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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Florida Legal Ethics

VI. PUBLIC SERVICE

6.1   Rule 6.1 Pro Bono Public Service

6.1:100   Comparative Analysis of Florida Rule

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.1, 4-6.5
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

6.1:101      Model Rule Comparison

FL Rule 4-6.1 is significantly different from MR 6.1, reflecting the emphasis placed on pro bono services in recent years by The Florida Bar. While there have been proposals to make pro bono service mandatory, it remains an aspirational goal. The Florida Bar has set forth an aspirational goal of at least 20 hours of pro bono legal services to the poor, or an annual contribution of at least $350 to a legal aid organization. Each member of the bar is required to annually report whether and how the member fulfilled the responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to the poor. Law firms that are either involved in major pro bono cases or which retain a full time community or public service staff may collectively satisfy the pro bono requirement, with the approval of the circuit pro bono committee. FL Rule 4-6.5 sets forth the procedural requirements for the development of a voluntary pro bono plan, as well as suggested substantive "service opportunities" to be included in the plans. These plans are developed on a circuit by circuit basis by committees appointed by the chief judge in each judicial circuit. The Florida Bar also has a standing committee on pro bono legal services, which reviews the activities of the circuit committees and reports annually to the Board of Governors of the bar and to the Supreme Court of Florida.

6.1:102      Model Code Comparison

The Model Code has no counterpart to FL Rule 4-6.1, except the aspirational goals expressed in EC 2-25 and 8-3.

6.1:200   Lawyer's Moral Obligation to Engage in Public Interest Legal Service

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.1, 4-6.5
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.1, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 91:6001, ALI-LGL , Wolfram 16.9

Florida's aspirational rule regarding pro bono public service provides that all Florida lawyers should provide pro bono legal services to the poor. FL Rule 4-6.1(a). However, failure to do so will not subject a lawyer to discipline. FL Rule 4-6.1(b). Judges and their staffs, government lawyers who are prohibited from providing legal services, and retired, inactive or suspended members of the bar are exempted from this responsibility. FL Rule 4-6.1(a).

Members may satisfy this aspirational goal each year by providing 20 hours of pro bono legal service to the poor, or by contributing $350 to a legal aid organization, or by a combination of legal service and financial contribution. FL Rule 4-6.1(b), Comment, FL Rule 4-6.1. Any hours of pro bono legal service in excess of 20 in one year may be carried over for up to two years. FL Rule 4-6.1(e). Out-of-state bar members are permitted to fulfill their pro bono requirements in the states in which they practice or reside. FL Rule 4-6.1(f). In order to qualify as pro bono service, the services must be provided free of charge and without expectation of a fee at the time the service begins. Pro bono service is not recognized for services provided for which a fee was charged but written off as a bad debt. Comment, FL Rule 4-6.1. Pro bono legal services are to be provided not only to those living below the poverty level, but also those characterized as "working poor." Comment, FL Rule 4-6.1. A lawyer is not required to undertake extensive investigation to determine whether a client is entitled to pro bono services. A "good faith determination" by the lawyer is sufficient. Comment, FL Rule 4-6.1.

In some cases, the pro bono requirements may be satisfied collectively by members of a law firm which has previously filed the collective satisfaction plan with the circuit pro bono committee. FL Rule 4-6.1(c). Such a plan may involve a law firm's handling a major case or establishing a full-time community or public service staff. FL Rule 4-6.1(c).

While providing pro bono services is aspirational, the rules contain a mandatory reporting requirement. Every lawyer is required to report the number of hours of pro bono services provided and the amount contributed to a legal aid organization, or that the lawyer has been unable to provide or is exempt from providing pro bono services. FL Rule 4-6.1(d). The reporting requirements provide information necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the aspirational rules and also help remind lawyers of their ethical obligation to provide pro bono services. Comment, FL Rule 4-6.1.

6.2   Rule 6.2 Accepting Appointments

6.2:100   Comparative Analysis of Florida Rule

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.2
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.2, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

6.2:101      Model Rule Comparison

Apart from stylistic variations, FL Rule 4-6.2 is identical to MR 6.2.

6.2:102      Model Code Comparison

The Model Code contains no counterpart to FL Rule 4-6.2, except the aspirational goals expressed in EC 2-29 and 2-30

6.2:200   Duty to Accept Court Appointments Except for Good Cause

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.2
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.2, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 91:6201, ALI-LGL 14, Wolfram 16.9

The Florida rule provides that a lawyer may not, except for good cause, avoid appointment by a tribunal to represent a person. Good cause exists when representing the client is likely to result in a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or the law or is likely to require an undue financial sacrifice by the lawyer, or when the client or cause is "so repugnant to the lawyer as to be likely to impair the client-lawyer relationship or the lawyer's ability to represent the client." FL Rule 4-6.2(a)-(c); Comment, FL Rule 4-6.2.

6.3   Rule 6.3 Membership in Legal Services Organization

6.3:100   Comparative Analysis of Florida Rule

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

6.3:101      Model Rule Comparison

Apart from stylistic variations, FL Rule 4-6.3 is identical to MR 6.3.

6.3:102      Model Code Comparison

The Model Code contains no counterpart to FL Rule 4-6.3.

6.3:200   Conflicts of Interest of Lawyers Participating in a Legal Services Organization

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.3
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.3, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 91:6401, ALI-LGL 135, Wolfram 16.7.4

[The discussion of this topic has not yet been written.]

6.4   Rule 6.4 Law Reform Activities Affecting Client Interests

6.4:100   Comparative Analysis of Florida Rule

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.4
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.4, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

6.4:101      Model Rule Comparison

FL rule 4-6.4 is identical to MR 6.4.

6.4:102      Model Code Comparison

The Model Code contains no counterpart to FL rule 4-6.4.

6.4:200   Conflicts of Interest of Lawyers Participating in Law Reform Organizations

Primary Florida References: FL Rule 4-6.4
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.4, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary: ABA/BNA 91:6402, Wolfram 13.8

[The discussion of this topic has not yet been written.]

6.5   Rule 6.5 Nonprofit and Court-Annexed Limited Legal Service Programs

6.5:100   Comparative Analysis of Florida Rule

Primary Florida References:
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.5, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

MR 6.5 was added in February 2002. The Reporter's explanation of the change reads as follows:

Rule 6.5 is a new Rule in response to the Commission's concern that a strict application of the conflict-of-interest rules may be deterring lawyers from serving as volunteers in programs in which clients are provided short-term limited legal services under the auspices of a nonprofit organization or a court-annexed program. The paradigm is the legal-advice hotline or pro se clinic, the purpose of which is to provide short-term limited legal assistance to persons of limited means who otherwise would go unrepresented.

6.5:101      Model Rule Comparison

Florida has not adopted the new model rule.

6.5:200   Scope of Rule

Primary Florida References:
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.5, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

Florida has not adopted the new model rule.

6.5:300   Special Conflict of Interest Rule

Primary Florida References:
Background References: ABA Model Rule 6.5, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:

Florida has not adopted the new model rule.