Three controversial issues relating to The Florida Bar admissions and the future of the practice as a whole are currently being discussed. The Florida Bar is considering whether to endorse the adaptation of the following programs. Admission on Motion, or reciprocity, deals with the concept of lawyers legally crossing state borders to practice law. The Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) allows lawyers to take a test and acquire a portable bar examination score usable in any state that accepts the UBE (16 currently do). Finally, there is a question of whether the state of Florida should adopt some form of non-lawyer licensing. The Bar Admissions Committee of The Florida Bar’s Vision 2016 Commission is currently studying these issues closely.
In this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast, Adriana Linares and John Stewart interview lawyer and chair of the Bar Admissions Committee Lance Scriven about the pros and cons of Admission on Motion, the Uniform Bar Examination, and non-lawyer legal professional licensing. Scriven discusses the practitioner benefits of crossing borders and practicing law and points out that there are many instances in which this is already being done. The obvious negative in these programs involves lawyers who are worried about even more competition in a state which is already saturated with attorneys. Stewart points out that many services that these alternative solutions provide are filling a currently existing hole in the market of moderate or low income people and small business owners. Admission on Motion, the UBE, and non-lawyer licensing are strong alternatives to the competition being created by online legal services which already exist to fill this void. Florida is watching the action of major states like New York or California on these issues, Scriven says. Tune in to hear more about these controversial and important decisions facing Florida lawyers.
Lance Scriven is an attorney in Tampa, Florida, with the Trenam Kemker Law Firm. He practices as a commercial litigator and has been at the firm for 13 years collectively. Scriven is a member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors and Chair of the Bar Admissions Committee of The Florida Bar Vision 2016 Commission.
The Florida Bar Podcast: Admission on Motion, Reciprocity, the UBE, and Non-Lawyer Licensing – 4/2/2015
Advertiser: Welcome to the official Florida Bar Podcast. Where we cover practice management, leadership, and what’s happening in Florida law. Brought to you by the Florida Bar Practice Resource Institute. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: Hello and welcome to the official Florida Bar Podcast brought to you by the Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network. The Practice Resource Institute is the Florida Bar’s online center for practice management information, dedicated to Florida attorneys. My name is Adriana Linares, and I’ll be your host. But I have a special co host today, hello John.
John Stewart: Hey, Adriana, thanks for having me.
Adriana Linares: Thanks for stepping in for a couple of minutes, tell us a little bit about yourself.
John Stewart: Well, I’m a third-generation practicing Florida attorney, practicing in the 19th Circuit, doing primarily commercial litigation and internal dispute resolution.
Adriana Linares: Well, we just did a podcast where I interviewed you, and I asked you to stick around a little bit longer and help me with our actual guest, Mr. Lanse Scriven. Hi Lanse.
Lanse Scriven: How are you?
Adriana Linares: Doing great, thank you for taking a few minutes out of your time.
Lanse Scriven: Oh, I volunteer.
Adriana Linares: We asked you to sit down with us because you have a lot of important roles with the Bar. Tell us a little bit about yourself first.
Lanse Scriven: I’m an attorney in Tampa, Florida, with the Trenam Kemker Law Firm. I’ve been there in two different steps for 13 years collectively. I’m a commercial litigator, also a member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors.
Adriana Linares: Yep, that’s very good. And you lead the charge as far as what section of Vision 2016.
Lanse Scriven: The Bar Admissions Committee of the Vision 2016 Commission.
Adriana Linares: And exactly what is that commission or that committee set out to do?
Lanse Scriven: Well, we are studying various issues related to Bar admissions as it relates to the future practice of law. And we have about 4 or 5 different areas for studying which include reciprocity in Bar admissions, what the Florida Bar should consider, the licensing of non-lawyers. Also looking at the Uniform Bar Examination and the last area is the scaping, I’m sure will come to me in a minute.
Adriana Linares: And there’s a lot of crossover between those sections, when the last one comes to you, just tell us. And what John has going on, which is one of the reasons I asked him to stay with us is to help us sort of talk through a lot of the things that are going on. Because of the massive changes, or perceived changes, or what’s happening to the profession in general, committees like yours are really important. So what are the two or three main things that your committee has learned or been surprised y as far as studying Bar admissions?
