Thank you, Jimmy, for that beautiful introduction and for doing the thank you-s for me. Given the number of years we’ve been together, no one knows me better than you. I’m so thankful to you, our children, our family, our friends, and so many others who have encouraged me on my journey to become President of The Florida Bar.
To Jimmy and to everyone Jimmy mentioned, you know how much I love you all and how I wish we could all be physically together today… but this will have to do.
The speech I’m giving today is not the one I ever envisioned delivering when I was elected a year and a half ago.
In a relatively short period of time, my life and everyone else’s lives have changed. It’s like we’re in a maze, and we have to figure out a way to get out of it — as a society, as a profession and as individuals.
An interview question now in vogue is: “What advice would you give your younger self?”
A year ago, I might have said: to have more confidence, develop early networks and seek out mentors, all good things, but they seem small at this point.
If asked today, what advice I’d give my younger self, I’d say to expect that no matter how much you plan and focus and learn and work really hard – nothing, nothing, is more important than taking care of yourself and keeping your family safe.
I’d also say that you need to support not only your family, but also your community and your profession. Because those are the places where you’ll find the most support when you need it the most. Times like these teach us just how much we need to be strong for ourselves and for one another.
John F. Kennedy was once asked by a young child how he got to be a war hero.
Kennedy replied: “They sunk my boat, so I had no choice.”
And The Florida Bar has no choice, either. The ongoing pandemic and the recent civil unrest are accelerating our need to change the way we live and work.
You know that lawyers are problem-solvers. After all, no one calls us if they are problem free. We must use our special training and positions of leadership for the betterment of society. And we are also officers of the court and defenders of the rule of law. In such uncertain times, we should focus on these important responsibilities more than ever before as we struggle to navigate our way through the maze.
We have been fortunate to have great leaders in our Bar whose wisdom and forethought have brought us so far since our establishment 70 years ago.
Over the decades and especially during the past several years, our progress in diversity and inclusion, in applying technology to the practice of law, and on focusing on mental health and wellness, has put us in a position of great strength when dealing with the crises at hand.
Now, many of you know how particularly passionate I feel about the mental, physical and financial health of our members.
What you may not know is that while you know me as a relatively successful lawyer and now the Bar president, I wasn’t a “particularly gifted” law student, I wasn’t on law review, I didn’t go to an Ivy League law school, and I never worked in a big fancy firm. Heck, at one point, I wasn’t even sure it made sense to finish law school.
But each of us is the sum total of our experiences, our unique journeys. Mine took me from Miami Beach, to the University of Florida, to the EPA in Washington D.C. and then New York City, the state attorney’s office in Miami, all before becoming a matrimonial lawyer. It includes marrying my husband Jimmy, which was one of the best decisions I ever made – just ask him. And then came our two children, Nora & PJ, who each brought their own special qualities to our family.
I guess it was a good thing I finished law school.
After over 30 years of practice, I thought I finally had things pretty much under control…But now I’m dealing with the new and added stress that most if not all of my fellow lawyers are experiencing: working from home with my husband who is now a city manager, one child who had to return from college early to finish his first year online, and another who because of the pandemic is furloughed.
Like many of you, I had to suddenly abandon my familiar work surroundings, shift to conducting business in a new way, and follow a fresh and ever-changing set of rules.
Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Facebook Live, and so many other new means of communications and practicing law all require a new and different level of concentration. They also cause additional strain as we learn how to lawyer remotely while being effective advocates for our clients.
On the other hand, we now know how to use the mute and unmute button, and raise our hands on Zoom, as we see fit.
Not having the support of legal assistants, colleagues, associates and partners physically at arm’s length has become an uncomfortable reality. And we all have to practice this thing called “social distancing,” which creates numerous added challenges. Six feet will never mean the same thing again.
Just last month I had a full-day evidentiary hearing with: my client in South America, the opposing party in New Orleans, the judge at her home in Ft. Lauderdale, me in my office in Miami, and who knows where the clerk, the interpreter and court reporter were located – cross examining witnesses, introducing evidence, all by Zoom, certainly something I never expected to do in my lifetime. But thanks to the leadership of Chief Justice Canady, the Florida Supreme Court, and the state and county judiciary, we are all practicing law in ways we never thought possible.
