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June 21, 2001

Tomorrow (June 22, 2001) the Unauthorized Practice Law Committee of The Florida Bar, at a meeting in Orlando, Florida, will consider whether control by an insurance company over defense of a claim filed against it constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

Over the years, insurance lawyers’ defense fees became exorbitant and totally out of control. This caused premiums paid by businesses and individual citizens to skyrocket in Florida. Insurance carriers had no choice but to start reining in these fees. All insurance files should be controlled by an adjuster for the insurance company who hires the lawyers, when necessary, to defend them in lawsuits. Because of the fee reductions, The Florida Bar is now attempting through a "backdoor" move to claim that insurance company adjusters are in a fact engaging in the "unauthorized practice of law." Nothing could be further from the truth, and this entire movement is an effort by The Florida Bar is to pad their own pockets with exorbitant attorneys’ fees.

AIF president & CEO Jon L. Shebel stated, "Maybe this is one of the reasons why the Legislature is taking a close look at whether Florida lawyers can really regulate themselves."

There has been a movement to place the regulation of Florida lawyers under an agency of state government and Shebel stated, "I believe this is the type of movement where Florida lawyers shoot themselves in the foot and add strength to the effort to have them regulated by a state agency."

In a letter to The Florida Bar, Shebel cautioned that reinsurers require that insurance company adjusters control the files and not turn them over to lawyers because to do so inflates the cost of claims without benefit to the injured party. If The Florida Bar is successful in handing the purse strings of insurance companies over to lawyers, then insurance companies doing business in Florida could experience difficulty in obtaining reinsurance, which is absolutely necessary for any insurance company to operate.

According to Shebel, "If it really wants to protect the public, The Florida Bar should spend its time addressing fraud in such areas as no-fault automobile and workers’ compensation insurance that is committed by Florida lawyers."

Associated Industries of Florida is a statewide employers association representing 10,000 businesses that range from large multinational corporations to small family-owned enterprises. AIF is commonly known as "The Voice of Florida Business."