TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Bar hopes the recent launch of a new website makes the use of the Lawyers Advising Lawyers program easier for both adviser attorneys and asking attorneys.
Jennifer Krell Davis, the bar's deputy director of public information and bar services, is pleased with how the new website is working so far.
"This current launch is really about the website and the technology to quickly connect attorneys so that they can get advice in a timely fashion," Davis told The Florida Record. "It's not just about young attorneys. We have a lot of attorneys that change practice areas throughout their careers, and once you're in a new practice area, you really need to have a resource to get assistance if you don't have someone locally that you can get advice from."
Attorneys looking for advice connect with adviser attorneys through a four-step process, laid out on lawyersadvisinglawyers.com. First, the attorney decides what he or she needs help with. Then, that attorney reaches out, asking for help through one of three ways, by using the website itself, by dialing 1-800-342-8060, extension 5807, or by email. Attorneys who choose to use the website need to give their bar number.
Once the attorney asks for help, the program is set up to where the asking attorney is automatically referred to an adviser attorney who is advising in the area that the asking attorney needs advice in, and then it's up to the asking attorney to reach out to the adviser attorney that he or she has been matched up with. At that point, the asking attorney must give all the party information on the case that the asking attorney is working to the adviser attorney to make sure no conflicts of interest exist.
After that, the inquiring attorney asks about the legal issue he or she needs help with, and the adviser attorney consults the asking attorney. From there, the asking attorney decides what is best to help the party he or she is representing.
"The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive," Davis said. "And we also have surveys in place to get feedback. ... If anything's not working, we have the ability to immediately revise or adjust or contact either of the attorney[s] to make sure that any problems are addressed."
F. Scott Westheimer, a managing partner at Syprett, Meshad, Resnick, Lieb, Dumbaugh, Jones, Krotec and Westheimer, P.A., estimates he's been part of the program for more than 10 years. He said when he first got involved with the program, it went by the name SCOPE.
"In my opinion, it's an excellent program," he said. "It's provided by the Florida Bar for free. And I think for younger attorneys or other attorneys that need advice, I think it's one of the bar's best programs to help them out."
Westheimer, who also serves on the bar's board of governors, said other adviser attorneys have enjoyed their experiences with the new website.
"The new promotion, the new website, it seems like there's been a great influx of young attorneys, other less-experienced attorneys that have used it," he said. "And everyone that I've talked to has been very positive about the experience."
Davis said the Florida Bar made a soft launch in December to test the system, with the formal launch in January.
Davis said as of Jan. 31, the Lawyers Advising Lawyers program had 475 adviser attorneys participating. She said the new website has caused a great response from adviser attorneys signing up.
"We believe that the process through the website of signing up to be an adviser has really assisted that," she said. "That number obviously continues to grow as we talk to other attorneys and try to get them to sign up. We are reaching out to all of our voluntary bars, we're reaching out to our board-certified attorney areas and all of our sections and trying to really get everybody that's eligible signed up."
According to the website, the program currently covers 50 law and practice areas. Davis said the bar has cut down the number of areas because the program used to have areas of law that weren't covered a lot.
More information on the program can be found at lawyersadvisinglawyers.com.