As you likely know, in this speech, incoming Bar presidents are expected to describe their agenda for the upcoming year, what great program or ideas they want to espouse. I was pondering what I was going to launch or expand in my speech. And then the boat sunk.
Instead, when I look at The Florida Bar – what we do and how we are doing it now — I see a mosaic of tiles and rather than coming up with new programs, I am in a position to consider which tiles we highlight in our mosaic.
As lawyers, we are taught to focus on precedent, but now is the time to look ahead to see how we proceed. This year is going to be about rebuilding, becoming stronger, and making ourselves, our profession and The Florida Bar, truly resilient.
Our Florida Bar will be more proactive than ever, listening to you – our members– and doing what we can to meet your needs and the needs of your clients as the profession continues to shift to the new normal. But there will be no return to normal when it comes to the issue of equality and fairness for all our citizens. It will be up to The Florida Bar and our partners: the courts, our voluntary bars, and the Bar’s sections and committees, to ensure that the phrase is “meaningful” and “not meaningless”. I know this is possible because I know what each and every one of you is capable of.
We need to evaluate what’s been done so far and how we will move forward with all of these new tools and approaches to improve the practice of law and the delivery of justice.
Now is the time for us to focus on options that will work. Now, more than ever, as our society struggles with fear, anger and frustration, we will continue to collaborate with our legal partners –to keep our justice system solid and accessible to everyone and assuring that full exercise of every American’s constitutional rights.
Abogado, avoka, avvocato, lawyer … regardless of the language, we are in a better position to withstand these problems than any other profession or business. As President of The Florida Bar it is my hope that we will enhance the tiles in the mosaic, to boost the resources provided by The Florida Bar to its members, to help us all be successful.
These are such difficult times, but I have no doubt that we can and will seize every possible opportunity and face the future unafraid.
Thank you for your attention.
I am so honored to be a member of our great profession;
I am humbled by the opportunity to lead our Bar and I will always be proud to be your colleague.
May God Bless the State of Florida and the United States of America.
2019-2020 President John M. Stewart
Videos are available on The Florida Bar’s YouTube channel.
In a Zoom interview with The Florida Bar Journal & News Editor Mark Killian, Florida Bar President John Stewart discusses the Bar’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He talks about the Bar’s position on the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 1 and shares where Florida Bar members can find the latest coronavirus-related information and resources during this challenging time.
April 3 President’s Message
Dear Fellow Florida Bar Members:
I hope this correspondence finds you, your families, and friends well in these uncertain times. Although we Floridians are very resilient when it comes to hurricane planning and recovery, this pandemic provides unique dilemmas every day, day after day. Please be assured Bar leadership and our staff are working to the best of our abilities to assure continued member services and Bar operations at the highest level.
Above all, I hope you are observing the health and safety guidelines and working remotely if possible to reduce community spread of COVID-19.
This update covers the recent Safer at Home executive order, the Bar’s resources for members during the pandemic and that status of meetings as of today.
Provision of Legal Services During the Pandemic
We’ve heard from a number of members who have questions about the statewide Safer at Home Executive Order 20-91, issued on April 1 by Governor Ron DeSantis, as to its application to the legal profession.
The Executive Committee of The Florida Bar Board of Governors met on March 23 and took a position that law firms are essential businesses, either entirely or when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities. The Bar’s position respectfully requested that any state, city and county protective pandemic protocols include a statement that law firms are essential businesses either entirely or when “necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities” especially when time-sensitive legal work is necessary to assist the public in solving urgent needs during these unusual times. On March 27, I sent a letter to the Governor’s General Counsel regarding this request.
