Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors approves Bar Standing Committee on Advertising’s opinion that solo lawyers may refer to themselves in the plural as ‘we’ and “us” in advertising

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert update blog which will discuss the recent decision of the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors to uphold the Standing Committee on Advertising’s opinion that solo lawyers may use plural nouns and refer to themselves as “we”, “us” and “our” in advertisements.

As I reported in an earlier Ethics Alert, The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising (SCA) voted in June 2013 to issue an opinion finding that solo lawyers are permitted use plural nouns to describe the lawyer’s practice.  According to a recent Florida Bar News article, the Bar’s Board of Governors (BOG) met in July and declined to overturn the opinion of the SCA that a solo practitioner is permitted to use plural pronouns in his or her advertising.

The BOG’s decision is contrary to previous votes by the BOG stating that it was misleading under the Florida Bar advertising rules for sole practitioners to use plural pronouns in advertisements.  The majority of the BOG agreed with the SCA that it was not misleading to use “we,” “us,” or “our” since it did not imply there was more than one licensed Bar member in the firm.  The BOG Review Committee on Professional Ethics had voted to overturn the SCA opinion; however, the full BOG rejected the committee’s position.

Bottom line:  The BOG vote supports and confirms the recent SCA opinion that lawyers who are sole practitioners may use plural nouns such as “we”, “us”, and “our” in advertisements and reverses the long term precedent prohibiting such words.

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

2 Comments

Filed under Attorney Ethics, Florida Lawyer Advertising opinions, Florida Lawyer advertising rules, Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer advertising, Lawyer Advertising opinion, Lawyer advertising rules, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer ethics opinions

The Florida Bar’s Revised Staff Opinion 31937 states that lawyers may join business networking organizations such as BNI with certain caveats

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will update my previous Alert which discussed the decision of The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising (SCA) to overturn a Bar Advertising staff opinion and opine that lawyers may join an organization which promotes networking between professionals such as Business Networking International (BNI) as long as the lawyer does not personally solicit clients or cases and does not make referrals to another professional either for a payment or as a quid pro quo for obtaining future referrals.  The Bar’s Ethics and Advertising Department has now issued Staff Opinion 31937 (Revised), which incorporates the decision of the Standing Committee.

As I previously indicated, in response to a request from a member of The Florida Bar, a Bar Ethics and Advertising Staff Counsel drafted an advisory opinion finding that participation in the networking organization would violate the Florida Bar Rules.  At the June 27, 2013 meeting of the SCA, Bar Ethics and Advertising Counsel stated that the staff’s concerns were that there is a potential for solicitation and a potential for conflicts of interest if a lawyer is referring to another person whom they met through BNI which might not in the client’s best interest, but would in the lawyer’s personal interest because the lawyer may receive more referrals.   Another Bar concern was whether BNI operated as a de facto referral service, which would require it to comply with Bar lawyer referral service rules before lawyers could join a BNI chapter.

The author of this Ethics Alert argued to the SCA that BNI was not a referral service but akin to a civic group such as the Rotary Club, where lawyers might receive referrals by becoming members and that it is not unethical to belong to those groups.  In addition, the BNI rules specifically permit its members to follow the requirements of the ethics rules which govern their professions, including lawyers.  The Chair of the SCA voiced his concerns about the local chapter in his area; however, after discussion, the SCA voted unanimously to reverse staff and issue an opinion that joining a BNI chapter does not violate Florida Bar rules as long as the lawyer does not solicit cases or make referrals to another professional either for payment or as a quid pro quo for obtaining referrals from that individual.

Bottom line:  Again, if you belong to BNI or another professional networking organization, the good news is that you can stay a member, as long as you comply with the Bar Rules.  If you are not a member, you can certainly now join.

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

2 Comments

Filed under Attorney Ethics, Florida Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Florida Lawyer Professionalism, Florida Lawyer Staff Opinion re networking organizations, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism

The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors approves Advisory Opinion 12-3 on cloud computing and protecting client confidentiality at its June 2013 meeting

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog with an update on The Florida Bar’s Ethics Advisory Opinion 12-3 on cloud computing and protecting client confidences when storing client records in the digital “cloud” using third party vendors.  The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors approved the opinion (with a minor revision to the final paragraph) at its June 2013 meeting in Boca Raton in conjunction with The Florida Bar’s annual convention.  Florida Bar Advisory Opinion 12-3 is at: http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/tfbetopin.nsf/SearchView/ETHICS,+OPINION+12-3?opendocument

The advisory opinion concludes that storing client confidential information and documents in the “cloud” is ethical with several important caveats:

This (Professional Ethics) Committee agrees with the opinions issued by the states that have addressed the issue. Cloud computing is permissible as long as the lawyer adequately addresses the potential risks associated with it. As indicated by other states that have addressed the issue, lawyers must perform due diligence in researching the outside service provider(s) to ensure that adequate safeguards exist to protect information stored by the service provider(s).  New York State Bar Ethics Opinion 842 suggests the following steps involve the appropriate due diligence:

Ensuring that the online data storage provider has an enforceable obligation to preserve confidentiality and security, and that the provider will notify the lawyer if served with process requiring the production of client information;

 

Investigating the online data storage provider’s security measures, policies, recoverability methods, and other procedures to determine if they are adequate under the circumstances;

 

Employing available technology to guard against reasonably foreseeable attempts to infiltrate the data that is stored.”

Florida now joins at least 11 other states which have issued ethics opinions finding that cloud computing is ethical and providing guidelines for its use.  Florida Bar Advisory Opinion 10-2 also provides guidance to lawyers to insure that confidential client information on the hard drives of discarded copiers, computers, scanners, and other electronic equipment is protected but does not address digital cloud computing.

Bottom line:  Although Florida Bar Advisory Opinions are for guidance only and are not precedential, Florida lawyers now have more clear guidance on the ethics of cloud computing and insuring that client confidences are protected.

Be careful out there!

Disclaimer:  this e-mail does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

Fax     (727) 799-1670

jcorsmeier@jac-law.com

www.jac-law.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Attorney Ethics, Florida Ethics Opinion 12-3 ethics of cloud computing, Florida lawyer cloud computing, joe corsmeier, Joseph Corsmeier, Lawyer cloud computing and confidentiality, Lawyer ethics, Lawyer Ethics and Professionalism, Lawyer ethics opinion cloud computing, Lawyer ethics opinion could computing, Lawyer ethics opinions, Lawyer Professionalism