The Florida Supreme Court is cracking down on attorney misconduct, making it more important than ever for lawyers to understand the rules of ethics. Hundreds recently heard Florida lawyer regulation attorney Henry Lee Paul speak about defending lawyers in grievance proceedings during the Masters Seminar on Ethics at The Florida Bar’s annual convention in Orlando.
“The harsher sanctions are an extension of the growing number of Florida Bar members and law schools across the state,” Paul explained. “The high volume of attorneys isn’t aligned with the demand at larger law firms, forcing more and more lawyers to create solo and small practice firms that lack the accountability of longstanding institutions,” Paul said.
There are now more than 106,000 members of The Florida Bar and 12 law schools statewide.
“You have a lot of people coming out of law school $250,000 in debt and they can’t get a job, so they hang out a shingle,” Paul said.
That puts the onus on attorneys to understand the landscape. Paul covered how to avoid ethics complaints and common reasons why those complaints are filed with The Florida Bar, with a focus on proactive steps. His presentation included six best practice tips to avoid trust account bar complaints, the most common variety.
“The best way to defend against a bar complaint is not to get one,” Paul said.
Paul agrees with fellow seminar speaker Steven W. Teppler of Abbott Law Group, P.A., who explained that an up-to-date understanding of technology, particularly as it relates to record-keeping and security, is part of every attorney’s responsibility to ethically serve their clients.
The seminar also included a panel on the intersection of ethics and lawyer health and wellness with the following distinguished participants:
· John T. Berry, Legal Division Director for The Florida Bar
· Judy Rushlow, executive director of Florida Lawyers Assistance
· Richard Bush, senior partner at Bush & Augspurger, P.A.
· Dori Foster-Morales, Mental Health and Wellness Committee Chair for The Florida Bar, and
· Ken Landis, a writer and lecturer on topics related to professional responsibility and lawyer liability.
Paul and many of the other speakers were part of a discussion recorded after the seminar for an episode of The Florida Bar Podcast. The episode is available through iTunes, Google Play and legaltalknetwork.com.
The entire seminar is available online by going to The Florida Bar’s Continuing Legal Education website at tfb.inreachce.com and typing Masters Seminar on Ethics into the search field. The course number is 2777R, and it provides three hours of ethics credit and one hour of technology credit for attorneys.