TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -  The Florida Supreme Court issued its decision Oct. 19 regarding proposed changes to the regulations that govern the Florida Bar.

The changes came from a direct recommendation of the bar and its board of governors. The bar had requested an amendment to existing Rule 4-1.2. In addition, they proposed a new rule, 4-6.6, which is intended to address how bar members can interact with non-profit organizations, even when a conflict of interest may be a concern.

The state high court accepted the proposed revisions to each of the rules and noted that they shall be placed into enforcement on Nov. 20.

Sabeen Perwaiz, executive director of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance told the Florida Record “The changes are a positive development as they will allow Florida attorneys to more readily share their talent.”

RULE 4-1.2 OBJECTIVES AND SCOPE OF REPRESENTATION

This rule was amended from it’s more passive current incarnation to language that sets into greater certainty the foundation of the client/attorney relationship.

For example, Part A of the rule now states: 

(a) Lawyer to abide by client's decisions. Subject to subdivisions (c) and (d), a lawyer must abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation, and, as required by Rule 4-1.4, must reasonably consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A lawyer can take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation. A lawyer must abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter. In a criminal case, the lawyer must abide by the client's decision, after consultation with the lawyer, as to a plea to be entered, whether to waive jury trial, and whether the client will testify. 

RULE 4-6.6 SHORT-TERM LIMITED LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAMS

This newly added rule states:

(a) A lawyer who, under the auspices of a program sponsored by a nonprofit organization, court, government agency, bar association or an American Bar Association-accredited law school, provides short-term limited legal services to a client without expectation by either the lawyer or the client that the lawyer will provide continuing representation in the matter: (1) is subject to Rules 4-1.7 and 4-1.9 (a) only if the lawyer knows that the representation of the client involves a conflict of interest; and (2) is subject to Rule 4-1.10 only if the lawyer knows that another lawyer associated with the lawyer in a law firm is disqualified by Rule 4-1.7 or Rule 4-1.9(a) with respect to the matter. 

Perwaiz added, “The changes streamline conflict of interest procedures in situations where attorneys are providing legal advice through call-in lines or event booths sponsored by law schools, voluntary bars, and legal aid clinics.”

In their ruling, the court stated “... In these programs, such as legal-advice hotlines, advice-only clinics or pro se counseling programs, a client-lawyer relationship is established, but there is no expectation that the lawyer’s representation of the client will continue beyond the limited consultation. These programs are normally operated under circumstances in which it is not feasible for a lawyer to systematically screen for conflicts of interest as is generally required before undertaking a representation.”

When it comes to how non-profit groups will be able to work with lawyers under these changes, Perwaiz said, “Florida Nonprofit Alliance and our members are hopeful that Florida attorneys will see the rule change as an invitation to be more engaged in pro-bono activities and with the nonprofit sector in general.”

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