Member service is Government Lawyer Section’s top priority

first_imgMember service is Government Lawyer Section’s top priority Helping government lawyers who want to do pro bono work and providing high quality, ethics-based CLE programs continue to be top priorities of the Government Lawyer Section. Section Chair Howard Pohl, reporting to the Board of Governors last month, said the section is also striving to increase the salaries of government attorneys. He said the section recently completed a survey that showed that lawyers who go to work for public agencies are typically getting 30 to 50 percent of the salary of those going into private practice. Among public sector attorneys, those working for the state’s universities tend to have the best salaries, followed by those employed by the governor or legislature. At the bottom, Pohl noted, are assistant public defenders and state attorneys, and lawyers working for small government agencies. The major reason for the pay disparity with the private sector is the legislature has been tight with funds to pay the state’s lawyers, Pohl said, including in recent years when many private salaries have escalated. Virtually every government office has a different policy on lawyers doing pro bono, many or most of which prohibit lawyers from donating their work. Pohl said the section wants to end that. “We’ve maintained that any government lawyer who wants to do pro bono work should be allowed to,” he said. He added that the section opposes making government lawyers subject to the aspirational pro bono standards in Bar rules, because the public attorneys face so many different conflict problems. Pohl, an assistant state attorney in the 11th Circuit, said, “We can’t practice law and we can’t represent clients. One of the things we do is try to do teaching, lecturing and presentations. There are other government offices where attorneys have helped create legal forms. “Our office encourages pro bono work, not picking up a case, but going out and doing community work. The lawyers have to clear with the office to make sure there is no conflict.” On CLE, Pohl said the section has always maintained a strong emphasis on ethics, which is integral in three CLE courses the section sponsors every year. That ethics component seems a natural fit with the section, he said. “Government lawyers are in a good position to carry on ethics and professionalism,” Pohl noted. “We don’t have the trust accounting problems, yet we are looked on as having a higher ethical calling and doing things in the interest of the public.” One of the three courses focuses on the state’s Sunshine Law. That course, held last November, attracted more than 100 people and focused on the limitations and legalities of obtaining public records. It also looked at getting public records via the Internet, he said. The second course is on understanding the Florida Legislature, and is held every year in the state House chambers. The third course is on practicing before the Florida Supreme Court, and is held in the court, including viewing an oral argument, meeting with the case attorneys, and touring the Suprme Court and meeting with the justices to discuss general court and appellate issues. Aside from those, Pohl said the section in 1999 co-sponsored a national leadership conference with the ABA in California, and is looking to repeat that event in Florida. That first conference centered around ethics, leadership in bar activities and leadership in general by attorneys. The section also has completed a manual on state guardianship laws and regulations. The section is working on a distribution list for that manual. January 15, 2001 Regular News Member service is Government Lawyer Section’s top prioritylast_img

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