Annual reports of Committees of the Florida Bar.

Author:McFadden, Joe
Position:Cover story
 
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Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification

The Admiralty and Maritime Law Certification Committee was busy in 2010 and 2011 revising the board certification examination. Much work was put into making sure questions were easily understandable and into properly testing the applicant's knowledge of the field. The committee (along with liaison, Jennifer Wilson) spent many hours reviewing questions.

Three applicants took the examination in 2011. Currently, there are 57 certified admiralty and maritime law lawyers.

We are committed to increasing our numbers. Our goal is to reach 100 board certified admiralty maritime law attorneys within the next few years. We are continuing the previous year's grassroots campaign to encourage highly qualified admiralty attorneys in Florida to seek board certification. Various methods are being utilized, including setting up an information booth at the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute Seminar in June. Committee members Matt Valcourt and Stephen Moon have volunteered to work the kiosk. Thank you in advance to both of them.

Two committee members attended The Florida Bar Certification Leadership Conference last October, which was very informative and well done. The certification exam consultant made good points and had excellent suggestions regarding testing and writing questions.

Attendance at the September meeting was excellent due to in-person and telephone conference utilization. Thanks to committee member, Matt Valcourt, who made teleconferencing available to those who could not attend in person.

In closing, I thank Florida Bar staff Jennifer Wilson, who made my job easy, worked hard, and kept our "ship on course" when we so often were apt to deviate from our course at our meetings.

Thank you to all the committee members for volunteering their time and effort. I could not have done it without you. JACOB J. MUNCH, 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 adoption placements, 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 exemplary effort in order to effectuate the policies and mechanisms to enable the first group of adoption attorneys to become certified in June 2011.

During the 2010-11 year, the committee met seven times in person and once 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 25 applications for the initial certification period. 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 mandatory long 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.

The inaugural committee consists of Jeanne T. Tate, vice chair, Tampa; Amy Hickman, Boynton Beach; Anthony Marchese, Tampa; Madonna Finney, Tallahassee; Mary Ann Scherer, Ft. Lauderdale; Susan Stockham, Sarasota; Cynthia Swanson, Gainesville; and Alan Mishael, Miami Beach. I thank each of the committee members for their significant contribution of time, energy, and thought which contributed to a productive and successful year. I especially thank Jeanne Tate for her extraordinary efforts and enthusiastic support in every aspect of our duties and responsibilities.

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. She 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 her work ethic and thank her for all of her 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!

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 current handbook on the website reflects important changes that have occurred. The Handbook and other information addressed in this report are available on the Bar's website at www.floridabar.org under "Lawyer Regulation," then "Advertising Rules."

2010 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 Advertising Opinion A-00-1, proposed changes to the advertising rules, and revised the guidelines for social networking sites.

Advertising Opinion A-00-1--The committee revised Opinion A-00-1 to clarify that while a lawyer may not solicit prospective clients in a chat room, a lawyer may respond to specific questions posed in chat rooms. The opinion also cautions lawyers against inadvertently forming attorney-client relationships with computer users.

Proposed Rule Changes--The committee recommended proposed changes to Rule 4-7.5(b) regarding background sounds in television and radio advertisements. The committee also proposed adoption of Rule 4-7.11 regarding lawyer directories. The proposed changes have been provided to the Board Review Committee of the Board of Governors, which is conducting a review of all the advertising rules based on direction from the Florida Supreme Court.

Social Media Guidelines--The committee made changes to the guidelines for social networking sites to address postings by third parties. The revisions state that a lawyer is not responsible for information posted on the lawyer's page by a third party, unless the lawyer prompts the third party to post the information or the lawyer uses the third party to circumvent the lawyer advertising rules. The revisions also indicate that a lawyer's banner advertisement on a social networking site, as opposed to the lawyer's own page, must be filed for review. The guidelines generally indicate that lawyers are responsible for complying with the substantive advertising requirements in subchapter 4-7 when using social media to promote their legal services, and that lawyers cannot use social media to solicit business from prospective clients with whom the lawyer has no prior professional relationship under Rule 4-7.4(a). The guidelines can be found on the Bar's website at www.floridabar.org, under "Lawyer Regulation," then "Advertising Rules."

Other Accomplishments--By far the most time consuming task of the committee this year, as in past years, has been reviewing advertisements filed by members of The Florida Bar to determine whether they comply with the advertising rules. The committee reviews decisions of its staff regarding lawyer advertisements if the staff's interpretation of a particular rule or advertisement is appealed by an advertising attorney. Advertisers can appeal decisions of the committee to the Board of Governors if they wish to do so. The committee also provides guidance to its staff and advertisers, pursuant to requests for guidance, in order to foster compliance with the rules and to permit advertisers to accomplish their legitimate advertising goals. The committee works hard to apply the advertising rules fairly to all types of advertisements and to balance the rights of advertisers with the needs and concerns of the public.

The committee, through its staff, continues to publish a column in The Florida Bar News from time to time, titled "Advertising Updates." Articles have been published explaining the most recent revisions to the advertising rules and providing information regarding recent opinions of the Board of Governors and the committee regarding advertising. The committee further updates the Bar's website with new material and information when needed in order to provide Bar members with as much information as possible to assist them in compliance with the attorney advertising rules.

Composition of the Committee and Florida Bar Staff--The Standing Committee on Advertising is...

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