You arrive at the courthouse for your hearing and your attorney is not there. Instead of the person you hired there is someone there who says they are covering for your attorney. Why does this happen? Attorneys use coverage attorneys for various reasons. There are times when attorneys are double booked and must choose between cancelling a hearing or arranging coverage. Most attorneys have to hire coverage at least once in a while, family and medical emergencies come up. Some attorneys and firms use coverage attorneys to be more efficient and ultimately provide you with the best representation possible. Other firms use coverage to keep money in their pockets with little regard for your case.
Unfortunately some firms set up offices around the State to make it look like they have a larger presence. These offices are little more than mailboxes, they are minimally staffed and used mainly to sell services. The Florida Bar has rules against advertising these spaces as offices but that does not mean all firms are following the rules. Oftentimes these firms will have an attorney consult with you then assign your case to another attorney on and you will not have any more contact with the initial attorney. Other firms will claim they practice all over the state but will hire coverage attorneys for all of their hearings to save them money.
It is important to discuss this when hiring an attorney. Will the attorney you are talking to be the one who is handling your case? Will you be notified in advance if the attorney hires coverage counsel? When you sit down for a consult you should be prepared to ask these questions. The Florida Bar Rules make it clear an attorney must disclose who will be handling a case but it is usually buried in a retainer agreement and vaguely stated. A good attorney or law firm will be up front with you.