Bar proposes no new fees budget

Bar proposes no new fees budget

Bar proposes no new fees budget

Bar proposes no new fees budget

The board also voted to approve a proposed rule amendment that would permit Florida lawyers for the first time to earn CLE credit for pro bono service

The Board of Governors has approved the initial proposed budget for FY 2024-25 that would continue a 23-year tradition of calling for no member fee increases.

Jeff Rynor

Budget Committee Chair-elect Jeffrey Rynor

Budget Committee Chair-elect Jeffrey Rynor said the budget, a 1.5% increase over current spending, projects $43.1 million in revenues and $48.4 million in expenses, for an operating loss of $5.3 million. The Bar typically runs a slight operating loss, and its finances are sound, Rynor said.

Fees will remain at $265 for active members and $175 for inactive members.

The committee began crafting the proposal in January at a daylong workshop in Tallahassee, Rynor said.

“Based on that review exercise, and some additional review by the executive director and senior staff, a proposed budget for each of the various entities is recommended for first approval, which will allow for the required notice for  members’ objections,” Rynor said.

Regulation of the practice of law, which includes the Bar grievance system, ethics and advertising operations, the Attorney-Consumer Assistance Program, The Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, and Membership Records, will continue to be the Bar’s largest expense. It’s projected at $25.6 million next year.

A complete breakdown of the proposed budget may be found here.

The board is required to  forward the budget to the Supreme Court no later than June 1 after all  members’ objections have been resolved.

In other business, the board voted to approve a proposed rule amendment that would permit Florida lawyers for the first time to earn CLE credit for pro bono service.

Without discussion or debate, the board voted unanimously to approve proposed amendments to Rule 6-10.3 (Minimum Continuing Legal Education).

The revisions would permit a Florida lawyer to receive one hour of general CLE for every four hours of pro bono service, not to exceed five hours of CLE in a three-year reporting cycle.

The Florida Supreme Court, in an August 1, 2023, letter requested that the Bar consider “Authorizing continuing legal education credit or professionalism credit for pro bono participation.”

The letter specified that the Bar consider “whether there should be maximum number of credit hours that can be earned under this authority.”

Justices issued the letter after reviewing recommendations by the Bar’s Special Committee on Greater Public Access to Legal Services.

In other business, the board voted conditional approval of a law firm’s TV advertisement that depicts an actor pressing a “magic button” that prominently features the law firm’s name.

Each press of the button makes a stack of bills disappear.

“We aim to get you a financial recovery that will cover all your bills after an accident,” a narrator intones.

Bar staff originally determined that the statement would violate Rule 4-7.13(b)(1), which prohibits “a prediction or guarantee of success or specific results.”

Among other things, staff reviewed previous board decisions, said Ethics Counsel Jonathan Grabb.

“The precedent that we saw as the most analogous was an incident where we had an advertisement that included a depiction essentially showing a client winning the lottery,” he said.

The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics didn’t consider the advertisement misleading, said Brian Burgoon, the committee chair.

“The discussion was we don’t think a reasonable person . . . would think that [the firm] is going to cover your cable bill, or your credit card bill, your student loan, or your mortgage,” he said. “We thought the term ‘after an accident’ was sufficient.”

Several board members agreed.

“Given the history of all the ads that we’ve approved, I think it would be a mistake to disapprove this one,” said board member Wayne Smith.

After a discussion, and after viewing the video multiple times, the board voted to reverse the staff opinion and approve the ad — but only if the advertising firm agrees to include a disclaimer that not all the client’s bills would be specified in a recovery.

In other action, the Bar’s outside legislative counsel Jim Daughton told the board that the $117.5 billion budget the Legislature approved March 8, the final day of the session, is good news for the Florida court system.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to exercise his line-item veto authority, but the budget would give judges a 3% pay increase along with most state employees, Daughton said.

“I have to mention it went really, really well,” Daughton said.  “Big increases for court reporting resources, big increases for due process, which is basically court interpreters and expert witness fees, big funding for case management.”

The board also voted to nominate Miami attorney Miriam S. Ramos to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee to serve a four-year term that commences July 1.

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