Effort shows people need our help in ‘Life’s Legal Moments’

Going it alone can result in serious financial or other consequences.

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  • | 12:20 a.m. February 2, 2023
Gary Lesser, The Florida Bar president
Gary Lesser, The Florida Bar president
  • The Bar Bulletin
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The Florida Bar offers a public education program called “Life’s Legal Moments.”

The name refers specifically to important life moments when a person really needs legal representation such as executing a will or buying or selling a home.

In these pivotal life moments, “going it alone” can result in serious financial or other consequences.

Given the increasing disconnect between the legal profession and the public, this program is one of many initiatives from The Florida Bar.

The lack of connection between knowing when you have a legal issue and the knowledge that a lawyer can help protect you and your family has been growing for decades. The good news is that there are several things Florida lawyers can do about this.

The data points are well known. A significant and increasing majority of the population no longer retain lawyers for legal matters, even for important life moments when retaining counsel can protect them and their families.

Check out the Life’s Legal Moments website at floridalawyerscanhelp.com

On the other hand, there is clear data that shows the path to follow. In a Florida Bar survey, 91% of respondents thought retaining a lawyer would help protect their rights or interests and 84% believed it would reduce the stress of dealing with a legal issue.

The new initiative’s website, www.floridalawyerscanhelp.com, has numerous resources to educate the public and point them in the right direction on how to hire a lawyer for a specific life legal challenge.

This is only the beginning, and there’s a lot more that Florida attorneys can do to help educate the public.

First, look for the regular social media posts from The Florida Bar about Life’s Legal Moments, and take a moment to share this information. This is an easy “grassroots” way to get this information out to the people we know and to the public we serve.

It is important that lawyers be “in the public square” talking about these issues. I have been a member of my local chamber of commerce for years and encourage other lawyers to join their local chambers. This remains one of the best ways to connect with people in your community, particularly those in the business community.

We plan to work with local business organizations and supply Life’s Legal Moments materials to many chambers of commerce.

One chamber CEO pointed out to me that small businesses face similar challenges in terms of not hiring a lawyer for significant legal matters. Many business owners think they don’t need a lawyer or that they can’t afford one; however, a decision to forego legal counsel can result in losses where a small business may have to close its doors.

We don’t want to see that happen.

Our goal is to reach the public, as well as civic groups, charities and other organizations. I have made brief presentations on these topics to several groups, and any Florida lawyer willing to do so can be given talking points and other resources by The Florida Bar.

A good friend of mine pointed out that this information would be of great interest to her sorority, whose members range in age from 18 to almost 100 years old. I am speaking soon to my synagogue and to a local business development group.

While there is no “magic wand” that can instantly fix the growing disconnect between the legal profession and the public, there are many actions that lawyers can take to move the needle back in the right direction with public engagement and communication.

Separately, The Florida Bar, at the request of the state Supreme Court, prepared a detailed report regarding greater access to legal services.

The focus of those efforts was threefold: Making it easier for pro se clients to utilize our system of justice; increasing resources in the world of pro bono and legal aid; and providing solutions for more affordable and accessible legal representation for the general public.

Although the Life’s Legal Moments campaign is about helping the public identify significant moments when a lawyer would be helpful, this report looks at circumstances where the legal need is apparent but feels beyond reach for too many Floridians.

We look forward to working with the state Supreme Court to evaluate and implement these recommendations. This will be a long-term project that potentially can make Florida a model for the rest of the country to follow.

I am certain that Life’s Legal Moments will be an ongoing part of The Florida Bar’s efforts to help increase knowledge and accessibility of legal services, as this program is all about lawyers helping and serving the residents of Florida.

Many other states are addressing these same challenges. Florida will be a national leader with this approach and avoid the dangerous and data-less approach of fee-sharing with nonlawyers and profit-driven companies.

Florida’s lawyers, working with the court, are best positioned to help increase public access to legal services.

Together, we will change the trajectory to make sure that more Floridians are able to identify how to hire a lawyer during important life moments when they want to protect themselves and their families.

Gary Lesser was sworn in June 24, 2022, as the 74th president of The Florida Bar.