from our past President, Bernard Erhlich
Would you like to volunteer to assist low-income people to achieve access to civil justice? If so, think seriously of becoming an Emeritus Attorney under Chapter 12 of the Florida Bar Rules.
Your Board of Directors, along with Legal Aid of Manasota, Inc., have been actively involved in proposing and making comments to a committee of the Florida Bar Association which was charged with proposing a modification of Chapter 12 of the Florida Bar Rules that provides for the Emeritus Attorneys Pro Bono Participation Program. Under Chapter 12, an attorney who has been licensed in a jurisdiction other than Florida may serve pro bono as an Emeritus Attorney in Florida through a certified legal-aid entity without passing the Bar exam.
The committee has completed its work, and the modified draft has been submitted to the Florida Supreme Court. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, as Chair of the Supreme Court Commission on Access to Civil Justice, has issued a letter to his Associate Justices urging the adoption of the draft of Chapter 12.
With very few exceptions, the modified Chapter 12 will allow any retired attorney who has been licensed in any state, territory or DC and practiced law for a total of any 10 years, or any former law professor or judge, to become an emeritus attorney under the auspices of a legal-aid entity.
Your Association has several of its members who volunteer as Emeritus Attorneys under the current Chapter 12. The draft Chapter 12 is much improved and should encourage more to participate. Under the new Chapter 12, Emeritus Attorneys will not only be able to appear in court on behalf of a client, but also may engage in additional activities that may be considered the practice of law, such as participating in legal clinics or providing advice and assistance to persons, including drafting legal documents, whose legal problems or issues are not subject to litigation. The draft provides that malpractice insurance is required to be furnished by the legal-aid entity.
While some of you may not want to appear in court, the new Chapter 12 will allow Emeritus Attorneys to contribute in many other ways to helping low-income persons in legal matters. As long as the activity is sponsored by a legal-aid entity, the possibilities of Emeritus Attorneys helping low-income people to achieve access to civil justice without the worry of being challenged that they are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law are endless. Assisting Florida attorneys in pro-bono cases, participating in legal clinics, or advising and directing the client at a legal-aid entity are but a few.
We will keep you advised of the progress in adopting the new Chapter 12. If any of you have any questions, let me know, and I will put you in contact with people who are knowledgeable.