Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the proposed revision to Florida Bar Rule 4-1.8(c), which would prohibit a lawyer from soliciting any gift from a client. The BOG approved the rule amendments and the Bar will file an Omnibus Rules Petition with the proposed rule amendment with the Florida Supreme Court on October 15, 2016 (along with other proposed rule amendments). The new Rule 4-1.8(c) language is below with new language underlined and proposed rule revisions are here: 2016 Annual Florida Bar Rules Proposals.
Current Florida Bar Rule 4-1.8(c) prohibits lawyers from soliciting or accepting a “substantial” gift from a client or preparing a testamentary instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer a substantial gift; however, one of the issues which comes up when a lawyer solicits or prepares an instrument with a gift from a client is whether it is “substantial”. The Bar Rules do not define “substantial” and a potential rule violation is subject to the Bar’s subjective interpretation of the word.
If the revisions to the rule are implemented by the Florida Supreme Court, the plain language of the would prohibit lawyers from soliciting any gift from a client or soliciting or preparing a testamentary instrument of a client with any gift. The proposed revised rule 4-1.8(c) is below:
RULE 4-1.8 CONFLICT OF INTEREST; PROHIBITED AND OTHER TRANSACTIONS
(c) Gifts to Lawyer or Lawyer’s Family. A lawyer is prohibited from soliciting any gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, or prepare on behalf of a client an instrument giving the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer any gift unless the lawyer or other recipient of the gift is related to the client. For purposes of this subdivision, related persons include a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or other relative with whom the lawyer or the client maintains a close, familial relationship.
According to the Bar’s notice: “Members who desire to comment on these proposed amendments may do so within 30 days of the filing of the Bar’s petition(s) (which will be 10/15/16). Comments must be filed directly with the clerk of the Supreme Court of Florida, and a copy must be served on the executive director of The Florida Bar. Rule 1-12.1, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, governs these proceedings.”
Bottom line: If approved by the Florida Supreme Court, this revision would provide more clarity to lawyers regarding the acceptance of gifts; however, it will also mean that a lawyer will violate this rule if he or she accepts any gift from a client.
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this Ethics Alert is not an advertisement and 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