Florida Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct

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  • Topic: Lawyer, Bar association, American Bar Association
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  • Published : June 14, 2011
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Rules of Professional Conduct
(Chapter 4, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar)

On This Page
I. Issue
II. Bar Position
III. Background
IV. Facts and Statistics

I. Issue

On January 1, 1987, the Code of Professional Responsibility ceased to govern lawyers in Florida. The Code was replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct, which is Chapter 4 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

The new Florida rules, patterned after the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct but stricter in many instances, provide updated ethical standards for attorney behavior and the structure for regulating conduct. Attorneys who violate the rules are subject to disciplinary proceedings brought by the Bar with penalties imposed by the Supreme Court of Florida. Advantages of the new rules include: • Greater clarity, therefore promoting greater understanding of professional standards; improving ease of access for the average practitioner and offering a more definite framework for disciplinary procedures. • Guidance in many matters not addressed in the Code of Professional Responsibility.

New Rules of Discipline (Chapter 3, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar), which took effect at the same time as the Rules of Professional Conduct and amended further March 16, 1990, allow the Bar to publicly acknowledge complaints against attorneys after the Bar has formally filed a complaint against an attorney with the Supreme Court of Florida (cases received before March 17, 1990) and after grievance committee or staff disposition, including dismissals (cases after March 16, 1990). The Bar will be able to acknowledge that fact by citing the attorney's name, the nature of the complaint and the status of the case. Previously, before January 1, 1987, such information was usually released only after the Supreme Court issued the discipline order -- often months or years after the formal complaint was filed. The new discipline rules also increase the disbarment period from three to five years (before an attorney can apply for readmission). The rules of discipline were amended with respect to abolition of the "gag rule," substantial reduction in the amount of confidentiality attached to disciplinary cases and to allow for more streamlined grievance committee procedures.

On February 9, 2000, The Florida Bar petitioned the Supreme Court to amend the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Some modifications were accepted and are now reflected in the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

The most recent amendments to Chapters 3 and 4 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar were enacted by the Florida Supreme Court in Amendments to Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, 29 Fla. L. Weekly S265 (No. SC03-705, 5/20/2004). Back to Top

II. Bar Position

A. American Bar Association Position

The Model Rules reflect years of effort by a commission of the ABA. The Florida Bar was active in the development of the Model Rules and many of its recommendations were included in the final Model Rules document.

B. The Florida Bar Position

Florida's Rules of Professional Conduct are based on the Model Rules with modifications specific to the state. The rules were submitted to the Supreme Court and were approved with minor changes in July 1986. The Rules of Professional Conduct reflect the position of The Florida Bar on matters of attorney conduct and discipline. Back to Top

III. Background

A. Historical

The first national standards for lawyers were the Canons of Professional Ethics, adopted by the ABA in 1908, and subsequently by most state lawyer regulatory bodies. In 1969 the ABA replaced the Canons with the Code of Professional Responsibility, which was in turn, adopted in varying forms by all state bar associations.

In 1977, the ABA leadership determined the code needed reworking and appointed the Commission on the Evaluation of Professional Standards, commonly known as the Kutak Commission. After six years of...
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