IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO RULE REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR 4-7.14.
Original Proceeding - Florida Rules Regulating the Florida
E. Doyle, Executive Director, Michelle R. Suskauer,
President, John M. Stewart, President-elect, Lori S. Holcomb,
Director, Division of Ethics and Consumer Protection, and
Elizabeth Clark Tarbert, Ethics Counsel, The Florida Bar,
Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner
Barry Schimmel and Robert M. Sondak of Cohen, Chase, Hoffman
& Schimmel, P.A., Miami, Florida, Responding with
Florida Bar petitions the Court to amend Rule Regulating the
Florida Bar (Bar Rule) 4-7.14 (Potentially Misleading
Advertisements). We have jurisdiction. See art. V,
§ 15, Fla. Const.
proposes removing the requirement from Bar Rule 4-7.14 that a
lawyer must be board certified to claim expertise or
specialization in advertisements. It also proposes adding new
language to the rule, as well as to the rule's
commentary, setting out when a law firm or lawyer who is not
board certified may claim specialization or
expertise. The proposed amendments are in response to
In re Amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar
(Biennial Petition), 234 So.3d 577 (Fla. 2017), where
the Court rejected as problematic the Bar's initial
attempt to address the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Florida's decision in Searcy v.
Florida Bar, 140 F.Supp.3d 1290 (N.D. Fla. 2015), which
held, in relevant part, that provisions in Bar Rule 4-7.14(a)
broadly prohibiting lawyers who were not board certified from
making truthful statements that they "specialize
in" or "have expertise in" a particular field
of practice were unconstitutional.
Bar's proposal in this case was approved by the Board of
Governors of The Florida Bar, and formal notice of the
proposed amendments was published in The Florida Bar
News. The notice directed interested persons to file
their comments directly with the Court. The Court received
one comment from attorney Joseph Schimmel, who identified
what he believed to be several ambiguities in the Bar's
proposal. The Bar filed a response and an amended proposal
correcting many of the issues identified by Mr. Schimmel.
considered the Bar's petition, the comment filed, and the
Bar's response and amended proposal, the Court hereby
adopts the amendments to Bar Rule 4-7.14 contained in the
Bar's amended proposal with the following modifications.
We replace the word "and" in new subdivision (a)(5)
and in the new comment with "or" to clarify that a
lawyer may claim specialization or expertise if he or she can
objectively verify the claim based on his or her
"education, training, experience, or substantial
involvement in the area of practice." We also delete
from the new comment the phrase "that is generally
understood within the legal community to be."
Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4-7.14 is amended as set
forth in the appendix to this opinion. Deletions are
indicated by struck-through type, and new language is
indicated by underscoring. The amendments shall become
effective on August 26, 2019.
CANADY, CJ, and POLSTON, LABARGA, LAWSON, LAGOA, LUCK, and
MUÑIZ, JJ, concur
FILING OF A MOTION FOR REHEARING SHALL NOT ALTER THE
EFFECTIVE DATE OF THESE AMENDMENTS.