By Jan Pudlow
The idea to strive to become president of The Florida Bar was sparked 14 years ago, when Greg Coleman led the Young Lawyers Division and watched lawyers he respected in action as leaders.
“I wanted to aspire to accomplish what they accomplished,” Coleman said of 1998 Bar President Howard Coker, of Jacksonville, and 1999 Bar President Edith Osman, of Miami.
That aspiration has now become a reality for 49-year-old Coleman, a partner at Burman, Critton, Luttier & Coleman in West Palm Beach.
When the clock struck 5:01 p.m. on December 17 and no other candidates made the deadline to challenge him, Coleman officially became president-elect designate of the Bar, with more than 95,000 members.
Coleman will be sworn in as president-elect at the Bar’s Annual Convention in June, when Ft. Lauderdale attorney Gene Pettis becomes president. Coleman’s year-long term as president will begin in June 2014.
As a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors for six years, representing the 15th Judicial Circuit, Coleman said he’s had the “privilege and honor to meet such incredibly diverse, intelligent, and driven people. It’s human nature to want to lead that group, because it’s such an honor, really.”
The Stetson University double graduate — who practices commercial litigation, professional malpractice defense, personal injury, wrongful death and employment litigation — acknowledges: “The profession has been very good to me. This is a small way to give back and leave the Bar in a little better condition than when I came in.”
For the past eight months, Coleman said, he’s traveled the state and met a diverse array of lawyers from “every geographic and practice area and firm size and racial and ethnic types of diversity. Listening to them has given me ideas I hope to accomplish.”
A main focus will be on better communications, said Coleman, a former chair of the Communications Committee.
“One goal is to enhance even more the communications within and outside of the Bar, to use technology and teach technology to lawyers so that it will help their practice, and, conversely, maybe help them in their lives,” Coleman said.
“We work long hours and spend a lot of time trying to balance our family life and extra-curricular activities. There are so many technological tools to help facilitate the way lawyers work. If we can ease the burden at work and at our practice, the personal side becomes easier to manage,” Coleman said.
For example, Coleman said there are “new and improved ways to manage cases that I don’t think a lot of lawyers know about, and they are not that expensive. I’d like to figure out a way to encourage lawyers to become a lot more green, to try to go paperless in their practices.”
Yet, Coleman said he is the first to admit that “lawyers by nature are change-averse and certainly change-averse to technology. Don’t ask me why.”
One of his partners, he adds, still prints out emails and dictates responses.
The other two issues are “first and foremost” in the Bar’s long-range strategic plan:
* “Ensuring adequate judicial funding, a never-ending process” and
“Making sure that what I will call continuing attacks on our judiciary don’t chip away at the independence of the judiciary.”
Those two issues, Coleman said, are critical to both lawyers and the citizens of Florida, and he promises to “continue to pursue them as aggressively as I can.”
Born in Miami and raised in South Florida, Coleman has been active in the Florida legal community at both the state and local levels. He has served as president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association and its young lawyers division, as well as the Bar’s YLD.
During his half dozen years on The Florida Bar Board of Governors, Coleman has served on the Budget, Communications, Executive, Legislation, Strategic Planning, Client Security Fund Procedures, Annual Meeting, Disciplinary Review, and Program Evaluation committees, as well as serving on other boards and committees of the Bar.
In 2011-12, he served as vice chair of the Bar’s Commission on the Review of the Discipline System (Hawkins Commission), which suggested improvements for the Bar’s discipline process. Coleman has also served on the Bar’s screening committees for judicial nominating commission appointments, both for the 15th Judicial Circuit and the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Three times in the past four years, Coleman was honored with The Florida Bar President’s Award of Merit.