Lawyers Mean [Essential] Business
By Jeremy C. Branning, Shareholder & First Circuit Representative of The Florida Bar Board of Governors
Amelia H. Beard, Attorney in Clark Partington’s Santa Rosa Beach (Grayton) office. Her practice areas include civil litigation, real estate transactions, business formation, estate planning, and personal injury.
“To me, a lawyer is basically the person that knows the rules of the country. We’re all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there is a problem the lawyer is the only person who has read the inside of the top of the box.” – Jerry Seinfeld
On April 10, 2020, Florida Bar President John M. Stewart sent a letter to leaders of the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities requesting their assistance in sharing with local jurisdictions The Florida Bar’s request to create, amend or clarify local safer-at-home orders to specifically include lawyers and law firms as “essential” businesses, without exception, and to the extent consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order 20-91.
Lawyer jokes aside, legal services are in exceptionally high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would be a great disservice to the needs of the public to limit a lawyer or law firm’s ability to meet that demand — particularly in light of the plethora of legislation that is flowing from federal, state, and local governments at a pace seldom, if ever seen before. The CARES Act, Families First Coronovirus Response Act, a myriad of executive orders from state Governors, resolutions from local commissions and councils result in a flurry of legislation creating (or changing existing) obligations, relief, and prohibitions for individuals and businesses. Attorneys must continually evaluate each authority’s action to provide much needed advice and direction to clients. Clark Partington quickly formed a COVID-19 Task Force spearheaded by attorneys Keith L. Bell, Jr., Ian A. McDonald and Kris O. Anderson and, a central Coronavirus Resource Center on our website.
Even absent the many government sausage makers working at full speed, because the need for many legal services – such as preparing wills, trusts, and healthcare directives; business succession planning; completing transactions to meet contractual deadlines; meeting court-set deadlines; helping families, businesses, and individuals in a host of issues — arise on a daily basis, declaring legal services as “essential” simply cannot wait. While Florida Courts have identified mission critical proceedings that must go on despite COVID-19, all non-essential proceedings have been delayed until at least May 29, 2020. However, most legal work happens outside of courtrooms and in fact, most of the legal needs arising during this crisis, if met, will spare people, businesses, and the courts from the imminent backlog that will inevitably otherwise occur.
The letter from President Stewart seeks to clarify that lawyers and law firms are “essential business” and implores Florida cities and counties to re-visit any stay-at-home or safer-at-home directives to ensure they are consistent in this regard. The Florida Bar is a leader on the national stage, so it would be no surprise to see President Stewart’s message echoed by other state bar leaders in the near future.
If you are so inclined, share the letter with your elected officials. It may not be you with a legal need right now, but that might not be the case for your neighbor, co-worker, employer, or family member. If you have questions about the content of this article or any legal services, contact Clark Partington.
Download a printable PDF of the article.
Jeremy C. Branning’s years of litigation experience and position on the Executive Council of the Trial Layers Section of the Florida Bar has allowed him to work with lawyers and professionals across the state, in nearly every practice area. He is well informed of the issues and challenges of litigation. His current roles with the Florida Bar include serving as the First Circuit’s Representative on the Board of Governors and on the Executive Council of the Trial Lawyers Section. Jeremy can be reached at (850) 432-1399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amelia H. Beard is an attorney in Clark Partington’s Santa Rosa Beach (Grayton) office. Her practice areas include civil litigation, real estate transactions, business formation, estate planning, and personal injury. Amelia can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 269-8860.
About Clark Partington:
Clark Partington is the largest business focused firm in the Florida panhandle with offices in Pensacola, Destin, Grayton Beach & Tallahassee. The firm also maintains a presence in South Alabama with an Orange Beach office. Since 1976 Clark Partington has grown to over forty lawyers and has served the people and businesses of Florida through an innovative and collaborative approach to practicing law. Our lawyers are consistently recognized for their service to the profession and excellence in the courtroom. More information about the firm’s practice, its attorneys, and recognitions may be found at www.clarkpartington.com.
This publication should not be construed as legal advice. Its applicability is dependent upon specific facts and circumstances and is provided for informational purposes only. You should not act upon this information without seeking advice from a lawyer licensed in your own state.