Lanse Scriven: I would say let’s take the area that is most common in terms of lawyers and just their cooler top. And it’s probably the issue of reciprocity. And reciprocity is kind of a misused word among lawyers. Reciprocity refers to lawyers being allowed to practice in another state who are not barred in that state originally. And the term reciprocity goes hand in hand with a term named admissional motion. And so admissional motion allows a lawyer that is a member of the other state’s Bar to become admitted in the forms they spar without taking the Bar examination. And states that permit admissional motion only on the condition that the other state also require or permit admissional motion.
Adriana Linares: So it’s a two way street.
Lanse Scriven: Are called reciprocal states. And the term reciprocity comes into play.
John Stewart: And that is, I think, one of the areas of overlap between what Lanse’s committee is doing and my committee on technology because due to the proliferation of the online legal service providers and because now through the advancement of technology, borderless practice or even officeless practice – I guess no Bricks & Mortar, as we call it – is so much easier that there is a lot more willingness or pressure, depending on which way you like to look at it and how the attorney feels, to allow admission by motion or reciprocity in Florida, which is traditionally been very protectionist in that regard.
Adriana Linares: So we don’t have reciprocity with any state. It’s zero here now, right?
Lanse Scriven: Not currently.
Adriana Linares: Not currently.
Lanse Scriven: About 40 states permit some form of admissible form of reciprocity-
Adriana Linares: And Florida ain’t one of them?
Lanse Scriven: -and we are one of the ten or so that is not.
Adriana Linares: So I’m sure you’re looking at those other states that do. And what seems to be the benefits or even the negative parts of even considering reciprocity?
Lanse Scriven: Well I think the benefit from the practitioner standpoint is you are able to cross borders practicing law. And as John mentioned, we’re not moving to an age where state borders made a lot less in terms of practice. And so for the practitioner, I think it’s a ticket to practice across borders. I think it’s also easier for clients because clients i think have more of a chance to retain lawyers who you are choosing. So if you’re in Florida and you have a client who has an issue in the state of Georgia, it is much easier to serve your client so you can be admitted without having to take the Bar examination in the state of Georgia. Now the negatives. I think the obvious negative is when you mention this word to lawyers, reciprocity. There’s a visceral reaction because you hear we already have enough lawyers in the state of Florida. And I think that is the main objection of it.
Adriana Linares: So they’re worried about competition coming in from outside of Florida because we feel like there’s already enough competition. Is that kind of it?
Lanse Scriven: That’s kind of it, that’s kind of it.
John Stewart: To me, this area that Lanse is talking about and some of the areas that we’ve talked about in the Vision 2016 Technology are really lawyer education issues. The simple fact of the matter is the competition has already happened.
Adriana Linares: Right, we were just talking about that with your podcast.
John Stewart: Whether it be online legal service providers, or whether it be lawyers who have work in firms that have multi-jurisdictional practices. A lot of very large firms have offices in Florida, and D.C., and Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania. And are they using a Florida attorney? Who knows if they are or not, they’re following the rules, considering the rules, it’s really not important; it’s happening. And a lot of the work that goes on, really is borderless. And so lawyers outside of Florida can advertise on the internet in ways that Florida lawyers can not advertise on the internet which inhibits our ability to compete in that arena. So the two in my mind – and that’s why I like working with Lanse on this – are really intertwined, and we’re going to continue to work together so that our conclusions of our committees when they’re reached are-
Adriana Linares: Aligned, hopefully.
Lanse Scriven: Harmonious.
John Stewart: Harmonious, exactly.
Adriana Linares: Yes, there’s a handshake there. And tell me what else. So we started with one topic, what’s the next one?
Lanse Scriven: Well second would be the Uniform Bar Examination.
Adriana Linares: Let’s talk about that, tell me about that.
Lanse Scriven: So the Uniform Bar Examination is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and I believe about 15 or so states have adopted UBE.
Adriana Linares: Again, not Florida, right?
Lanse Scriven: Florida is not one. The Uniform Bar Examination gives the test taker a portable Bar Examination score which they can use to be admitted in any state that accepts the UBE examination. So there’s a cluster of states now, primarily in the midwest that administer the UBE. Florida’s taking a look at it, we’re far from making any kind of recommendations. But again, the UBE is consistent with this transition to lawyers being mobile and being admitted to practice across borders.
