History of the Center
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In 1986 The American Bar Association Commission on Professionalism studied professionalism and published a report entitled "In the Spirit of Public Service: A Blueprint for the Rekindling of Lawyer Professionalism p.7 (1986)"That report cited:
Lawyers' efforts to comply with the rules is sharply on the rise... Lawyers' professionalism may well be in steep decline.
[Although] lawyers have tended to take the rules more seriously because of an increased fear of disciplinary prosecution and malpractice suits,...[they] have also tended to look at nothing but the rules; if conduct meets the minimum standard, lawyers tend to ignore exhortations to set the standards at a high level.
The ABA's observation reflects a crucial distinction: while a canon of ethics may cover what is minimally required of lawyers, "professionalism" encompasses what is more broadly expected of them--both by the public and by the best traditions of the legal profession itself.
In 1993 The Florida Bar commissioned a survey by the Josephson Institute to formulate data regarding the attitudes and characteristics of Florida Lawyers. The results were surprising in that many of those surveyed felt that a "substantial minority" of lawyers in Florida are:
- money grubbing
- too clever; tricky, sneaky, cannot be trusted
- have little regard for truth or fairness; willing to distort, manipulate and conceal to win
- arrogant, condescending, abusive
- pompous and obnoxious
Additionally, in 1995 The Florida Bar commissioned a survey to follow-up on the 1993 attitudes of our members. The study found that the most serious problems that we face as Florida lawyers are the lack of professionalism and the lack of ethics. Seventy-four percent (74%) said that the legal profession is somewhat less to much less desirable and that according to fifty one percent (51%), the stress levels in the profession have increased.
The fear of burnout is real to almost fifty percent of those cited by Mike Papantonio in his book entitled "In Search of Atticus Finch" (1995, Seville Publishing).
The pressures and demands of law firms and clients, the element of speed created by the advent of fax machines and computers, and the increasing lack of courtesy between lawyers - to name just a few of the factors that create strain between lawyers - have together changed the quality of the hours worked so that 200 hours in today's practice is far more stressful than 200 hours in the 1960's.
Over the past twenty years, lawyers nationwide agree that the environment is changing in which we practice our profession. Some might add that the changes were so gradual, that most of us either did not notice, or turned a blind eye.
Far too many lawyers are bored, dissatisfied, depressed, or burned out. Many younger attorneys are regretting ever going to law school, while middle-aged attorneys yearn for early retirement, despite earning record amounts of money and exercising more power over our political economy than their predecessors ever did. The glorious vision of lawyers working with others to shape a just society seems very distant on their horizons.
LEADERSHIP RESPONSE In response to the clear need to take action, former Florida Bar President John A. DeVault, III, in concert with President-elect John W. Frost, II, set the goal of making professionalism a higher priority to Florida lawyers. Mr. DeVault appointed The Honorable Justice Harry Lee Anstead to Chair the Standing Committee on Professionalism (1995/96 term).
As a direct result of that partnership came the recommendation that The Bar propose the creation of a Commission on Professionalism and a free standing Center for Professionalism. In early 1996 a proposal was presented to The Supreme Court of Florida for the creation of both.
By July 1996, President Frost had dedicated his presidency to the professionalism effort, and the joint Senior Board and Young Lawyers Board retreat in Naples reflected that theme. During the formal day of education, the full board, many Standing Committee members, Supreme Court Justices, and other distinguished guests focused on professionalism and its proper place in our adversary system.
At the close of that session, The Honorable Chief Justice Gerald Kogan made a special appearance and signed an administrative order. The Center was created by Administrative Order in July of 1996 as a joint project of the Supreme Court and The Florida Bar. The Center is governed by the Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism. The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Professionalism works with the Commission and Center in fulfilling the vision and mission.
By late fall, the full commission was impaneled to include:
- Chair; The Honorable Justice Harry Lee Anstead
- Judiciary members: DCA, Circuit, County
- Deans of each ABA accredited college of law
- President and President-elect of The Florida Bar
- YLD President and President-elect
- A former public member of Board of Governors
- 7 practicing members of The Bar
The first director of The Florida Bar Center for Professionalism, Paul Remillard, was named in late December 1996, and the Center was fully staffed by March 1, 1997. The Center would focus on promoting professionalism to law schools, the judiciary and The Bar membership while the Commission would provide focus and direction to the Center.
In May 2005, The Florida Bar Board of Governors passed a resolution to rename the Center for Professionalism after Henry Latimer, a distinguished attorney who embodied the true lawyer’s trilogy of service to family, community and profession. The Center is now called the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism.