Defending an Attorney Grievance Proceeding
Florida attorneys have a new tool in their quest to attract and secure new clients. As reported by the Miami New Times, the The Florida Bar recently decided to allow lawyers to text potential clients. The practice was formerly banned, but the organization changed its stance as “an adaptation to reality” as reportedly explained by Ramon Abadin, president of the State Bar.
While the American Bar Association prohibits solicitation of clients in person or over the telephone, it leaves the interpretation and enforcement of such rules to the individual states. Initially, the Florida Bar classified text messages as telephone communications. In altering this position, the association asserts that a text message is more comparable to an email than a telephone call. The article quotes Abadin as stating, “Most people communicate by mobile data services that happen to be phones, too.”
This new method of solicitation is not without limits. The Bar reportedly placed the following restrictions on attorneys who choose to utilize text messaging:
- The word “Advertisement” must appear conspicuously at the start of the text;
- The test must include the attorney’s professional credentials;
- Attorneys must disclose how they obtained the telephone number;
- The text must advise readers to ignore the message if an attorney has already been secured;
- For some specific case types, attorneys must wait for a specified number of days before sending a text message;
- Attorneys must pay any costs associated with the potential client’s receipt of the text; and
- Participating attorneys are subject to the regulations of the Telephone Consumer Act, so texts must be sent from a real person and not an automated service.
As with many regulations regarding attorney conduct, this new solicitation method comes with a lot of stipulations. Violating any of them, whether purposely or accidentally, can lead to serious professional consequences.
Professional Disciplinary Proceedings
When an attorney receives a complaint, a systematic grievance process ensues.
- First, the complaint is reviewed by an intake representative, who decides whether or not to advance it to the next level.
- If it is forwarded, one of the state bar’s branch offices conducts an investigation.
- At this stage the complaint is either dismissed or advanced to a grievance committee.
- This stage is similar to a grand jury and, if probable cause is found, a referee is appointed by the chief judge and a trial is held.
- The outcome of the trial is sent as a recommendation to the Supreme Court of Florida, which issues a final order and hears any appeals.
For an attorney, facing a disciplinary proceeding can prove extremely stressful. Even the most eloquent and persuasive lawyer may find it difficult to represent herself in front of a Bar panel or the courts. Not only is your livelihood at stake, but your representation and financial stability as well.
The attorneys of Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC believe that every attorney deserves a vigorous defense when faced with disciplinary actions. With a long history of fighting for their colleagues, we can provide you with the professional assistance you need at this vital stage in your career. Call Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.