It’s that time of the year. The 2015 Florida Legislative Session starts today and will last until May 1. Over 1460 bills have been filed. Only a few will make it to the end of the session and become law. Below are bills of interest to attorneys and legal professionals. Keep an eye on them as they may impact your practice areas if they pass in a few months. For your convenience, I’ll provide a status update at the end of the legislative session.
HB 47 State Minimum Wage
HB 47 increases state minimum wage from $6.15 to $10.10. It provides that an employer may not pay an employee at a rate less than the state minimum wage. It deletes the requirement that only individuals entitled to receive federal minimum wage are eligible to receive state minimum wage. (Identical Bill: SB 114)
CS/SB 102 Digital Assets
Known as the “Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act,” this bill authorizes a personal representative to have access to specified digital assets and electronic communication of a decedent and provides compliance requirements to receive and collect digital assets. It also give a similar authorization to guardians, agents and trustees. (Similar Bill: HB 313)
CS/HB 113 Local Government Construction Preferences
This bill prohibits local ordinances and regulations from restricting competition for award of construction services based upon the location of the vendor’s office or place of business. It requires state colleges, school districts and other political subdivisions to make specified disclosures in competitive solicitation documents. (Similar Bill: SB 778)
SB 126 Social Media Privacy
SB 126 prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring access to a social media account of an employee or prospective employee. It also prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for an employee’s refusal to allow access to his social media account. However, it provides that an employer is not prohibited from seeking access to social media accounts used primarily for the employer’s business purposes.
SB 150 Student Loans
This bill would require the Justice Administrative Commission and the Office of the Attorney General to implement a student loan assistance program to assist a career assistant state attorney, assistant public defender, assistant attorney general, or assistant statewide prosecutor in the repayment of eligible student loans. (Similar Bill: HB 45)
SB 462 Family Law
This bill provides that a collaborative law process commences when the parties enter into a collaborative law participation agreement. It prohibits a tribunal from ordering a party to participate in a collaborative law process over the party’s objection. SB 462 provides for confidentiality of communications made during the collaborative law process. (Similar law: HB 503)
HB 611 Residential Properties
HB 611 provides requirements relating to the request for an estoppel certificate by a unit or parcel owner including a 10-day timeframe to deliver the certificate. It also provides that an association waives any claim against a person or entity who would have relied in good faith upon the estoppel certificate if the association failed to deliver the certificate. It revises fee and supplemental fee requirements. (Identical Bill: SB 736)
As you can see I can’t cover all bills that may affect your practice areas. If you want to look and find bills, you can do a word or statute amended search under the Bills tab on the Florida House of Representatives website.
This is one thing they don’t teach you in law school (or paralegal school for that matter) even though it’s often part of your daily tasks. You learn how to find public records on the job, often at your client’s expense. The good thing is, it’s a lot easier and quicker to perform public records searches now than 10 years ago. You don’t have to go on a special trip to your local courthouse or send your request by snail mail. Most public records are now a click away. Below are some of my favorite local and statewide websites for free public records searches.
Clerk of Court
Your local clerk of court website offers a wide range of records. Court records generally include civil, criminal and traffic court matters. You can also find records related to real property transactions, liens, plats, marriage, divorce and death.
The property appraiser website is the best place to look for real property information. For each real property, it lists the parcel control number, current and past owners, recent transactions, appraisals, structure details, a map and basic tax information.
The tax collector website provides tax information related to real property, tangible property and businesses. This is where you can find if someone’s taxes are due!
Division of Corporations of the Department of State
In Florida, the website is called Sunbiz. This is where you can find corporate records and filings. You can locate a company’s filing date, status, address, registered agent and members. You can also perform a business name search to see if the name is already used.
Still can’t find what you are looking for? Don’t forget to look at federal websites such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for public companies information and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for patent and trademark searches.
Now it’s your turn. Which free public records website do you use on a regular basis?
Starting a law firm is not an easy task. Most law schools still don’t teach future lawyers what it takes to start and manage a solo practice or small law firm. Nonetheless, there are a lot of free online resources for attorneys who want to hang a shingle. Below are some of my favorites.
Florida Bar Law Office Management Assistance Service
Even though it is geared towards Florida attorneys, LOMAS provides useful information for anyone looking to open a law firm. It offers free on-demand CLE courses from the ABC’s of starting and managing your law practice to building a small firm marketing program. LOMAS gives access to over 100 administrative forms including a contract for legal services, a general partnership agreement and a new law practice office checklist. It also has a help line and a FAQs section with topics ranging from trust accounts to planning for vacation when you have a solo practice.
ABA Solo & Small Firm Resource Center
Like LOMAS, the ABA Solo & Small Firm Resource Center offers advices, tools and resources to successfully manage a law practice. Their topics include, but are not limited to, marketing, work and life balance and staffing. They also have a form bank and an active listserv, SoloSez, where you learn about events, networking opportunities and ask for advice.
General Practice Solo and Small Firm Sections
As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, there are several benefits of being a member of your state bar section or ABA division. There are numerous networking and referral opportunities, reduced price CLE and monthly publications.
There are several blogs for attorneys looking to build their own law practice. Lawyerist has resources, articles and product reviews. My favorite features are the technology oriented articles and its forum where anyone looking for help can asks questions about the practice of law. My Shingle is another blog inspiring solo and small firm lawyers. I especially like the Start a Law Firm Guide page where blog posts are listed by subject such as setting up and growing your law firm. Finally, Attorneyatwork offers a daily law practice tip that can be delivered straight to your inbox.
As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, what are your favorite online law practice resources?
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After closing on a real estate transaction, clients like to receive a closing binder including all relevant documents to the deal. However, creating a closing binder can be time consuming and costly to distribute. An electronic closing binder is a great alternative to the traditional binder. It is fairly simple to assemble if you are familiar with Adobe Acrobat. It is also environmentally friendly. Finally, attorneys can save electronic closing binders in their document management systems, making it easy to search and find them.
PDF Binder or Portfolio
Adobe Acrobat Professional offers two options to create a closing binder: a PDF binder or a PDF portfolio. A PDF binder is similar to a traditional binder. It includes bookmarks in the sidebar and a table of content on the first page with links to pages in the document. A PDF portfolio is like a briefcase holding different kinds of documents such as PDF, Word and Excel documents. If you click on a document icon, you will only see this specific document. PDF portfolios are quick and easy to create. However, they do not have a table of content. Your clients must have Adobe Reader 8 and up to be able to view it.
Once your binder or portfolio is created, you can simply email it to your client. Your client can then make the decision to print the document(s) or simply retain the electronic version.
If you would like to know how to create a PDF binder or portfolio, Rick Borstein wrote an excellent guide called Creating PDF Electronic Closing Binders with Adobe Acrobat 9.*
If you do not have the time or personnel to make an electronic closing binder, contact Your Paralegal Help Desk. We will be happy to create one for you.
* Creating PDF Electronic Closing Binders with Adobe Acrobat 9 is from the Acrobat for Legal Professionals (Acrolaw) Blog at http://www.adobe.com/go/acrolaw. The images used in our blog post were taken from this guide.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.