Annual reports of committees of The Florida Bar.

 
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Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification

The Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee had a busy 2009-10 year. The committee worked extensively to revamp the board certification test. Additionally, the committee modified and reworked the description of the test and the exam specifications handbook. Additional tasks were taken on by Vice Chair Michael McLeod for the exam and handbook.

Several members of the committee attended The Florida Bar Leadership Conference last November. Committee member Ford Fegert spoke at one leadership conference on various issues. The smaller board certification committees held a spirited debate about their vital importance to The Florida Bar and the public at large.

The committee also commenced a grass roots campaign to solicit highly qualified admiralty attorneys in the state to obtain board certification. Currently, there are 54 attorneys certified in admiralty and maritime law. The committee laid out a long-term program to increase membership to 100 members and board certification from 10 percent to 20 percent per year for the next five years. One of the ways in which the committee hopes to accomplish this task is by setting up an information kiosk at the annual Southeast Admiralty Law Institute Seminar to promote board certification in Florida and to solicit more applicants.

In step with The Florida Bar, the committee decided to save time and money by meeting both electronically and via telephone conference, thus further reducing the committee's administrative and financial costs to The Florida Bar and resulting in a more efficient committee participation and activity. As committee chair, I wish to extend my gratitude to all the committee members and The Florida Bar staff, including Jennifer Wilson, who worked extremely hard this year to bolster the quality assurance of the board certification exam and application process.

MATTHEW J. VALCOURT, Chair

Admiralty Law

The Florida Bar's Admiralty Law Committee continued its valued presentation of CLE offerings during Florida Bar meetings. The committee had been developing an update to the Admiralty Law Practice Manual. As a result of the changes in the Bar's publication department, we have repurposed our practice manual to become a digital document. The committee is presently investigating all avenues of electronic distribution. Joanne Mary Foster is chairing this committee.

The Admiralty Law Committee successfully provided teleconferencing to persons interested in attending our CLE courses during its January meeting. Given the positive feedback, the committee intends to continue providing teleconferencing services to allow more Bar members the opportunity to attend meetings and exchange practice information.

Work is underway and continues for the biennial Admiralty Law Committee Practice and Procedure CLE. The course is scheduled for fall of 2010. Steven Moon is chair of this CLE committee.

Presently, the committee is working with the Federal Court Practice Committee toward an admiralty presentation during the federal judicial conference in 2011. This is part of the committee's effort to educate the Bar at large as to the nuances of admiralty practice.

DEMETRIOS C. KIRKILES, Chair

Adoption Law Certification

The Adoption Law Certification Committee has the responsibility for certifying attorneys whose practice of law deals with the complexities and legalities of interstate and intrastate adoption placements, including civil controversies arising from the termination of the biological parent's parental rights and interstate placements. Adoption law certification was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009. Shortly thereafter, a nine-member committee was appointed. Its first charge was to establish, publish, and implement the policies and mechanisms which will enable the first group of adoption attorneys to become certified in June 2011.

For lawyers who have practiced adoption law for many years, certification serves as the ultimate goal to fulfill a need to identify adoption experts. It particularly benefits adoptive parents and birth mothers because it will assist them in finding these qualified lawyers. In the last decade, Florida adoption laws have been modified almost every year. What was a simple form-based process now requires an experienced adoption attorney's intuitive approach in applying the complicated statutory framework. Certifying adoption attorneys allows the consumer to identify such an attorney quickly and easily.

Since its formation in late 2009, the committee has already met five times in person and via conference call. To effectuate immediate progress, shortly after formation, the committee divided into three subcommittees as follows:

* Application Subcommittee--This subcommittee, chaired by Madonna Finney, was charged with the primary responsibility for drafting, revising, and finalizing the Adoption Law Certification Committee application. This task was completed and published on schedule.

* Policies Subcommittee--This subcommittee, chaired by Susan Stockham, was charged with the responsibility of drafting, revising, and finalizing the Adoption Law Certification Committee policies. This task was completed and published on schedule.

* Exam Specifications Subcommittee--Chaired by Amy Hickman, this subcommittee drafted, revised, and finalized the adoption law certification examination specifications. This task was completed and published on schedule.

The entire committee will now work together in preparation of the first examination in March 2011. During the committee's most recent conference call, the chair of a fellow certification committee provided great insight concerning many aspects of the certification examination. He emphasized that board certification was a mark of excellence. Further, he noted that adoption certification should require a comprehensive knowledge of all of the various, differing facets of the practice, as they are often inextricably intertwined.

Working as part of the inaugural certification committee requires a level of unparalleled commitment by all committee members. Each committee member devotes countless hours to ensure that all aspects of the process are completed in an expert fashion. Nevertheless, the key to the success of our campaign has been the wisdom, insight, and expertise provided by our excellent Bar staff liaison, Stacey Piland. We appreciate Stacey and thank her for all of her support!

MICHAEL A. SHORSTEIN, 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 Florida Bar 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 different methods. An in-depth analysis of the filing requirements, substantive regulations, and committee interpretations is 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 is currently available on the website and reflects important changes that have occurred. The Handbook and other information addressed in this report are available at www.floridabar.org under "Lawyer Regulation" then "Advertising Rules."

The Standing Committee on Advertising had an extremely busy year in 2009. Significantly, the standing committee developed guidelines to address lawyer advertising using social media and the Internet. Additionally, the standing committee approved an advisory opinion concerning when lawyers can use the title "judge" when advertising their services.

* Social Media Guidelines--This year, the committee adopted guidelines for social networking and video sharing sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. The guidelines treat social networking and video sharing sites similarly to websites in that they are subject to Rule 4-7.2 but are not required to be filed for review. Also, lawyers would not be responsible for other parties' postings to lawyers' profiles on social networking sites unless the lawyer prompts the posting or uses the other party to circumvent the lawyer advertising rules. Invitations to a third party to view or link to a lawyer's page would be considered in-person solicitation unless the third party is the lawyer's current client, former client, relative, or another lawyer. Finally, banner ads that may be seen on the social networking and video sharing sites must be filed for review.

* Website Guidelines--On November 19, 2009, the Supreme Court of Florida amended rules on websites. In response to the court's action, the committee formulated and adopted guidelines for lawyer websites.

According to the guidelines, lawyers can have past results and testimonials on their websites if the information appears on a page that is accessible solely through a disclaimer page that clearly indicates what information will be viewed, whether all results or client testimonials are provided, that the results or testimonials are not necessarily representative of results obtained by the lawyer or all clients' experience with the lawyer, and that a prospective client's individual facts, that the circumstances may differ from the matter(s) in which the results or testimonial are provided, and that the information is not regulated by The Florida Bar.

On the disclaimer page, the viewer would have to accept or acknowledge receipt of the information before being given access to pages with information including past results and testimonials. Contact form pages should not be required for the viewer to access...

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