Florida Bar Plans To Open Door To Thousands Of Out-Of-State Lawyers

 

A proposal by the Florida Bar to let attorneys from other states practice in Florida without taking the Bar Exam has an already crowded and cut throat community furious.

The Florida Bar began considering expanding its policy of “reciprocity” to cover nearly 12 states came last week when new Florida Bar President, Ramón Abadin stated at his June 26 swearing-in ceremony that Florida lawyers, “can’t operate today under rules from a different era” and suggested changing, among other things, rules that now restrict reciprocity.”

In the Bar survey published last year, 49 percent of Florida lawyers who responded said the state already had too many lawyers. Since 2000, the number of licensed Florida attorneys has ballooned from 60,900 to 101,093, of whom 88,000 are currently eligible to practice. In the same period, five new law schools have opened, cranking out even more lawyers.

In a survey published last year, 49% of the 1,148 Florida Bar members who responded, cited “too many lawyers” as the foremost problem facing facing attorneys in Florida today. The Florida Bar has seen its membership rise from 61,000 members to 101,000 members since 2000. The Florida Bar’s proposal changing “reciprocity” rules would nearly double that figure.

Since 2000, five new law schools have opened in Florida with hundreds of law school students joining the ranks each year. The Tampa Tribune states that, “Among students who graduated in 2013, more than 20 percent from some schools remained unemployed nine months after graduation.”

Florida Bar Leadership noted that technology and globalization are having a dramatic impact on legal field, including the law. Abadin claims the Florida Bar has spent the past two years studying ways to adapt and reciprocity is one solution that benefits Florida lawyers who have clients with legal issues in other states.

He also added that this is not a blanket admission policy and that lawyers from other places who wanted to practice in Florida would not have to take the full state Bar exam, they still could be required to demonstrate knowledge of Florida law. 

Lawyers not licensed in Florida can appear in court in a Pro Hoc Vice capacity with a judge’s approval for up to three cases in a 365-day period.

On the surface, this proposal looks like a big plus for consumers since more competition would reduce the cost of legal representation for the average person. However, it also opens the flood gates for unqualified lawyers from other states to set up shop in Florida. 

The financial crisis is a perfect example of what happens when you have a horde of unqualified attorneys representing clients in a segment of the law they don’t understand. 

When I started MFI-Miami at the beginning of the crisis, there were only about 12 lawyers doing anything in regards to foreclosure defense that understood lending mortgage regulations. Within 24 months, Florida had over 800 lawyers with absolutely no lending experience or litigation experience promoting foreclosure defense as part of their practice. 

From 2009-2014, nearly two-thirds of the homeowners in Florida who fought their foreclosures with the help an lawyer lost their homes anyway. Most of these homeowners had legitimate defenses and could have stayed in the home either by getting the lender’s foreclosure complaint tossed or my negotiating a permanent modification. Unfortunately they hired a lawyer who had no clue what they were doing.

Soon the legal field became the wild, wild west with lawyers fighting other lawyers for clients and lawyers acting like Jerry Lundergaard from the movie, Fargo.

Under the proposed rule change, expect the same thing to happen only on a greater scale. 

 

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