What are local professionalism panels? - III

In a series of ongoing posts, we've been discussing how clients, attorneys, quasi-judicial officers, judges or even the Florida Bar's Attorney Consumer Assistance Program can all file complaints with local professionalism panels alleging unprofessional conduct by particular attorneys.

To recap, these peer review panels were created via a directive from the Florida Supreme Court back in 2013 and, while bereft of the power to issue formal sanctions and grievances, are still able to make recommendations and provide guidance. We'll conclude our discussion of these local professionalism panels in today's post.

What form does the meeting with a local professionalism panel take?

There is no set form for a meeting with a local professionalism panel. Rather, the form of requested interaction will depend largely upon the preferences of panel members and the severity of the conduct in question. As such, it could be an informal conference call or a quasi-mediation session.

What types of actions can a local professionalism panel take?

As we stated earlier, local professionalism panels have no authority to hand down formal sanctions and grievances. As such, they will typically recommend some manner of non-disciplinary measure in an oral or written decision, including:

  • A referral to a mentor or local mentorship program
  • A referral to an ethics training course or an ethics program
  • A referral to a substance abuse program and/or mental health program for assistance

How long does the process take?

The entire process, from review to resolution of the complaint, typically takes less than two months.

Are records retained?  

In general, any and all records associated with the process remain confidential and are destroyed upon resolution. However, if the complaint outlines a per se violation of the rules set forth by the Florida Bar, the panel can refer the matter to the ACAP.

Does an attorney have to appear at the meeting with a local professionalism panel?

An attorney does not have to appear at the meeting with a local professionalism panel. If they do not, a summary and recommendation will be sent to them upon its conclusion.

It's important to note, however, that any failure to participate is taken into account when the panel considers whether the complaint should be forwarded to the ACAP.

Please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you have serious concerns relating to the services provided by your attorney.

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