Adriana Linares: We’ve being podcast-bombed by the president-elect designate Mr. Bill Schifino here; you’re next. Go ahead, John.
John Stewart: Well, I’m glad that issue is Lanse’s problem, because not only is it very complicated, but it’s certainly, I think, very controversial within the state. And as Lanse can explain better than I can, if he cares to, The Florida Bar really only has very limited amount of input on that subject, frankly.
Adriana Linares: Interesting, tell us more.
Lanse Scriven: Well, John is correct. Both the issue of the Uniform Bar Examination and any changes in Florida’s admission rules would have to be approved by the Florida Supreme Court upon a recommendation from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.
Adriana Linares: Wow.
Lanse Scriven: So we are strictly an advisory role, a role of making recommendations and of offering advice and input.
Adriana Linares: So I know it’s very early and you sort of study in recommendation, but it can’t be that far away, what you’re kind of pointing toward. Do you feel that your committee is going to recommend that we perhaps do look at admissions by motion and the UBE as something that might not be so bad?
Lanse Scriven: Well let’s take admission of motion first I want to be sure that you understand the real issue here. When lawyers hear about admissible motion and reciprocity, there tends to be a little negative reaction amongst some practitioners because they are considered about whether that may open the proverbial floodgates to lawyers being admitted to the state of Florida. I will submit that there is another way to look at that, it’s even more compelling. And that is because the changes in technology, and the fact that we’ve moved to a more global practice, that there are already lawyers in the state of Florida who are not barred by the Florida Board of Bar Examiners that are touching on Florida clients. And I use this as an example: when I moved to Tampa back in 1988, there were maybe between 1 and 3 law firms at the time of firms of 50 more lawyers that had an office in the city of Tampa. If we fast forward to the year 2015, that number has mushroomed and there are now more law firms in Tampa that are out of state firms of 50 more lawyers than our firms of that size that are based in Tampa. And in fact, there are only two law firms right now in the city of Tampa of 50 more lawyers that are comprised solely of they have their headquarters in a base solely in Tampa. And so we’ve already seen the evolution of the law practice not being domicile, primarily, in the state of Florida. So in terms of recommendations, it is a little premature. It is Vision 2016, but-
Adriana Linares: You sound like John. You’ve got a year and a half, I don’t want to rush you.
Lanse Scriven: Yeah, we have a year and a half. And so I really can’t say at this point because keep in mind that all we can do is make recommendations. There are two other major stakeholders. Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and the Florida Supreme Court. And then same analysis on the side of the UBE. I would imagine that the UBE – well, I’ll tell you one bellwether, and not to dodge your question, but there is only, I believe, two states so far on the eastern seaboard that have adopted UBE. As we speak, the state of New York is taking a strong look at the UBE and has, in fact, commissioned a study group to receive public comments and report back to the New York Court of Appeals. I believe the public comments are due back in March 2015. I believe there’s certain states that everyone pays attention to.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I was just going to say that.
Lanse Scriven: I believe California’s one, I believe Texas is one, I believe Florida’s one, I believe New York is one, and there will be a lot of eyes on the state of New York to see what it does with regards to the UBE.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s going to be very interesting to see what they come up with. Well, before we move onto our next segment, we’re going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: Welcome back to the official Florida Bar Podcast. I’m Adriana Linares and co hosting with me today is Mr. John Stewart. We’re having a very interesting discussion with Lanse Scriven of Tampa, who is the chair of the Bar Admissions Committee of Vision 2016. Before our break we talked a little bit about Bar Admissions and reciprocity, or admission by motion – as he prefers to call it, because reciprocity just doesn’t say it right, right? So the third thing that your committee is studying, Lanse, is?
Lanse Scriven: The third issue we’re studying is whether the State of Florida should adopt some form of non-lawyer licensing and we’ve already acknowledged that there is a gap in the provision of legal services; particularly to those that are not of more substantial means. And so various states have been studying how they can bridge that gap and provide some professional services to the public in a cost-efficient way. And one state, the state of Washington, has actually approved a limited form of license and the designation is called the Limited License Legal Technician, and these in lamens terms are essentially paraprofessionals that are allowed to provide legal services to the public without the right supervision of a lawyer.
Adriana Linares: An unbundled service, also, right?
Lanse Scriven: Yes.