The Safer at Home Executive Order 20-91 refers to essential services and activities. Although specifics are not provided regarding provision of legal services, you should carefully review this, and all other relevant orders, and use your best judgment to determine whether your work meets the mandates of the order. The Governor said he has received questions about the meaning of essential activities under his Safer at Home order. “It’s less important what you do, than how you do it,” DeSantis said, and he went on to say that the goal is to avoid close contact with people outside your home to reduce the transmission rate. The Governor also advised that local municipalities can place more stringent restrictions than the statewide order, so we must be vigilant to assure we’re meeting state and local requirements.
We stress that the absolute best course to take at this time is to work remotely using electronic communications and to avoid in-person contact as directed. When that isn’t possible, you should follow the health and safety guidelines issued by national state and local health officials (posted on our COVID-19 webpage) concerning proper hygiene, social distancing, and other recommended protocols.
Also, you should frequently check for current court orders and notifications from the clerks of court. We have links to all of the courts’ and clerks’ websites under Member Resources at www.floridabar.org/covid19.
Member Resources Expansion
Daily updates are being made to the Bar’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. It now includes sections on court announcements, Florida Bar announcements, and member and consumer resources. Please read more about what’s available in the Florida Bar News story. This is also a good time to follow the Bar’s social media for timely information.
May Board of Governors Meeting
The next scheduled Board of Governors meeting and its individual committee meetings are being transitioned from in-person events to virtual meetings on May 14-15. Board committee chairs will work with staff liaisons to identify pending matters that either need to be addressed or may be deferred.
Section Meetings, CLEs and Other Activities Through May
In the interest of the health and safety of members and staff, section and committee leaders are being asked to postpone, cancel, or transition to electronic or virtual activities any planned in-person events through May 31, 2020. The Florida Bar will continue to work with the section and committee leaders to assist in any rescheduling, cancellation, or moving activities to an electronic format.
In addition, please remember that deadlines for members with three-year cycle CLE reporting in February, March, April, and May, have been extended to August 31, 2020. Although many in-person CLEs have been cancelled, the 24/7 OnDemand CLE catalog is active and LegalFuel offers many free online CLEs that may be helpful.
In closing, please know how grateful I am for your dedication to your clients, our courts, and our Bar during these difficult times. We are all in this together, and together we can recover and restore our legal system to normal operations as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact myself or President-elect Dori Foster-Morales with any questions and above all stay safe.
John M. Stewart
March 20 President’s Message
Dear Fellow Florida Bar Members:
In the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, all of our lives, personally and professionally, have been impacted. However, we at The Florida Bar want to make sure that you have the latest information on what our Bar is doing and where you can find important information during this stressful time.
Here is a recap of information Florida Bar members need to know about what the Bar and Florida’s courts are doing regarding COVID-19, as well as a summary of today’s Board of Governors actions.
COVID-19 Information and Resources Page
As a central source of up-to-date information for Florida Bar members, the COVID-19 web page available at www.floridabar.org/covid19 is being constantly updated with lists and links to Supreme Court orders and announcements, and links to a list of trial courts’ emergency orders and directives, including closures and all district court notices. This page should also meet the goal of reducing the volume of email for members while increasing the ease of finding and receiving local information.
Florida Bar announcements are posted, as are resources for practice management assistance, ethics guidance, mental health and wellness tips, free trials and expanded member benefits, and state and federal assistance and information programs.
When the immediate crisis starts to subside, we will send additional communications regarding government assistance programs and Florida Bar member benefits to assist your law firm and staff in getting through the financial, logistical, and emotional challenges the pandemic has caused.
Pandemic Coordination with the Florida Supreme Court, Office of State Courts Administrator, and Clerks of Court
Daily communications with the Supreme Court, the state courts administrator and clerks have been ongoing since the pandemic began so that we are able to post timely information from the courts as it is released on The Florida Bar’s COVID-19 page, social media and on the online Bar News & Journal. We have also provided all of the court public information officers and the 67 clerks access to members’ emails in their circuits and counties so members can receive timely local information while the Bar continues to disseminate information of statewide importance.
