. The emphasis was on increasing the numbers and awareness of the certification program, as well as making sure the tests are properly written. Current board members Tim Boyd, Michelle Otero Valdes, Mark Buhler, Barbara Cook, Brian Hill, Jacob Munch, and Rod Sullivan welcomed aboard two new committee members Mark Ercolin and Allan Kelley. The September meeting attendance was excellent and the committee works well together.

In closing, I thank Lisa Morgan, our board certification specialist, for a job well done. Lisa makes sure that all matters requiring committee action are completed in a timely and efficient manner. Thanks to all of the committee members for volunteering their time, efforts, and expertise. Our committee is looking forward to bigger and better things in 2012. Tim Boyd, Chair

Adoption Law Certification

The Adoption Law Certification Committee has the responsibility of certifying attorneys whose practice of law deals with the complexities and legalities of interstate and intrastate adoptions, including civil controversies arising from the termination of the biological parents' parental rights and interstate placements. Certification in this field is the first of its kind in the country and was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009. Since that time, the inaugural certification committee has exerted extraordinary effort to effectuate the policies and mechanisms that enabled the first group of adoption attorneys (18) to become certified in June 2011.

During the 2011-12 year, the committee met eight times either in person or during a conference call for the purpose of reviewing applicants for certification and preparing and grading the examination. For the application process, the committee reviewed and evaluated 10 applications for this year's certification period, along with seven exams. The applicant review process includes a determination as to whether each applicant meets the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. This incorporates a comprehensive peer review process. The committee expresses its sincere appreciation to all of the attorneys and judges who responded to the committee's requests for the submission of peer reviews and evidence of substantial involvement. All submissions were carefully considered by the committee in the evaluation of each applicant.

The committee expended innumerable hours drafting, reviewing, revising, and finalizing the initial certification examination, along with the model answers. The exam consisted of two parts: The first part contained two long mandatory essay questions and 20 short answer questions; the second part contained three mandatory long essay questions, one of which comprised the ethic's essay; and 40 multiple choice or true/false questions.

This year's committee consists of myself as chair; Amy Hickman, Boynton Beach, vice chair; Anthony Marchese, Tampa; Alan Mishael, Miami Beach; Mary Ann Scherer, Ft. Lauderdale; Susan Stockham, Sarasota; Patricia Strowbridge, Orlando; and Cynthia Swanson, Gainesville. Each member spent significant time, energy, and thought, which contributed to a productive and successful year.

On behalf of the entire committee, I express our collective appreciation for the knowledge, skill, and experience of Stacey Piland, our excellent Bar staff liaison. Stacey was indispensable to the committee, providing wisdom, insight, expertise, and support for each of its meetings, while also providing key advice as to Bar policies and procedures. We appreciate Stacey's work ethic and support.

In closing, I extend an invitation to all eligible adoption attorneys to apply for certification. There is no better way for an adoption attorney to advance his or her skills, professionalism, and ability to network in the practice of adoption law. It's time to become a board certified adoption attorney! Jeanne T. Tate, Chair

Advertising

The Standing Committee on Advertising is responsible for advising members of The Florida Bar on permissible advertising and marketing practices. The committee, which generally meets monthly, reviews appeals of opinions issued by staff counsel, offers guidance to staff in evaluating lawyer advertisements, makes recommendations regarding rule changes, and provides guidance to members concerning both the substantive and procedural requirements of the advertising rules.

The committee advises Bar members on the substance of the advertising rules through a variety of methods. An in-depth analysis of the filing requirements, substantive regulations, and committee interpretations are provided by the committee's Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, which is regularly updated by Bar staff and is posted on the Bar's website for easy access by Bar members. The handbook reflects important changes that have occurred. The handbook and other information addressed in this report are available on the Bar's website, www.floridabar.org, under "Lawyer Regulation," then "Advertising Rules."

This was a busy year for the Standing Committee on Advertising. In addition to reviewing advertisements filed by members of The Florida Bar, the committee revised the guidelines for social networking as well as the information on the Bar's website regarding bona fide offices.

* Social Media Guidelines--The committee made changes to the guidelines for social networking sites to address Twitter, invitations to view or link a social network page, and unsolicited communications with certain groups. The revisions state that lawyers who post information to Twitter whose postings are generally accessible are subject to the lawyer advertising regulations set forth in Rule 4-7.2. If access to a lawyer's Twitter postings is restricted to the followers of the particular lawyer, the information posted there is information at the request of a prospective client and is not subject to the lawyer advertising rules under Rule 4-7.1(h). The information remains subject to the general misconduct rule, which prohibits any conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty, or misrepresentation under Rules 4-7.1(i) and 4-8.4(c). Any communications that a lawyer makes on an unsolicited basis to prospective clients to obtain "followers" is subject to the lawyer advertising rules, as with any other social media as noted above. The committee also made changes to state that invitations to view or link to a social network page are permissible if the lawyer has a prior professional relationship with the recipient. Finally, the guidelines were revised to state that unsolicited communications are prohibited with certain groups if they are sent for the purpose of obtaining business for the lawyer. The guidelines can be found at www.floridabar.org, under "Lawyer Regulation," then "Advertising Rules."

* Bona Fide Offices--The Bar's website contains information outlining the criteria for determining whether an advertised location is considered a bona fide office. The committee revised that information to clarify that while a lawyer may not refer to a certain location as an office if it is not a bona fide office, the lawyer may state that the lawyer is "available for consultation" or "available by appointment" when the space is a "virtual office" that is owned or under the control of another, is shared with multiple lawyers or other professionals, or is a conference room or other space rented by the hour. A lawyer may...

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