John Stewart: I think that’s another area of overlap between Lanse’s committee and our technology committee because this gap, this need, this fat middle as we’ve called it of the population is being underserved by lawyers is where – in the technology world – the online legal service providers are coming in. And this legal technician opportunity that Washington state has created is one way to possibly address that. It strikes me that the Florida Bar has been very successful with its Florida registered paralegal program. I don’t know the number, frankly it’s pretty enormous, I think there might be 20,000 Florida registered paralegals. And there’s an opportunity to keep this under the Florida Bar umbrella if that ultimately comes out to be a recommendation the technology committee is going to recommend. I believe that we find ways to broaden our services to meet the needs of the population; I think in a more meaningful way than sometimes these purely document generation systems can do. And maybe this is one of those ways.
Adriana Linares: It’s interesting too, we like to say the fat middle and that came from a gentlemen named Mark Coleman who writes at LegalMosaic.com. That’s where I saw it and whether he was the first one to call it that or not, I like that term too. And it really is, when you start truly studying all of the things that we’ve been talking about and it comes to that gap, figuring out how to serve that moderate income, low income, small businesses, individuals, I just don’t know how we can do it without considering some of these alternative methods of delivering legal services which your committee has been studying, John. And I think this one is really interesting, too, and what Washington state has done, it’s transformative. It’s amazing. I know California is also looking at the same and so is New York. They also have a couple of commissions or studies doing the same thing and you’re right, there are certain states that we all look at each other a lot closer than others and it’s going to be very interesting. So what have you found so far?
Lanse Scriven: Well the Washington state model right now is limited to just family law services and it is actually a complete cheer – or I should say, a separate regulated area approved by Washington. And the persons who have this designation have to go through certain training, including having to have an associate level degree. There’s a 45 credit curriculum, and there’s also a 3,000 hour work experience requirement under a lawyer’s direct supervision. So it is a separate area of admission that is now very onerous in terms of requirements. And the reason that I think is pretty impressive is this gives the publica lot more protection than they would get simply from persons who, as John mentioned, may be document preparers or in some other kind of service similar to that.
Adriana Linares: And we don’t know yet how they’ve done because that first class doesn’t graduate, so to speak, or get licensed, until March of this year.
John Stewart: The only thing we do know is that this collection of people make up a significant piece of an untapped market and that I think we largely believe that the bulk of this untapped market are people that can afford legal services, just not in the way these services are currently delivered.
Adriana Linares: It is really just amazing to be talking about these things at such a high level with Bar leaders. Because for so long, most Bar leaders – and Florida, we’re not going to pretend like we’ve been sitting here being completely involved. But it really is amazing that this is such an important discussion that Gene Pettis had the vision – no pun intended – to put Vision together and study these things.
John Stewart: I can’t speak for Lanse, but it’s been eye-opening for me and interesting and I think a valuable exercise, no matter the outcome.
Lanse Scriven: Oh, there’s no question about that. A lot of the conversations we’re having now, we should have had years ago; at least we’re here now.
John Stewart: That accelerates our decision-making process which the Board of Governors, which Lanse and I both sit on for quite a few number of years, we have now a lot of respect for the mechanism and how it works. But in these arenas, we have to accelerate our decision-making process in probably a way that we’re not completely comfortable with.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I’d say. Well, it looks like we’ve reached the end of the program. I wanted to make sure and thank Lanse Scriven and John Stewart, my co host, for your time today. Lanse, if people want to get ahold of you, ask you some questions, tell us again the name of your law firm and if someone wants to give you a call or shoot you an email with some questions or ideas where they might be able to do that.
Lanse Scriven: Sure. Again, name is Lanse Scriven, and the firm name is Trenam Kemker and my email adress is [email protected]
Adriana Linares: Excellent, thank you so much. And John, we know that you can be followed at Twitter at?
John Stewart: @The_JohnStewart, not to be confused with the Daily Show host.
Adriana Linares: Never to be confused with. Well, for all our listeners who want to learn more about what you’ve learned today, make sure you hop on to the Florida Bar website where there’s always updates and information going on about what Vision is doing. Of course, the official Florida Bar podcast will be bringing breaking news to you over the years to come with information about what’s going on during these very transformative and exciting times with the Florida Bar. That brings us to the end of our show. I’m Adriana Linares, thank you for listening. Join us next time for another great episode of the official Florida Bar Podcast.
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