Florida Supreme Court Administrative Orders & Announcements
AOSC20-15, issued March 17, details what constitutes “essential” and “critical” court proceedings and directs the state courts to give them priority over other cases. It also requires that proceedings be conducted in a way that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 exposure. It also orders the rescheduling, postponement, or cancellation of nonessential and noncritical court proceedings unless they can be effectively conducted using remote technology.
Chief Justice Charles Canady plans to release new emergency orders over the next days to further extend legal deadlines and to make other changes to court rules necessary to meet the crisis. All emergency orders previously issued will be extended for at least another three weeks. Read the March 20 Florida Bar News article.
This morning, the Supreme Court issued an order governing regulation of the state’s legal profession that suspends the filing and evaluation requirements for lawyer advertisements and addresses all time periods and deadlines in lawyer discipline and unlicensed practice of law cases.
All of the orders, appellate and state court announcements, and links to additional information are posted on The Florida Bar’s COVID-19 page.
Florida Bar Essential Operations Continue
Many Florida Bar staff members are working remotely to carry out essential functions while Bar offices are temporarily closed to reduce exposure to COVID-19. I ask your patience if you experience any understandable delays in responses from our staff and if some services that you are seeking are suspended at this time.
Update on Florida Courts E-filing Portal
Although Florida’s court system operations have been appropriately cut back because of the pandemic, the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal is open and available to anyone who needs to file documents, and the Portal Help Desk remains available during regularly scheduled business hours. The Portal will be down for routine maintenance on March 21.
CLE Reporting Deadlines Extended; Online CLE Still Available
The deadlines for members scheduled to report their three-year cycle CLE reporting in February, March, April, and May, have been extended to August 31, 2020. The 24/7 OnDemand CLE catalog is active, but many upcoming in-person CLE programs have been canceled, and processing orders and shipping CLE CDs and CLE DVDs are suspended.
Board of Governors Virtual March Meeting Summary
The scheduled Board of Governors meeting this month was canceled, and instead the Executive Committee met this morning by teleconference and took these major actions:
- The deadlines for members scheduled to report their three-year cycle CLE reporting in February, March, April, and May, have been extended to August 31, 2020.
- A mental health helpline for members was approved as part of a continuing effort to address the well-being of Florida lawyers. The helpline is expected to be available July 1, 2020.
- Two new member benefits were approved. Smith.ai, a virtual receptionist service for live calls and web chat, primarily serving solo and small-firm attorneys, and Indexed I/O which provides a scalable, cost-effective eDiscovery solution that fits every case size. These benefits will be added to the more than 70 free or discounted products and services — financial services, shipping, practice management resources and legal research — offered to Florida Bar members.
- The Legislation Committee reported that the Florida House and Senate finalized a $92 billion FY 2020-2021 budget that includes $21 million in initial spending for a long-sought Second District Court of Appeal courthouse and more than $3.4 million to fund the certification of 10 new trial judges. Additional details are in this March 19 Florida Bar News article.
- The Bar’s proposed 2020-21 budget was approved without a fee increase. It will be posted online and published in the April 30/May 2020 print edition of The Florida Bar News. The Board will consider member comments and revise the budget at its May 15 meeting before submitting it to the Supreme Court for the last approval.
In closing, while our families, businesses and communities have all been dramatically impacted by COVID-19, it is our top priority to support our judiciary and justice system partners, do what we can to help our members and staff, and continue our essential services so that our collective recovery can occur as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your service to the justice system, legal community and the citizens of Florida. We can all take pride in our profession’s continued dedication to access to justice and the rule of law during this difficult time. We at The Florida Bar are working to help you as we all move forward.
We recognize the myriad of serious challenges this crisis creates for our members. We are here to assist in any way we can. If you have any questions or concerns or believe there is anything we can be doing better, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Please stay safe.
John M. Stewart
John Stewart: I’m John Stewart, president of The Florida Bar, here in the State Capitol, and this is my February President’s Message.
