Legal Ethics

Attorneys clash as Florida considers allowing admission on motion for out-of-state lawyers

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Opponents called it “stupid,” “dangerous,” and an “error in judgment.” Proponents quoted Mel Gibson in Braveheart and cited Adam Smith. What could have possibly caused such a wide range of reactions?

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the clash was over a proposal that would allow lawyers from other states to be admitted to the bar on motion—a move that would allow them to practice law in the Sunshine State without taking the bar exam. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the vast majority of lawyers who spoke out about the proposal during a public forum held by the Florida Bar were firmly opposed to it, and that only a few dared support it.

“Freedom!” shouted attorney Charlie Tiffany of Kissimmee, one of the few supporters of the proposal, according to the Times. “The bar has a chance to enlarge freedom—how often does that happen in any of our lifetimes? As any economist worthy of his copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations knows, the freer the trade is, the more there is.”

Most of the lawyers in attendance, however, were more concerned about the effects of increased competition from out-of-state attorneys. “Every state but Washington and Nebraska is producing more lawyers than it needs,” said attorney John Hamilton of Tampa, according to the Times. “Forty-nine percent of law school grads can’t find long-term jobs. I ask you to search the Internet and find stories about shortages of lawyers in Florida. There are none. There are no concrete facts to explain why reciprocity would be good for our [bar] members or for the citizens the Florida Bar is serving.”

Meanwhile, Charles Morehead, president-elect of the Broward County Bar Association, argued that Florida had unique laws that all lawyers should know about before they be allowed to practice in the state. “I learned something when I took the Bar exam, I have to admit” said Morehead, according to the Times.

David Gemunder of Tampa, meanwhile, was dismissive of the notion that reciprocity would be a benefit to Florida’s lawyers. “This would include such legal powerhouses as Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas,” he said, according to the Times. “Maybe there are untapped numbers of Florida lawyers who want to practice there, but I doubt it.”

According to the Times, the Florida Bar’s 52-member board of governors is supposed to vote on the proposal in October. The final decision, however, will be made by the Florida Supreme Court.

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