Florida Legal Industry Reform
Florida is getting closer to legal industry reform. The state continues to research and refine what it hopes will be the best path forward in an historically traditional industry.
“The days for talking, studying, and reporting are over. We need to solve this problem with concrete, incremental steps. And we will.”
What Legal Industry Reforms Are Being Considered in Florida?
In 2019, Florida created a Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services. The Special Committee’s purpose was twofold: to study the rules dictating Florida’s legal industry and determine if they could be altered to improve legal services delivery, and to make sure Florida lawyers continue to have a significant role in the delivery of legal services.
In June 2021, the Special Committee issued a final report, which included numerous recommendations. Later that year, the Florida Bar Board of Governors rejected the vast majority of the Special Committee’s recommendations, and these rejections were supported by the Florida Supreme Court.
Rejected recommendations include updating law firm advertising rules, creating a Legal Innovation Lab similar to the Utah Sandbox to test nonlawyer law firm ownership (among other things), and allowing fee sharing between lawyers and nonlawyers.
Of the numerous recommendations supplied by the Committee, only one survives:
- Amend Florida Bar rules to let nonprofit legal service providers organize as corporations, and allow nonlawyers to serve on those nonprofits’ boards.
When Will Legal Reforms in Florida Be Implemented?
In light of the rejected recommendations, the Court requested that the Committee return to the drawing board. The deadline for new recommendations is December 30, 2022. How the Board of Governors and Supreme Court respond to the new recommendations will set the tone for the next phase of Florida’s legal industry reform.
Why Is Legal Industry Reform in Florida Necessary?
Like most other U.S. jurisdictions, Florida is facing an access to justice crisis. In civil legal cases, low- and middle-income Florida residents have increasingly gone without legal representation. And so far, attempts to bridge the gap between people and the legal services they need have made moderate dents at best.
As former Florida State Bar President Gregory Coleman wrote about the access to justice gap, “The days for talking, studying, and reporting are over. We need to solve this problem with concrete, incremental steps. And we will.”
Is Florida the Only State Pursuing Legal Industry Reform?
No! At least a dozen states are considering legal industry reform and researching the access to justice gap.
In Arizona, legal industry reform is already implemented—we’ve applied to operate an Alternative Business Structure in the state. And in Utah, the legal regulatory Sandbox is up and running, and Law on Call has been in operation there since Winter 2021.