Q. What is happening during the 2020 Legislative Session?
The Florida Bar is actively monitoring legislation on behalf of the judicial branch and lawyers. Right now, we’re focused on the Court’s primary objective relating to funding for the 2020 budget for the judiciary. We’re looking to increase the salaries for judges. Right now, the trial courts and the DCA judges rank in the lower half among states across the country. We’re also looking to increase security, increase efficiencies, and get general access to justice improved for the judicial system. Right now, the state’s budget for the judiciary is less than one percent of the annual budget, and we’re continuing to work to improve that.
Q. Why is it important that we are here?
We’re here in the State Capitol during Legislative Session. It’s our job to make sure that, not only is The Florida Bar and the judiciary treated fairly by the legislature, but really to protect Florida citizens. There’s only one position in Florida’s Cabinet that is not comprised by a lawyer. So, we have our Secretary of State, we have our Attorney General, we have our Governor, and we have our Commissioner of Agriculture … are all Florida lawyers. So it’s great to be here, we’ll have some interviews coming with them, so be on the lookout for them on our social media platforms.
Q. What are some of the ways the Florida Supreme Court is working to keep Florida’s legal system efficient and accessible?
Florida court systems see over two million civil cases on the annual basis, so the Florida Supreme Court has put together a task force, including two past Florida Bar presidents, to review the efficiency and the way that civil cases can move through the system so that Florida citizens have access to justice. In addition, in conjunction with the law school deans, the Florida Supreme Court has removed two subjects from the Florida bar exam – the intent not to make the bar exam easier, but to allow law students to study core principles that will make them better lawyers. Finally, the Supreme Court has tasked The Florida Bar with studying the issues of the changing legal marketplace including areas of technology and advertising with an obligation to report back both to The Florida Bar Board of Governors and to the Florida Supreme Court with its final recommendations by June 2021.
Q. What can Florida Bar members do to provide input on these matters and keep up with the progress of these studies?
Florida Bar Member dialogue is critical to success of all the studies and projects that The Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court is currently engaged in. We make information available on The Florida Bar’s website through The Florida Bar News, through The Florida Bar Journal, all of our social media platforms. It is our job to get the information to you, and it is your job to review the information and provide us your feedback in a professional, educated, meaningful way.
I am John Stewart, president of The Florida Bar, and this is my December President’s Message.
Q. How have you gone about achieving your priorities for the year?
Well, of course, we’ve been working very hard with the Board of Governors, with our local voluntary bar leaders and our members throughout the state to assure that we’re staying on top of the issues that are important to the lawyers of Florida. These include the changing legal marketplace, technology, mental health and wellness, promoting our CLEs, and making sure that we do the two things that we’re obligated to do and that we do best. And that’s one, protect the public, and serve our members.
Q. What do you see as the most noteworthy successes from your presidency thus far?
Well, thanks to our hard-working Board of Governors and our voluntary bar leaders across the state, we have quite a few successes in the early part of this year. First, on December 12, Chapter 23 was filed, the voluntary registration of online service providers. This is designed both to protect the public when utilizing these services, as well as making it clear for our members when they are able to participate with these programs properly and responsibly under the rules regulating The Florida Bar. Additionally, we recently learned that the Florida Supreme Court approved a version of the parental leave continuance rule, which is a rule that was strongly supported by the Board of Governors. It’s something that we are very excited about that we think promotes diversity in our profession and also promotes general mental health and wellness amongst our members.
Q. What’s next for The Florida Bar?
Well, following on the heels of the filing of the voluntary registration for online service providers, the Florida Supreme Court has directed us to look at the broader legal marketplace, the broader legal landscape, and to address a variety of issues that entails, which will be a primary focus. We’ll be drawing in our voluntary bar leaders to help us with that. We’re also going to continue to focus on diversity, diversity within the leadership of The Florida Bar, and also continue to push for diversity amongst the judicial nominating committees, which is an important role and something that we take great pride in. We’re going to continue to push as we have for years for mental health and wellness initiatives. That continues to be a huge priority of The Florida Bar, and I see it continuing to be a priority of the Florida Bar for years to come including following me with my president-elect, soon to be president, Dori Foster-Morales.
