The Unauthorized Practice of Law: Florida's 2014 Legislative Battle

On March 28, 2012, the Florida bar’s Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section petitioned the Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law for an advisory opinion on the activites of community association managers (CAMs). The petitioner sought confirmation that certain CAM activities defined by the Florida Supreme Court in 1996 (The Florida Bar re: Advisory Opinion-Activities of Community Association Managers, 681 So. 2d 1119 (Fla.1996) continued to constitute UPL today.

Many in the community association industry felt that the requested advisory opinion sought to unnecessarily and unreasonably expand the 1996 standards for UPL to include items that were obviously ministerial in nature and well within the scope of a manager’s routine duties.

Perhaps as a result of the requested opinion, a bill was filed to move the pendulum in the other direction.

HB 7037 is now moving through the system as Florida’s 60-day Legislative Session is well underway. The bill provides that a licensed community association manager is NOT engaging in the unauthorized practice of law if he or she performs the following tasks:

  • determines the number of days required for statutory notices
  • determins amounts due tto the association
  • collects amounts due to the association before filing of a civil action
  • calculates the votes required for a quorum or to approve a proposition or amendment
  • completes forms related to the management of a communtiy association has been created by statute or by a state agency
  • drafts letters of intended action
  • drafts meeting notices and agendas
  • calculates and prepares certificates of assessment
  • responds to requests for certificates of assessment
  • negotiates monetary or performance terms of a contract subject to approval by an association
  • drafts prearbitration demands
  • prepares statutory construction lien documents for association projects
  • coordinates or performs maintenance for real or personal property and other routine services involved in the operation of a community association
  • complies with the association’s governing documetns and the requirements of law as necessary to perform such practices.

Some of the foregoing functions will necessitate creating statutory forms such as a Claim of Lien, a Release of Lien, a Notice of Contest of Lien, etc. Not surprisingly, there are some Florida attorneys who feel that several of the activities outlined in HB 7037 would, in fact, constitute UPL.

This debate being waged in Florida raises basic questions for every area of law in other states as it pertains to which activities should be performed only by attorneys. Depending on the outcome of this year’s Florida Legislative Session, the overall lesson learned may be to let sleeping dogs lie.

More by | Donna DiMaggio Berger Donna DiMaggio Berger , Law.com Contributor
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