Hello everyone and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert and blog. This is a follow up to my 11/16/11 Ethics Alert and will discuss the recent letter sent by Florida Bar President Scott Hawkins to Florida CFO Jeff Atwater agreeing to collaborate to “curtail any improprieties that (for-profit lawyer referral services) may commit”. The Florida Bar has also appointed a special committee to review lawyer referral services and make recommendations for any changes, which could include a potential prohibition of all for-profit lawyer referral services.
In a November 22, 2011 letter to Florida CFO Jeff Atwater responding to Atwater’s earlier letter, Hawkins said that The Florida Bar would cooperate with state efforts regarding regulation of for-profit lawyer referral services. The letter also confirmed that the Bar’s Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services has been working on the issue and will make recommendations. The letter also states that “we believe that (non-lawyer for profit referral services) have created the current environment involving physicians, chiropractors, other health services providers, and lawyers. It is also important to distinguish that there are nonprofit lawyer referral services administered by local bar associations in Florida operated to help consumers who need legal assistance…”
The letter also states that The Florida Bar’s jurisdiction is limited to the regulation of lawyer conduct, but the Bar will “will pursue appropriate measures to address violations of our rules and will endeavor to change our rules to deal with these issues if necessary.” He confirmed that it is not within the jurisdiction of The Florida Bar to prohibit private, for-profit referral services or to regulate non-lawyer conduct; however, the letter states that “we would be very happy to collaborate with your office, appropriate state agencies, and the Legislature to curtail any improprieties these services commit against our fellow Floridians.”
Bottom line: For-profit lawyer referral services (and alleged accident fraud schemes) have generated large amounts of media, Florida Bar and government attention, and investigation recently and the issue continues to simmer (boil?) Stay tuned…
…be careful out there!
| As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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