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Florida to Out-of-State Lawyers: Just Kidding

Florida reverses itself, says non-licensed lawyers in arbitration cases may participate

Lawyers from other states are currently not prohibited from dealing with arbitration disputes in Florida, as was originally feared by many attorneys, and should be able to resume handling cases without having a Florida-based lawyer involved. [See March 3 Online REPort.]

After a recent ruling disallowing a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer to handle securities arbitrations in Florida, Wall Street firms started to investigate whether or not they, too, would have to employ Florida counsel in order to deal with arbitrations. Yesterday, the Securities Industry Association said it was looking at the ruling to see whether it would affect all arbitrations. But today, officials at the Florida Bar Association said that while they are still looking at the rules governing what’s known as the "temporary practice of law" in the state, out-of-state lawyers would indeed be allowed to continue doing arbitration work in Florida.

The originally ruling was brought against attorney Albert Rapoport, who, for various reasons, was asked by the Florida Bar Association to stop practicing law in Florida, because he isn’t licensed by the state.

According to Lori Holcomb of the Florida Bar, the association’s board of governors are studying the possible adoption of a rule that would permanently allow arbitrations to be handled by out-of-state lawyers operating in Florida on a temporary basis.

But that doesn’t mean Rapoport gets off easy. "It wouldn’t allow Mr. Rapoport to do what he was doing," Holcomb said. "It would allow a New Jersey attorney to rep someone in Florida."

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