Top 4 Ethical Considerations for Law Firms Seeking to Expand to Florida

Top 4 Ethical Considerations for Law Firms Seeking to Expand to Florida

Posted: July 15, 2019 By: Marie C. Category: News

Florida is an extremely lucrative market for law firms seeking to expand. While there are many ethical and legal requirements to navigate throughout the process of opening a law office in Florida, there is no denying a great opportunity awaits your firm in Florida. If you are looking to expand your law firm practice into Florida, here are four requirements you should consider.

The Partnership Requirement

Simply hiring an attorney licensed in Florida is not enough to begin practicing in Florida. To open an office in Florida, you must hire a Florida-admitted attorney as a partner of the out-of-state  firm. The partnership agreement must be a bona fide agreement which includes an adequate membership agreement whereby the Florida partner shares in the profits and losses of the other offices.[1] Specifically, the profits and losses of the partnership cannot be “shared among its members solely on the basis of the proportionate business either generated or handled by its Florida office.”[2]

The Supervision Requirement

In addition to the bona fide partnership requirement, the Florida partner must have a continuing responsibility for supervision of the Florida office. [3] Members, associates, and employees of the out-of-state law firm not admitted to practice in Florida are generally prohibited from engaging in professional activities in Florida except for those falling in limited categories, including:

  1. Participation as co-counsel in accordance with applicable rules of temporary admission;
  2. Transitory professional activities that are “incidental” to out-of-state transactions; and
  3. Supervisory activities in multi-state transactions in which matters of Florida law are being handled by members of the Florida bar.

However, attorneys not admitted to practice in Florida may provide assistance to Florida-admitted attorneys, such as preparation and review of legal documents.

The Federal Law Exception

There is an exception to the partnership and supervision requirement for law firms engaged in federal practice. For example, an out-of-state lawyer may establish a regular or permanent presence in Florida if practicing in the areas of immigration, patent, and tax. This exception applies only to the federal practice component of these practice areas. [4]

Out of State Firm Advertising to Clients in Florida

It is important to note that out-of-state attorneys may not advertise legal services in Florida nor target their advertisements to Florida residents because such activity is treated as the unlicensed practice of law. There are two limited exceptions to this rule. The advertisements may target Florida if they relate to a strictly federal law practice  or a class action. [4]. However, even if the law firm meets one of these exceptions, the advertisements must disclose that the attorney is not a member of the Florida Bar, is admitted in another jurisdiction only, or that his or her practice is limited to federal law.[5]

Unlike other jurisdictions, Florida’s ethics rules are as comprehensive as they are complex. However, there are many resources available to help. If you are considering expanding to Florida, please let us know and one of our Florida legal experts can guide you and partner with you throughout the process.

De Novo Review is a Florida based legal services provider familiar with a vast network of Florida-admitted attorneys in all areas of practice. We can help you every step of the way, including facilitating the partnership you need to open an office in Florida. Contact us now to discuss.


  1. FL Eth. Op. 77-7, 77-9, 77-10 (Fla. St. Bar Assn.)  1978 WL 21709 (1978).
  2. The Florida Bar v. Savitt, 363 So. 2d 559, 561 (Fla. 1978); R. Regulating Fla. Bar 4-5.5, 4-8.6.
  3. Savitt, 363 So. 2d at 561-62
  4. R. Regulating Fla. Bar 4-7.11.
  5. The Florida Bar v. Kaiser, 397 So. 2d 1132 (Fla. 1981)(citing to Savitt, 363 So. 2d at 561-62).
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