BLSE programs are designed to enhance lawyer competence

first_imgBLSE programs are designed to enhance lawyer competence When it comes to Bar priorities on improving member competence and ethics and improving the public perception of the profession, the Board of Legal Specialization and Education has three programs that further those goals, according to Chair Elizabeth Russo. “You’re concerned about the perceptions [by the public] of lawyers,” she told the Board of Governors at a recent meeting. “Change will never happen by promoting lawyers as a group; it will happen brick by brick, lawyer by lawyer and that’s where the BLSE comes in. “Specifically, the BLSE. . . oversees three programs, each of which involves honesty and competence. For each of these, the emphasis and requirements are the same: We must seek truthfulness and hone professionalism and competence.” The three programs, she said, are working with the Young Lawyers Division on its Practicing with Professionalism program required for all new Bar members, the continuing legal education requirement for all active Bar members, and the Bar’s certification program. The YLD recently ended its former Bridge the Gap program and replaced it with Practicing with Professionalism. “It emphatically concentrates on ethics and professionalism and acquiring minimal skills necessary to competently represent clients,” she said. The BLSE and YLD recently backed a rule change that would have eliminated the deferment afforded to government lawyers on taking the Practicing with Professionalism course. That proposed change was withdrawn after government lawyers protested, but Russo said it was important to note the disagreement was not over the goal, but the best way to reach it. “The question is not any longer whether we should reach out on ethics to each and every lawyer who is being admitted to The Florida Bar, but rather how,” she told the board. This year marks the 12th anniversary of the required CLE program, and Russo reported that it is operating smoothly, with 1,700 lawyers reporting every month. Under the program, lawyers are required to take 30 hours of courses, including five hours of ethics, professionalism, substance abuse or mental health awareness classes, every three years. “Here, too, the message is very clear. The message is you as an individual lawyer must during the course of your career maintain your competence and your ethics,” Russo said. “You will be required to attend to your ethics and attend to your competence or you will not be a member of The Florida Bar. And we as the Bar will give you courses to help you do that. “Our final program is the certification program,” she continued. “[Supreme Court] Justice [Harry Lee] Anstead referred to that program as one of the jewels in the crown of the Florida justice system.” Certification offers every lawyer the chance to demonstrate he or she is at the top of their chosen practice area, Russo said. There are now 19 certification areas, and 3,500 Bar members are certified. While it can be difficult to find the time to study for and take a certification exam, certification is becoming, as it is in the medical profession, “recognized as a badge of excellence in the field,” she noted. Each certification area has its own committee that draws up the exams and conducts peer review, under the BLSE’s guidance, she said. And the standards are not easy. “While we want and encourage every lawyer to strive for certification, we sacrifice nothing in standards,” Russo said. She concluded by telling the board that BLSE, through its programs, aims to “give the means to every lawyer to practice with skill and honor.” For more information about the Board of Legal Education and Specialization and its programs, contact Dawna Bicknell at (850) 561-5655. July 1, 2000 Regular News BLSE programs are designed to enhance lawyer competencelast_img

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