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April 15, 2014
Letters

Leadership Academy
I wanted to personally thank President Eugene Pettis for having a vision and creating the Wm. Reece Smith Leadership Academy. This past weekend was the final session of what has been an amazing experience for me.

This academy came at a time when I had lost faith in the profession that I worked all of my life to join and was prepared to walk away. I was a member of a firm where I witnessed a bitter breakup of the partners that included physical confrontations and the type of unethical and unprofessional behavior that I often heard about but never thought I would witness. I would cry while driving home, because my passion and love for practicing law turned to bitter resentment and hate.

During the first half of 2013, I lost both my father and mother within four months of one another. My parents had always been my rock and made me remember why I decided to become a lawyer. Without their support, I felt a void and considered quitting the legal profession as a whole. As a result, I prayed to God and asked him for direction in my career.

When my friend Aramis Donell-Ayala called and convinced me to apply to the Leadership Academy, I did not know what to expect. After the first meeting, I knew God placed me in the academy for a purpose.

I developed friendships with an amazing group of people who all share a passion to be servant leaders, but more importantly hold dear the principles of integrity and professionalism that our profession requires. I have also developed a relationship with an attorney I met. He has become a mentor to me and takes time out of his schedule to call me and chat about everything from legal issues to asking me about my family or weekend plans.

This academy has also made me feel embraced by The Florida Bar as an organization. I always wanted to know how the Bar can benefit me and how I can make an impact within the Bar. Having an opportunity to meet members of the Board of Governors, section leaders, and Bar leaders has exposed me to the many different ways that I can participate and be active within The Florida Bar. I am leaving this academy knowing there is a place for every lawyer to serve and participate within the Bar.

Harold V. Bennett III
Tampa

CLE
I just read Phil Shailer’s letter to the editor regarding the cost of CLEs.

All I can say is $1,000 for three CLE courses, multiplied by 98,000 attorneys in Florida, divided by three years is around $32 million. Shared by how many organizations providing such courses?

The math speaks for itself.

I obviously went into the wrong profession.

Jonathan Mitchell
St. Petersburg

Venezuela
I just read “Florida lawyer experiences first-hand the turmoil in Venezuela” in the March 15 News. I appreciate this article, because that increases the ways to help my people in Venezuela.

As an attorney in Venezuela and here in Florida, I am very concerned about the future of my country and my family still living there. I belong to different groups of Venezuelan organizations in Orlando, and we are working hard to make our voices heard, and we are collecting first aid items to be sent to Venezuela.

I really appreciate the Bar dedicating part of The Florida Bar News to Venezuela.

Juan Carlos Barreno
Orlando

DCF
A recent investigation into the deaths of 477 children who were known to be at risk by Department of Children and Families shockingly revealed the abysmal failure of DCF and its community partners.

The reality is that as DCF reduced the number of children in its dangerous, burgeoning out-of-home care system from 50,000 in 2002 to 16,000, it failed with its private partners to take action to protect community children that investigators determined were in harm’s way.

Recently, Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo has been open and invited collaborative solutions to address these failures, and the Florida Legislature is considering several measures that could create the reforms advocates have been demanding for years to protect both community children and children taken into state care, as well.

Under the current law, when state workers investigate reports of abuse, they must close their investigations within 60 days, no matter the finding of future risk. Proposed legislation would require lead agencies to monitor safety plans with interventions and services specifically tailored for each child and family beyond the 60-day investigation period, if protective investigators determine that there is high future risk to children.

Additionally, the Legislature needs to ensure that children who are placed in state care are also safe from the dangers of over-crowded foster care, including child-on-child sexual abuse, and have permanent families in one year, as state law requires.

Florida must protect both the children in the community and those who must be in state custody, as well. It’s not just DCF’s and its community partners’ job. It’s their moral and legal obligation.

Howard Talenfeld
Ft. Lauderdale

Postage
Periodically, the Bar spends approximately 48 cents to send me a hard copy of a confidential reference form to fill out on an attorney who has applied for board certification/recertification.

The Bar always encloses a return envelope, postage prepaid, for my use. Every time I pull up the scanned copy of the form I maintain on my computer, fill it out, sign it, and return it to the Bar as an attachment to an email.

Would it be that hard for the Bar to email the form to me and all others it selects to provide these evaluations? It would save the Bar (and, in the long run, all Bar members) the cost of the envelopes, the cost of the postage, and the cost of the time of employees to handle paper, both at the Bar’s end sending the form and at my end receiving it. It’s not as if the Bar does not have an email address for each of its members.

I used to put this question at the bottom of each one of these forms I filled out, but I stopped after receiving no response. But it has stayed in the back of my mind and, after writing my check to pay my annual recertification fee (signing another form that could have been emailed to me), I thought I would try one last time to raise the cost issue with the Bar.

