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Florida Bar program pairs young attorneys who have questions with veteran lawyers who have the answers

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

Sometimes, it can be a big help when you can walk down the hall, ask a question and get some good advice from an experienced adviser.

That can be particularly true if you’re a new attorney, recently graduated from law school and sworn in to The Florida Bar.

But if you’re a solo practitioner — like nearly 2 percent of the state’s more than 100,000 attorneys — there’s no one down the hall to offer counsel.

That’s when Lawyers Advising Lawyers comes in handy.

It’s a peer-to-peer mentorship program from the Bar’s Young Lawyers Division that launched in February to match young lawyers with more seasoned attorneys who can answer questions and provide guidance.

So far, more than 500 experienced practitioners have signed up to offer consultations in about 50 practice areas.

More than 400 requests for advice have been registered at lawyersadvisinglawyers.com, said Alisha Marks Tischler, spokeswoman for The Florida Bar.

Advice categories include administrative and government law, civil and criminal practice and procedures, family law and torts.

“From the Young Lawyers Division standpoint, it’s part of our mentoring to assist younger lawyers transition from law school to practicing law,” said Christian George, an attorney with the Akerman law firm in Jacksonville and president-elect-designate of the division.

George signed up to offer advice in commercial litigation and bankruptcy and received his first request for help within three days of registering on the website.

He advised a solo practitioner who was working on a complex case involving shareholders who wanted to remove an officer from their corporation.

“Sometimes, an attorney needs to make sure their creative idea isn’t too far off track,” said George.

He isn’t the only attorney who reported his experience with the service to The Florida Bar.

Tampa-based lawyer Zack Zuroweste, who will become president of the Young Lawyers Division in June, said he received his first request for help within 24 hours of registering as an adviser.

He counseled an attorney in Palm Beach who had just graduated from law school and had taken on a probate matter for a family friend.

Zuroweste said with a 45-minute phone call and 11 emails, he was able to coach the rookie attorney on how to file an estate plan with the court and also offered advice on key deadlines the attorney would have to meet to protect its legitimacy.

“This program isn’t just about mentorship, it is about helping young lawyers avoid pitfalls that could otherwise have serious consequences for them and their clients.

“There are rules and statutes, but no one gives you a playbook on how to practice law in the real world,” he said in a news release from The Florida Bar.

“Becoming licensed is just the first step in a lawyer’s career. Programs like this are essential to ensure young attorneys have the support and resources necessary to properly advocate for their client’s interests,” said Bill Schifino, president of The Florida Bar in the release.

George said he thinks the program will improve the practice of law by making it easier for an attorney with less experience to get advice from a more seasoned colleague by walking down a “virtual hallway.”

“If you’re a new attorney, it’s sometimes not easy to ask for help,” he said. “It’s important to feel comfortable reaching out.”

The service is available only to members of The Florida Bar. To enroll as a mentor or to seek help with a case, visit lawyersadvisinglawyers.com.

mmarbut@jaxdailyrecord.com

(904) 356-2466

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