Q. How is the legal profession giving back to the community during the holiday season?
Florida lawyers give all year round. I’ve always said that Florida lawyers are often social workers at heart. And I think especially this time of year, as we get closer to our annual Pro Bono Awards ceremony where we recognize the lawyers who have gone above and beyond their necessary contributions in the areas of pro bono and are recognized for those efforts at the Florida Supreme Court, this year to be held on January 30, we’ll continue to give back both financially and in hours of pro bono dedication. We also recognize our voluntary bars around the state who continually strive to improve their communities through various volunteer projects at all levels, so it’s something that we’ll continue to do, and this time of year is a perfect time to highlight it.
Q. As 2019 comes to a close, what are you grateful for?
Personally, I’m grateful for time spent with family and friends. I’m grateful to be able to lead The Florida Bar during this year. I’m grateful for my hard-working Board of Governors members. I’m grateful for everything that Florida lawyers do for our community, and really grateful that the rule of law still governs and that we’re able to provide for the peaceful life of men and women in a peaceful state during this holiday season.
I’m John Stewart, President of The Florida Bar, here in Tallahassee at The Florida Bar headquarters.
Q. Can you describe the proposed Florida judicial parental leave rule? What is the Bar’s position?
I recently had the pleasure of arguing for the Florida Supreme Court on the issue of the parental leave rule. The rule was intended to allow for up to a three-month continuance for anyone subject to parental leave. This rule would promote really three important missions of The Florida Bar: One: Diversity in the profession. Two: Mental health and wellness by allowing lawyers to have some time off during this important period of their life. And three: Protecting the public so that the client can be assured they can have the attorney that they would like. While we recognize, and hearing the court’s questions that the rule is probably not perfect, we think the rule makes progress. Perfection can be the death of progress, and so we’re hoping that we’ll find a way to make progress in this arena.
Q. Can you tell us about the Bar’s proposed new voluntary registration program for online service providers?
The Board of Governors recently approved a voluntary registration for online service providers. This rule still requires Supreme Court approval. However, the idea behind the rule is to provide some regulation in a generally unregulated area. Largely, these companies are providing forms, so the primary regulation comes in the requirement that these forms either be approved by the Florida Supreme Court or approved by a licensed Florida Bar member in good standing.
Q. What is the Bar’s outlook for the upcoming 2020 Legislative Session?
The legislative session for 2020 is starting early. We’ve already had committee weeks this session. The Florida Bar’s primary mission is to assure the advancement of legal profession and to assure an adequately funded judicial branch of government. We believe that we are in a good place to continue to promote those ideals, and we’re continuing to work with our legislators and with the governor to assure that those goals are accomplished.
John Stewart: I’m John Stewart, president of The Florida Bar, and this is my July President’s Update.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue law?
John Stewart: Well, most people think I decided to pursue law because of my father and grandfather are both lawyers. But in fact, primarily, it was after I got my first job, I saw how the patent lawyers were working in the company and decided that autonomy was really interesting to me and I thought I would go back and practice law, rather than continue in the career I had started.
Q. You are a third-generation lawyer. How has our system of law changed since your grandfather began practicing?
John Stewart: Well, in some ways, it really remains the same. My dad calls us counselors at law, and I think that’s what we are. I mean we offer a lot of good advice, helping people out. It been a lot of changes through the generations.
Q. How has your practice changed since you first began practicing law?
John Stewart: I think for me, it’s mostly been the way technology has impacted the practice. And coupled probably with that time frame we became a lot more specialized in the type of work that we do.
Q. What kind of challenges do you think that creates for today’s lawyers?
John Stewart: Running a small law firm is like running a small business. You only have so much time — the pace of change in technology is challenging. And so, keep up with that, while still trying to maintain your business and meet your clients’ needs is really probably the most difficult aspect.
Q. Have you set any goals for your presidency, and what are they?
John Stewart: Well, we going to continue the areas that we been working on, that we’re strong in. We going to continue to push diversity and inclusion in the profession — all different areas. We going to continue to work on our health and wellness initiative; we know how important those are. And we going to work with the legislator, with the governor’s office, with the court on getting a fully funded judiciary.
