The organized bar in Florida began in 1889 with a small group of lawyers. The Florida State Bar Association was formed in 1907 and continued until the summer of 1949 when the Supreme Court of Florida approved the formation of a "unified" or "integrated" bar with mandatory membership. In April 1950, the name was changed to The Florida Bar and some 3,758 lawyers were grandfathered in as members.
The Florida Bar's charter of service to the lawyers and citizens of this state is embodied in the preamble to its governing document, set forth above. Throughout its existence The Florida Bar has been faithful to these ideals, placing service above all else as its primary reason for being. The result has been a well-deserved national reputation for leadership among state bar organizations and at the highest levels of our nation's judiciary.
How did we achieve this standard of excellence? Through our one basic, indispensable resource: our members.
The services provided and successes achieved by The Florida Bar are due totally to membership involvement--to dedicated service by many lawyers, from the elected representatives on the Board of Governors to volunteer section and committee members, local and other voluntary bar associations, and numerous contributions from individual lawyers.
Because of this intense membership interest, The Florida Bar has always had an extraordinary array of activities underway at any given time. This portion of your Bar directory features a summary of present Florida Bar programs and operations. A review of its pages will help you gain a full understanding of the many Bar services available to you and to the public.
Professional Standards--One of the primary purposes of The Florida Bar is to ensure the highest standards of professionalism in the practice of law for the benefit of members and the public. Toward that objective, Florida Bar programs include:
Ethics and Lawyer Advertising--The authority for the establishment and maintenance of The Florida Bar as a unified bar association is based on the Florida Supreme Court's constitutional authority to regulate the practice of law in Florida. The Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted by the court, provide lawyers with standards of professional practice.
In addition to disseminating the Rules to its members, the Bar assists them in interpreting its provisions by publishing reports of attorney discipline by the Supreme Court or Board of Governors, and featuring periodic ethics guidance in its official publications and on its Web site. The Bar also provides both informal and formal opinions on certain ethical questions posed by its members.
A toll-free ethics hotline was established in 1985 as an exclusive member service, connecting inquiring attorneys directly with ethics counsel at Bar headquarters in Tallahassee. Informal advisory opinions on an attorney's own proposed conduct can be sought by calling (800) 235-8619. Bar members may leave a message for an ethics attorney to return a call within 24 hours by calling (850) 561-5780. Lawyers may also obtain a written opinion or e-mail regarding proposed conduct, from the ethics department. The department's e-mail address is email@example.com.
If a written staff opinion is contested or denied, advisory ethics opinions may be requested from the Bar's Professional Ethics Committee. Proposed committee opinions are previewed in The Florida Bar News for lawyer comment and are subject to review by the Board of Governors.
Ethics opinions are also rescinded as necessary to reflect contemporary standards in the practice of law. A current compilation of formal opinions from the Professional Ethics Committee is contained in a three-post binder. This publication, Professional Ethics of The Florida Bar, is available to all members from LEXIS-NEXIS, (800) 533-1637. The formal opinions are also available on the Bar's Web site, at www.flabar.org.
The Ethics and Lawyer Advertising Department, as staff to the Standing Committee on Advertising, evaluates and provides advisory opinions on attorney advertisements and direct written communications mailed to prospective clients. The department responds to inquiries and general questions from the membership and the public concerning Rule Subchapter 4-7, governing attorney advertising and solicitation. Information on lawyer advertising can also be found on the Bar's Web site. The department also provides educational programs about attorney advertising.
A Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, published by the Standing Committee, is available on The Florida Bar Web site at www.flabar.org.
Admissions--Although misunderstood by the public and many attorneys, The Florida Bar as an organization has no control over attorney admissions. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is the Florida Supreme Court agency charged with ensuring that only qualified persons will be admitted to the practice of law in this state. The 15-member board of lawyer and public members--together with its executive director and staff--investigates the character and fitness of applicants, develops and administers the bar examination for attorney candidates, and submits for Supreme Court approval the names of those qualified for admission to practice. Admission to The Florida Bar is only finally accomplished by action of the Florida Supreme Court.
Persons requesting information on admission to the practice of law in Florida, administration of the bar exam, or other information relating to entering the field of law in Florida should contact the Florida Board of Bar Examiners at 1891 Eider Court, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1750, telephone (850) 487-1292.
Professional Growth--Another responsibility of The Florida Bar is to assist its members in enhancing their professional skills. Toward this objective and the ultimate goal of more effective delivery of legal services, the Bar conducts several programs including:
Continuing Legal Education--
Live Seminars and Programs. The Florida Bar continuing legal education (CLE) provides an ongoing series of educational courses at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels to keep its members up-to-date with the law. Because so many members participate in CLE, it has grown to be the largest single program of The Florida Bar.
Course presentations are produced with the assistance of Bar member volunteers from throughout the state. A variety of programs are provided, ranging from half-day seminars to multiday theme institutes. The Bar annually offers its members some 85 different CLE programs, presented more than 400 times, comprising more than 600 approved credit hours of continuing legal education. CLE courses approved for credit are available at www.flabar.org.
Videotape and Audiocassette Programs. Nearly 70 percent of The Florida Bar's live seminars and programs are videotaped or recorded for presentations throughout the state and for subsequent sale to law firms and individual practitioners, in-state and out-of-state. A listing of available titles, format details, policies, and prices may be obtained from the CLE Registrations office or the Bar Web site.
Online Programs. The Florida Bar CLE courses offered online are available any time at Legalspan.com and Taecan.com.
Course Materials Sales. The Florida Bar maintains a limited reserve of printed course materials and speaker outlines produced for live and videotaped CLE presentations, which are available for post-program purchase. Interested members should contact the CLE Registrations office to determine the availability and cost of these items.
CLE Practice Manuals. The Florida Bar publishes a series of practice manuals covering various areas of the law. These publications are extremely useful and convenient in the day-to-day practice of law. Each manual is written by experienced practitioners; staff lawyers carefully edit all material both for substance and to ensure a quick reference in easy-to-read style. Currently, about 60 of these how-to-do-it manuals, handbooks, and practice systems are available for sale. Updated price lists are published quarterly in the Bar News. Descriptions of books are available at www.lexisnexis.com/flabar. Manuals can be ordered online or by calling (800) 533-1637.
Court Rules Pamphlets. The Florida Bar produces separate pamphlet editions of the official court rules and procedures governing various areas of practice. Pamphlets are available through (800) 533-1637 or www.lexis.com/ bookstore.
Sections--The Florida Bar includes 21 sections, the Young Lawyers Division, and Out-of-State Practitioners Division comprising thousands of attorneys who focus a great deal of their involvement in specific areas of the law. Section membership is voluntary and membership rates are modest. All sections/divisions are involved in the production of specialized CLE seminars or publications in cooperation with The Florida Bar's Continuing Legal Education Committee. From these efforts come many of the fine continuing education programs and publications that are so essential to the Bar's advancement of professional growth within its members. Section/division members also enjoy the benefit of reduced fees for their section's own CLE programs.
Meetings--The Florida Bar offers its members a full range of opportunities to meet annually with other lawyers. The General Meeting of Committees and Sections in September provides the new committees and section executive councils an opportunity to meet, organize, and set goals for the year. The Midyear Meeting in January provides a midyear opportunity for the committees and sections to meet and conduct Bar business and educational opportunities for Bar members. The largest meeting is the Annual Meeting held in June. Sessions feature CLE presentations, panelists, guest speakers, open forums, and workshops. The installation of incoming Bar officers takes place during the General Assembly, also a part of Annual Meeting. Midyear and...