The Florida Supreme Court has rejected proposals to test nonlawyer ownership in law firms, fee splitting with nonlawyers, and broadly expanded paralegal work. The proposals, which were included in a 2021 report of a Special Committee to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services, were modeled after a regulatory sandbox pilot program approved in Utah in 2020. The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors unanimously opposed the Special Committee’s proposals to allow nonlawyer ownership in law firms and for lawyers to split fees with nonlawyers. The only recommendation from the Special Committee’s report that the Florida Supreme Court intends to adopt will be to “permit not-for-profit legal service providers to organize as a corporation and to permit nonlawyers to serve on the not-for-profit legal service provider’s boards of directors.” The court, however, “remains committed to ensuring that the rules governing the practice of law in Florida not only enforce appropriate ethical standards among Florida lawyers, but also meet the needs of Floridians for timely and affordable legal services.” The court asked the Bar to file a petition or report by December 30, 2022, providing “alternative proposals to ‘improve the delivery of legal services to Florida’s consumers and . . . assure Florida lawyers play a proper and prominent role in the provision of these services.’”
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