Ellen H. Lorenzen
Tampa

(The Bar’s Legal Specialization and Education Department Responds: The Bar is pleased to report steps are being taken to implement the use of electronic peer review forms for board certification applicants. In conjunction with several ongoing technological updates, the Bar also is working to develop systems to accept the board certification annual fees electronically.)

Client Security Fund
I would like to commend the Clients’ Security Fund, mentioned in the March 15 News, for the wonderful work it does on behalf of innocent clients duped by their unscrupulous attorneys.

I too was unaware of the fund’s existence. Further, I was unaware that $25 of our Bar fees go toward the fund’s budget. I sincerely hope that the fund is seeking and has recovered full restitution from the lawyers for whose wrongdoings they’re forced to right. Especially at a time when there are petitions to increase our Bar fees.

The Bar cannot in good conscience leave the “99.9 percent who do not misappropriate client funds” holding the bag.

Traciann McKenzie
Los Angeles, CA

Email
I, like many others, have my business email address published on my member information page. I’ve always received a few third-party email offers (usually about online CLEs or practice guides) here and there.

Sadly, though, in the last six months that’s ramped up considerably. I now typically receive two to three emails a week that I have to manually “opt out” of, lest my work inbox be flooded with unsolicited ads. Opting out of one third party’s offer does not save me from others in the future, so I’m caught in an endless battle to keep my business inbox clutter-free.

My business email address is published on just one place on all of the Internet — The Florida Bar’s website. Clearly third parties are accessing the Bar’s website and pulling its members’ email addresses out to add to their mailing lists.

Recognizing a balance between public accessibility and member privacy, the Bar needs to hold itself accountable and work to protect its members from the constant advertisements. One such way would be to remove the visibility of the email address to the public, and only make it visible to other members. Another would be to do away with the publication of emails all together.

Matt Leeth
Boca Raton

(Editor’s Note: The Florida Bar is subject to our state’s public records laws. Licensee data, including business email addresses, of all other regulated professions in our state are publicly accessible. The Bar actively displays basic membership information unless lawfully exempt — with caveats to potential users — because no filters or bureaucratic obstacles can simply deter a requester’s ultimate access to it. The Bar remains open to creative and inexpensive approaches to this issue. And members unhappy with improper commercial emails may find interim relief and monetary fulfillment in the state and federal laws that set strict requirements for these communications.)

Foundation Fellow
Sometimes the path to charitable giving runs in a straight line. Sometimes it starts at the bottom of a mud pit.

At a chili-making contest, Tampa attorney Andy Spicola made a commitment: He would wake up the following morning, journey with me to Hi Hat Ranch in Sarasota, and, without any prior training, complete the Tough Mudder – a 12-mile obstacle course/mud run.

At the two-and-a-half mile mark, a crimson-faced Andy confessed that he was closing in on the longest run he had ever completed in his life – three miles. I reminded him that we had another 10 miles to go. When he opened a gash on his forehead on a random iceberg in a large vat of ice water participants had to wade through, I thought it was over.

Andy assured me that he would finish if it killed him. It almost did.

He finally crossed the finish and limped wearily to the outdoor shower area. When he began to strip down, it seemed to me an opportune time to capture a few photos of Andy, and those photos seemed too precious to keep from several of our mutual friends.

He could not have known that his pal and local trial attorney Dan Clark had shipped off a photo of a partially clothed, mud-covered Andy Spicola so that it could be turned into a life-sized wall decal. He also could not have known that his Tough Mudder experience would eventually help fund legal services for some of Florida’s poorest citizens through a lifetime pledge taken by our mutual friend.

A week and a half later, when the Spicolas held their Annual White Elephant Party, Dan shared his gift with the other participants. Not only would the recipient receive a life-sized, filthy Andy Spicola decal, but Dan promised to pay the recipient $1,000 if he or she displayed it in a prominent place for one year.

After taking home the decal, I made sure I would take home the $1,000, too. Raggedy Andy was displayed in the front foyer, immediately visible to anyone entering our home. Delivery men were frightened. People who did not know Andy would ask why we had a life-sized picture of a strange, mud-covered man on our wall.

When a year had lapsed, Dan and I worked out a deal. Rather than pay me $1,000, Dan would settle his debt by donating the $1,000 to The Florida Bar Foundation and becoming a Foundation fellow, thereby helping ensure that low-income Floridians with civil legal needs would have a shot at justice.

So here is my message to you: There is a more direct route to becoming a Florida Bar Foundation fellow.

All you have to do is complete the online pledge form at www.floridabarfoundation.org/fellow and make payments over five years — or 10 years for young, government, or nonprofit lawyers. Your contributions will help grow the Foundation’s endowment trust, which in turn will help create a more stable future for legal aid funding.

Greg Brown
Tampa

[Revised: 11-17-2014]