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Profession to face technology and encroachment problems.

The legal profession will likely face critical concerns in the next few years dealing with the impact of technology and with the encroachment by other professions and businesses.

There will also be significant challenges to the continued regulation of Florida lawyers by the Supreme Court and with maintaining competence among lawyers.

Those were among the conclusions of the recent Long Range Planning Committee retreat. Past Chair Caryn Carvo presented the results to the Board of Governors last month. The report was forwarded to the Long Range Planning Committee for their consideration.

Retreat participants included board members, members of sections and committees, judges, representatives of law schools and others, she said.

Attendees were asked to envision what the practice of law will be like in 2005 and 2010, and then outline problems that will face the Bar, she said.

"A couple areas were universally named," Carvo said. "They believed the Bar needed to move forward and concentrate its effort on getting its message out. They wanted the Bar to be able to communicate against and turn the perception of the public around."

A second area was helping lawyers deal with technology, both as a day-to-day practice tool and the changes it is bringing with the increasing globalization of practices and a more sophisticated clientele that does some of its own legal research, she said.

The committee broke its retreat findings down into three categories: critical concerns; significant concerns; and meritorious considerations. It broke its recommended actions into four areas: critical activities; significant activities; meritorious activities; and those of lesser significance.

Critical activities were protecting the independence of the judiciary; improving the public perception of lawyers with specific educational projects; establishing regulations for ancillary businesses (nonlaw businesses owned by lawyers to which clients may be referred) and addressing the encroachment by multidisciplinary practices (businesses that are partly or entirely owned by nonlawyers and providing legal services); sanctioning the lack of professionalism by lawyers; and including representation on the Bar board from different practice areas and for those from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Specific public education projects recommended were telling the public about the benefits of using lawyers and the risks of not using them; the availability of legal services including low-cost services; the risk of using unlicensed practitioners; and the benefits of using certified lawyers.

Significant activities included identifying new practice areas and providing the appropriate CLE; improving the Bar's website to provide interactive mentoring services and more information about Bar members, such as experience and specialization; and preparing standardized disclosure forms relating to ancillary businesses and multidisciplinary businesses.

Other important recommended activities were revising advertising rules and the ad approval process; teaching lawyers how to better use the Internet; addressing funding for legal aid; increasing CLE programs dealing with technology; comprehensively addressing social service issues; educating lawyers and the public about available Bar services; and seeking alternative funding to civil legal services to the poor, including perhaps a Bar annual fees increase with matching funds from the legislature.

Critical concerns included how technology is changing the practice of law and the sophistication and scope of clients; the need to improve the public perception toward the legal system; diversity of the profession; the legal fee structure; attracting new clients; and improving access, ranging from adequate access to legal aid for the poor to reducing the overload for judges.

Significant concerns included whether the Supreme Court and Bar would continue to oversee the profession; developing ancillary business options; apathy by lawyers toward the Bar; tort reform initiatives; overregulation of society; and improving lawyers' competence and professionalism.

Other considerations included anticipating economic impacts on the profession: improving career satisfaction for lawyers; dealing with the "virtual office;" and dealing with demographic shifts in Florida.
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Publication:Florida Bar News
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Oct 1, 1999
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