Waves of Change
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy
On June 7, 1949, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion that created The Florida Bar. The court stated in part, “Growing populations and changing conditions necessarily give rise to social and economic complexes that require wisdom and discretion to cope with. The [B]ar should be the first sector of the population to comprehend this and order its house to meet such emergencies.” Since then, The Florida Bar has grown from 3,758 members to more than 106,000, and Florida’s population has grown from almost 2.7 million to nearly 21.7 million. With that growth in population and the legal profession has come the social and economic complexities that the Florida Supreme Court predicted. In that time, The Florida Bar has established itself as a national leader. Now, 70 years later, we are called upon again to be a leader in shaping the profession and the practice of law for the benefit of both the public and our members. The leadership and members of The Florida Bar must be the architects of this rapidly changing legal landscape.
As a third-generation Florida lawyer, following my grandfather’s start in 1925 and my father’s start in 1970, time hasn’t changed our roles much. We are still counselors at law — always pursuing justice yet guiding our clients on the individual path that is right for them and their businesses. But time has brought with it many changes that have impacted our profession and the ways in which we conduct our business, particularly in terms of technology.
For the past 20 years, I’ve been involved in Bar service. It wasn’t until 2013 that I gained the opportunity to learn the challenges involved with technology — from simple email communication to alternative (often online) legal service providers. Although the advantages of technology are clear, there are many questions that should be asked: How do we maintain past traditions as lawyers with the current trends facing us in terms of technological advances? How do we introduce potential new rules, or change existing ones, that allow for more ethical opportunities for Florida lawyers in this new digital age? How will those changes benefit members and the public? How do we as leaders guide the Bar as change happens at a pace never before experienced?
The Bar has traditionally been in a strong position. It’s a bulwark against the powerful waves of change, standing firm in the protection of the public and ensuring the highest standards of legal professionalism are preserved. But water is forceful. Water finds its way into crevices and can carve a path of its own. We cannot stand idly by and allow the seas of change to erode the Bar’s responsibilities or the profession’s traditional core values. Change happens. Evolution happens. The questions as to how to navigate those changes and how to evolve are at the forefront of my mind.
For years, we have been internally focused. It is time to look outward, to break down our silos and make sure our ship catches this rising tide. The Bar must engage in its social and economic responsibilities to focus the energy carried by these waves of change for the benefit of our members and the protection of the public. This year, I look forward to opening the conversation about closing the access to justice gap by reviewing some of our rules that may impede lawyers from obtaining more business. We must ensure that we do not create a remote island of talented lawyers who are being hindered from efficiently and ethically providing legal services to Florida residents who need them. We have to talk through the value proposition of collaborating both with other industry professionals as well as technology service providers to enhance the practice of law and the provision of legal services without sacrificing the profession’s traditional core values.
It is my honor to serve as Florida Bar president, and I look forward to discussing ways in which all 106,000 Bar members can do their jobs effectively, while also protecting the public for future generations. My goal is to help the Board of Governors and our members make difficult decisions because we’re ready, because we’re leaders.
John M. Stewart, President
The Florida Bar
2018-2019 President Michelle R. Suskauer
Videos are available on The Florida Bar’s YouTube channel.
I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar. I can’t believe a year has gone by.
We’ve worked very hard on behalf of Bar members, raising constructive conversations around some of the most pressing issues impacting the profession.
We focused on addressing the needs of solo and small firm lawyers who shoulder the responsibility of managing their clients, families, Bar service, and the business of law.
I know those challenges well. For 18 years, I worked with my husband at our mom-and-pop firm and I’m now with a small firm of 9 lawyers. The majority of Bar members are walking in these same shoes.
