Work continues on study to improve legal service delivery – The Florida Bar

Work continues on study to improve the delivery of legal services

As the Supreme Court awaits its recommendations by the December deadline, the Select Committee on Enhanced Public Access to Legal Services should consider practical solutions and bold proposals, Bar President Gary Lesser said.

The Board of Governors, at the request of the Supreme Court, formed the special committee in March.

This was shortly after the Supreme Court announced that it would not adopt most of its special committee’s recommendations to improve the delivery of legal services – including testing the ownership of law firms by non-lawyers, the sharing of fees with non-lawyers, and the general expansion of the work that paralegals are permitted to perform.

The new committee was given a Dec. 30 deadline to recommend ways to improve the delivery of legal services to Florida consumers, while “ensuring that attorneys play an appropriate and prominent role.”

Co-chaired by veteran board members Jay Kim and Wayne Smith, the 16-member committee is made up of bar leaders, legal aid representatives and Linda Goldstein, one of two public members on the board. to the Board of Governors.

Over the past five months, the committee has reviewed a host of research papers, including national studies of pilot programs.

Preliminary discussions have focused on increased use of certified legal interns, expanded use and promotion of prepaid legal service plans, increased funding for civil legal aid, increased use court navigators and the use of court technology.

Discussions continued at its last meeting.

In addition to working on practical solutions, Lesser suggested the long-term goal of every Florida law student participating in a “clinical internship.”

Lawyers are criticized for not having a residency requirement like the medical profession, Lesser said. Skilled trades, including plumbers and electricians, have a long history of apprenticeship, he added.

“I believe that one way or another we’re going to start having some sort of real internship requirement,” he said. “It’s going to happen…why not let Florida be a leader?”

Lesser also suggested the panel consider amending Chapter 9 of the Florida Bar Rules, which governs prepaid legal services plans. Lesser said he was frequently asked about the projects while traveling across the state.

“Is there a way to expand the rule, to modify the rule so that its entry port is more accessible?” He asked. “One of the challenges, of course, is how does it work? Is a one-lawyer practice a prepaid legal services plan? »

Kim, the committee’s co-chair, said he was serving as a liaison with the law society’s prepaid legal services plan committee and promised to get more information.

“I’ll know a little more about the landscape of what’s going on there when I go to the meeting,” he said.

Amy Farrior, another board member who sits on the special committee, said she was encouraged by a “low-tech” proposal to direct potential professional litigants from court websites – before they commit to self-represent – ​​to a Florida Bar landing page that details other options.

“The idea is to help [the self represented] get information,” she said. “Something saying pro se is not the way to go if you have options…here are other ways to get a lawyer.”

Smith, a board member and co-chair, said the committee should recommend the Supreme Court adopt something similar to Federal Rule 26 (duty to disclose; general provisions governing discovery).

Stricter upfront disclosure requirements could significantly reduce discovery costs, Smith said.

“In my experience, a big part of the expense of civil litigation, any type of civil litigation, is discovery, so that might help streamline that a bit,” he said.

Smith began his legal career as a paralegal and served as a liaison with the Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee. An advocate for the program, he acknowledged that the Law Society has long opposed an expanded role for paralegals, at least in part because of the risk it poses to the public.

But he urged the committee to consider reviving a proposal from last year that called for the creation of a limited pilot program, within a civil legal aid group, that would allow registered Florida paralegals to assist tenants in landlord and tenant disputes and debt collection matters.

“The idea is to address needs that are not being met by lawyers with the models we have now,” Smith said.

Kim reminded the panel that to meet its December 30 deadline, the draft recommendations will need to be completed by the first week of November.

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