The Florida Bar Association recently hired a PR firm for nearly $100,000 to forward the concept of allowing non-Floridian lawyers to practice in Florida without taking the State Bar exam.
While lawyers are best in the court of law, its natural that a PR firm was hired to argue in the court of public opinion – despite the controversy which has arisen.
The Miami Florida based PR firm of Schwartz Media Strategies pitched stories to news organizations and media trained Bar president Ramon Abadin. Abadin often speaks to the media about raising awareness of these and other issues. Although Abadin has not taken a definite position on the topic of reciprocity, he thinks the matter needs to be opened for discussion. The final decision on reciprocity will be made by the Florida Supreme Court.
Critics of the PR expenditure think these funds could have been used for more philanthropic concerns, such as legal aid or defending someone losing their home. They also feel reciprocity harms the profession.
The Florida legal scene is already glutted by graduates from the state’s 20 law schools decreasing employment options. Proponents of the issue take the opposite view. They feel enrollment in law schools in the state is down and this does not bode well for the future of their profession.
Despite criticism of this expenditure and of reciprocity, The Bar Association made the right decision to hire the PR firm. The action not only created awareness of these issues, it also opened them up for discussion. Reciprocity in the state has a positive side. It allows Florida lawyers to practice law in other states without taking their bar exams.
At a time when many lawyers in Florida struggle, this welcome increase in business can provide more needed jobs for the state’s lawyers. Also, this measure pushes the Florida legal profession into today’s digital and mobile world, something Bar President Abadin strongly favors.
There are points to both sides of this expenditure and of reciprocity. But it can be argued that in a world of change and borderless living, opening the world of legal practice for Florida lawyers to other states shows promise and hope for the future. This new concept in an old profession requires time and education about new ideas, hence the need for a PR firm.
Toward this end, the Florida Bar Association took a big step toward a brave new world for their profession. For the court of law, lawyers are best – and just as one shouldn’t speak to the cops without a lawyer, they shouldn’t speak to the media without a PR Firm.