In this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast, hosts Renee Thompson and John Stewart talk with The Florida Bar Board of Governors Eighth Judicial Circuit representative Carl Schwait about the legislative amendments recently made to rule 4-7.22. Carl explains that the relationship of lawyers to clients and their procurement is much more guided through the internet today than it has been ever before. This shift in how the public seeks out legal services has brought a whole new group of for-profit companies and corporations into the legal marketplace whose chief aim is to match lawyers and clients. The Florida Bar declared a few issues that these changes now present to rule 4-7.22 and The Florida Supreme Court did not agree with some of these stated issues requesting that the bar go back and reevaluate the rule. Carl explains that their goal was to prevent for-profit matching services from arguing with the board of governors over whether they were a directory, a lawyer referral service, or some other entity and that most of these organizations didn’t want to be classified as lawyer referral services at all. The bar wanted to do away with all naming conventions and solidify the classification of these companies as qualifying providers so that every entity or person who was in the business of matching attorneys and clients would all fall within their rules. He emphasizes that The Florida Bar does not oversee qualifying providers and that their rules are to the lawyers who participate in this matching program in order to better protect the public. Carl closes the interview with an analysis of how these changes impact voluntary bar lawyer referral services, why the malpractice insurance requirement was removed, and how The Florida Bar might proceed if The Florida Supreme Court asked for oral arguments on these rules.
Carl Schwait is a North Central Florida mediator, businessperson, educator, Florida Bar leader and former public servant. Rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell and named to Florida’s Super Lawyers® for the last nine years, he has been a member of The Bar for over 39 years.