Have you ever been in a hearing and saw an attorney you have never met suddenly talking as if they were on your case? They appear out of nowhere, say that they are here for your case, and suddenly you are arguing against motions you never heard of. You have just been hit by a coverage bandit. And the courts have said this is not okay.
Since 2016 the Florida bar has had rules in place governing coverage counsel. This was in response to several complaints made by sitting judges regarding what they were seeing in their courtrooms. As described by RJA Committee Chair Amy Borman, attorneys were “walking into court and saying, ‘Hi Judge, I’m here on behalf of [another attorney’s] client”. And this is not allowed. It never has been.
However, the prevalent use of coverage counsel in real estate, traffic, and county cases caused chaos for several years before the modification of Rule 2.505. This is the rule which governs the appearance of attorneys in a case. And while there are judicial assistants who may record the attorney’s appearance, this is not always possible. But as stated by Borman, “its important for judges to know who is appearing before them”.
So, what are the proper appearance procedures?
Well, it’s simpler than you think.
Rule 2.505(e)(5) states:
(e) Appearance of Attorney. An attorney may appear for a party in an action or proceeding in any of the following ways:
(5) Notice of Limited Appearance. Filing a notice of limited appearance as permitted by another rule of court.
In order to avoid violating the rules, all you need to do is file a limited notice of appearance or an LNOA. So why isn’t this happening all the time? Well, while some attorneys simply don’t know about the rule, others do not care. In either case, they are violating the rules and causing a chaotic environment in the court which is not allowed.
What should you look for when hiring a coverage attorney?
First, make sure they are comfortable with following the rules. At Bird Law Pro we know that you need to file a Limited Notice of Appearance in each and every case. We do not shy from doing the right thing because we know it could negatively affect your case in the long run.
Second, make sure you are hiring a coverage attorney who is familiar with your particular judge and how they operate. We focus our attention on family law because we know the judges and courts intimately. Bird Law Pro does not cover traffic hearings for example because that is not our specialty. We dedicate ourselves to doing the very best job for our clients. This means we focus our work where we know the rules, the judges, and how things are done.
Third, make sure to prepare your client. Sometimes clients are thrown off by coverage counsel. They hired you and can become dependent on you. By informing them and assuring them prior to the hearing about your coverage counsels’ abilities, you can avoid trouble in the courtroom. At Bird Law Pro we introduce ourselves prior to any hearing to help with this process, but any notice is also helpful for all involved.
Finally, you should make sure to provide everything you can to help your hearing go your way. Hiring coverage counsel means you should be hiring a “mini-me” copy of yourself. This means you should not hold anything back that could be used to ensure victory.
If you need experienced, professional coverage counsel for your hearing, please reach out. Bird Law Pro is always available to help family law attorneys in the Central Florida region. Contact us today at www.birdlawpro.com