At a Lookout Point.

AuthorStewart, John M.

In life and in law, change can occur suddenly like a tidal wave that crashes onto the shore or can happen over time as the waters that carved the Grand Canyon. When it comes to the legal profession, The Florida Bar stands at a lookout point over the seas of change, watching from an advantageous position for signs of major developments as they roll in. Through vigilance, we can be ready to respond to, and be prepared for, the future.

Technology has been a leading force in dramatically altering the way we practice. Highly lucrative and competitive alternative legal service providers have entered the online marketplace. According to the Florida Supreme Court's Commission on Access to Civil Justice--which was set up to study the unmet civil legal needs of disadvantaged and low- and moderate-income Floridians--people are downloading forms from the internet at a higher rate than ever before to handle their own legal matters. Lawyers are constantly under pressure to remain afloat amid these powerful market forces. So how does the Bar step into the picture? The Bar has always been steadfast in its reputable and effective regulation of lawyers since the 1950s, but will we witness broader and different regulatory models in the future?

The technological innovations and changes within the legal marketplace initially hit the profession like a tsunami. While much of the water from that initial wave receded, smaller inlets remained that over time have carved broader more permanent pathways into the legal marketplace. To date, there has been no regulatory body that has channeled these technological waters into pathways that protect the public while at the same time benefiting the profession and fostering much needed innovation.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors just recently, and cautiously, dipped its toe in the waters of regulatory reform by passing a new chapter of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar titled, the "Registered Online Service Provider Program." This program allows for the voluntary registration of qualified online legal service providers to assure greater access to legal services as well as greater protection of the public. The reality of The Florida Bar, under the auspices of the Florida Supreme Court...

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