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July 15, 2014

GREG COLEMAN is sworn in as president of The Florida Bar by outgoing Chief Justice Ricky Polston as his son, Cody, and wife, Monica, look on.
GREG COLEMAN is sworn in as president of The Florida Bar by outgoing Chief Justice Ricky Polston as his son, Cody, and wife, Monica, look on.

Coleman begins his adventure as Bar president
‘My focus is going to be on identifying technological tools for our members to enhance and improve their practice’

By Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

Years ago, Jay White and Greg Coleman took their boat to the Bahamas to fish and lobster when a storm whipped up 12-foot waves.

There was no getting back home to West Palm Beach by boat. And they didn’t want to ride out the storm. Coleman went to the dock, found someone with a satellite phone, and came back to announce: “Be ready in an hour. I’ve got a plane coming.”

As White, a former Florida Bar president, tells the story, they were on the plane preparing for take-off, when White looked out the window and noticed the plane’s wheels were in the seawater. He tapped the shoulders of Coleman, wearing headphones and sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, to tell him. Coleman nonchalantly said, “Yeah, this plane has never taken off on a runway this short and we’re not sure we can do it.”

“Excuse me?!” an incredulous White exclaimed.

As the pilot had his foot on the brake and revved the engine, Coleman explained over the roar that once they get going, they’ll bounce the plane so they will clear the treetops.

“I’m like, ‘What? What if we don’t make it?’” White asked.

“We’ll hit the tree at the top of the runway,” Coleman replied.

The plane took off, they bounced the plane, White held his breath, and they missed the tree by what seemed like mere inches.

White shared that story at the General Assembly at the Bar’s Annual Convention on June 27, in introducing his longtime friend and colleague, as a fearless, adventurous, problem-solver.

Coleman’s next adventure that will test his problem-solving skills is serving as the new president of The Florida Bar. The 51-year-old partner at Critton, Luttier & Coleman in West Palm Beach, detailed some of his main goals during his year leading nearly 100,000 lawyers, involving technology, and trying to solve the huge gap in access to justice for Florida’s poor and middle-class citizens.

Technology
“Technology has already changed the way we practice law. It will continue to change the way we practice law. It will continue to change the way we live and there are both positives and negatives to these changes,” Coleman said.

“My focus is going to be on identifying technological tools for our members to enhance and improve their practice. Tools that can make their office more efficient; tools that can make them better lawyers. Hopefully, if a lawyer is more efficient, then he or she can spend more time with their family.”

An educational program that goes beyond the practice of law is what Coleman calls E-Etiquette.

“Years ago, when people actually hand-wrote or typed letters, there was a built-in safeguard to respond when you were angry. You would write the response, let it sit for a day, read it the next day, and cross half of it out,” Coleman said,

“There is actually something very therapeutic about being able to write an angry response and then remove all of the angry references. Those days are long gone, because with instant communication comes instant reaction, usually attached to an instant emotion.

“We really need to be careful about this and we need to educate our members on how to deal with all of these instant communication issues.”

At the same time, Coleman said, lawyers need to recognize emerging new ways to communicate.

“A 70-year-old uses a landline telephone. A 25-year-old probably has never seen a landline and, quite frankly, they don’t like to use the phone. Friends of mine who have kids in their late teens and early 20s say they don’t even need to have the phone as part of their mobile device because all they do is text anyway.

“As a matter of fact, they will text from the next room, rather than get up and walk in and ask for something. These generational communication divides are something we need to look at, not just from an inter-lawyer perspective, but how we deal with our clients and how we deal with each other differently.”

Coleman gave those as just a couple of many examples of tremendous challenges facing the legal profession.

“Technology can invade what we do for a living, but it can never replace the human spirit, and creativity can never be replaced by what my partner would commonly refer to as a machine. Sometimes I wonder if he checks the oil in his computer.”

Access to Justice
“The important thing to take away from today is that we are creating a summit of statewide leaders, consisting of all of the stakeholders from The Florida Bar Foundation, the Legislature, the executive branch, and, most importantly, the business community, to address the ever-increasing gap of individuals in our society who cannot access the courts and are above the poverty line, so they don’t qualify for legal aid.

“This has been a societal problem for years. I do not believe lawyers alone can solve this crisis,” Coleman said.

“Therefore, under the leadership of soon-to-be Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, we are going to convene a summit on this very important issue and create deliverables that are concrete, technologically based, and creative.

“Justice Labarga is in the process of finalizing the 18 participants in this incredibly important project. Justice Labarga, I look forward to working with you very closely to solve this ongoing crisis.”

To learn more about Coleman’s agenda as president, go to and you will find a video.

[Revised: 03-01-2015]