The Florida Bar held its annual convention from June 23rd through June 26th at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton, Florida. Below is a summary of that meeting along with some updates that have transpired since.
The Committee officially (although briefly) announced the proposed Resolution presented to the Board of Governors regarding the implementation of a study committee to recommend whether or not to regulate the paralegal profession by establishing mandatory guidelines.
Recently, the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors voted in favor of forming the sub-committee. The committee is composed of 9 members -- 3 attorneys appointed by the president, 3 paralegals appointed by the president and 3 members of the Board of Governors. You may read the Florida Bar’s announcement and the committee’s charge here. According to Scott Rubin’s recent discussion of Rule 20 and the sub-committee at the Dade County Bar Association Florida Registered Paralegal Committee meeting in October, of most importance is the question of whether the Supreme Court has authority to regulate paralegals (which initial investigation by the committee indicates that it does). In January, the sub-committee will discuss their findings on whether the Supreme Court can regulate paralegals. Additionally, according to Rubin, the sub-committee will determine how Rule 20 may be mandatorily implemented, but it will not write the rules as to any particular scheme (that will go to another Bar committee). Also, please take a look at the August 3, 2010 Daily Business Review article regarding this recent change for more details.
Additionally, the following issues were discussed during the meeting:
- (1) Would a grandfathered paralegal need to re-apply if their designation is suspended and/or revoked?
- (2) Can government-employed FRPs pay dues in installments?
- (3) Should an FRP program informational brochure be distributed?
- (4) What were the results of FAPA’s FRP survey?
I. Would a grandfathered paralegal need to re-apply if their designation is suspended and/or revoked?
The Committee considered whether an unemployed grandfathered-in FRP needs to re-apply as a new applicant. As the rule currently reads, a paralegal must work under the supervision of a Florida bar attorney. The concern is if a grandfathered-in FRP who has to re-apply only qualifies under work experience, they could potentially be barred from obtaining their FRP designation.
The Committee discussed that a grandfathered-in applicant will still need to meet the “5 out of 8” requirement, that is, working as a paralegal under the supervision of a Florida Bar attorney for the last 5 out of 8 years. However, the Committee noted that should an FRP lose employment, they have the option of deferring renewal until December 31st by filing a renewal extension request (along with the appropriate late fee).
While a rule change has not occurred, it was discussed that a paralegal who leaves the workforce, should be able to return as long as they maintain their CLE and provide a new attestation (note: CLE hours cannot be reported until the designation is restored). In other words, once grandfathered, always grandfathered. To be clear, the sunset of the grandfather provision is for eligibility -- not for renewal --purposes (the grandfathering provision will sunset in March, 2011).
As a side note, an interesting question came up, likely to be an issue in the future. If the FRP program becomes mandatory, would the requirement to work primarily as a paralegal be the same? Attorneys who obtain their juris doctorate often do not practice law, but, rather, maintain an inactive status. Similarly, CLAs who maintain their CLE do not lose their eligibility.
II. Can government-employed FRPs pay dues in installments?
The Committee considered the current language of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar 20-4.1(e), “Annual Renewal, Content and Registration Fee,” and 1-7.3, “Membership Fees,” in light of a governmental paralegal’s request to be allowed to pay dues in installments. The request contended that governmental agencies do not pay for their paralegal employee’s dues. The Committee discussed that, similar to a governmental attorney, the paralegal’s job description must require an FRP designation in order to be eligible to pay in installments.
III. Should an FRP program informational brochure be distributed?
The Northwest Florida Paralegal Association proposed a pamphlet for the Committee’s consideration, targeted mainly at legal administrators, attorneys and the public on explaining the FRP designation. The association requested approval to (1) distribute the information by posting it on the Bar’s FRP website and (2) use it in law offices throughout the state.
The Committee stated that the pamphlet will need to be approved by the Bar’s Communications Committee. Prior to that, it will need to be re-drafted, as the pamphlet has to be the actual product of the Committee. Put plainly, the Committee must write any information meant for the public on the FRP program (with Bar approval). The Committee welcomed the use of the already created pamphlet and requested it in editable format in order to request approval from Communications to move forward with an FRP program informational pamphlet.
IV. What were the preliminary results of FAPA’S FRP Survey?
The preliminary results of FAPA’s FRP Satisfaction Survey were presented by FAPA president Mark Workman. Please view FAPA’s website for further details on the results. (www.FAPAinc.org)
Workman further stated that the current balance of the paralegal fund, in excess of $500,000, should be independently maintained apart from the Bar’s general fund, and used to benefit the program alone in order to reap benefits other than a mere designation, including CLEs and perhaps a paralegal convention someday.
Ultimately, the results indicated that paralegals desire more control over the direction of the profession.
The Bar’s Midyear meeting is scheduled for September 22nd - 25th at the Hilton Orlando. Meeting was adjourned at 3:25 p.m.