The Florida Bar stepped up efforts to help relieve this pressure — because running a solo or small firm not only has its challenges, but also great rewards. Some of the wonderful tools and resources now available include:
LegalFuel…Last summer, the Bar introduced this fantastic resource to connect you with strategic tools to fuel your law practice and increase efficiencies and profitability. At LegalFuel.com, you can access more than 70 hours of free CLE credits and over 100 forms for use in operating your firm.
I’m so proud of our new LegalFuel speaker series with free CLEs from renowned speakers covering a wide range of topics like cybersecurity and establishing a gold reputation. And here’s another: Christian Searcy, president and CEO of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, presents “How to Take Your Practice to the Next Level.” He shares the lessons he’s learned in his acclaimed 45-year legal career, from how to find quality mentors to practical tips on building your legal business.
Another great feature of LegalFuel is free law-office management and technology support.
Member benefits…More than ever, membership comes with benefits and savings on products and services with discounts on retail, banking, shipping, insurance, and legal research to name a few.
Plus, we just added Ross Intelligence’s cutting-edge document analyzer and natural language processing to provide answers to legal research questions in seconds.
In addition to giving our members the tools they need to prosper, The Florida Bar also launched an enhanced Lawyer Referral service using artificial intelligence to connect potential clients with participating Bar members who want to build their practices.
As The Florida Bar’s sixth woman President, I’ve also made it a priority to raise awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion in our profession. We also focused on ways to deal with gender bias and the increasing number of women leaving the practice.
Mental health and wellness issues were at the forefront of our agenda. I’m especially proud to support the important work of the Young Lawyers Division this year as they increased both awareness and resources for all of our members to live more healthy and happy lives.
Our Criminal Justice Summit brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to offer insights and identify potential improvements to our legal system. This effort provided an avenue for all three branches of government and our state’s criminal justice advocates to focus on meaningful reforms. And, we’ll continue our work through a special committee that will act as forum for discussion and provide subject-matter expertise on criminal justice reform. The Florida Bar has an important seat at the table for these discussions.
I’m thrilled to hand the torch to John Stewart, who will be sworn in as President this month at the Annual Convention in Boca Raton, June 26-28. The 2019 convention – themed “UNconventionAL” to celebrate the groundbreaking work of The Florida Bar this past year — offers so many opportunities for you to network, honor our judges, and be inspired by wonderful speakers and legal scholars. Don’t miss it!
It’s been an honor to serve on behalf of all attorneys of this great state, and to be able to connect with you in these first-ever monthly president’s video messages. I look forward to supporting The Florida Bar, its initiatives and members in the years to come.
Thank you for welcoming me into your communities across the state, for emailing, calling, asking questions, and getting engaged in your Bar. Thank you for all that you do for your clients and our profession. I am so grateful for the opportunity to lead the best Bar in the country.”
May is Health and Wellness Month for all of the members of The Florida Bar. Something we don’t often prioritize.
Together with our Young Lawyers Division, we ask you to join colleagues around the state in taking steps to improve your wellbeing and your work-life balance. Check out some of the activities the YLD has planned for Health & Wellness Month in May. They are listed on the Bar’s online health and wellness center and on the YLD site at flayld.org/health-wellness.
- Local health and wellness challenges hosted by young lawyers’ groups throughout the state with fitness challenges, classes, and other wellness-related activities. Check with your local bar for more details.
- Free wellness CLE webinars each Wednesday in May, between 12-1 p.m.
- Profiles of law firms highlighting what some are doing to promote attorney well-being.
- Increased information on resources and programs by Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., and
- A continued spotlight on the #StigmaFreeYLD program with additional videos featuring lawyers who have overcome mental health and wellness challenges.
If you haven’t seen the four #StigmaFreeYLD videos already available, you should. Our colleagues who have suffered and sought help give touching and powerful personal perspectives. Please follow The Florida Bar and the YLD on social media so you don’t miss any of the ways you can join in the celebration of the health and wellness of all Florida lawyers over the next month.
May is also the time to start planning to attend the Bar’s Annual Convention, June 26-29, at the beautiful Boca Raton Resort & Club. The theme of this year’s convention is unCONVENTIONal, one word that describes the groundbreaking work of The Florida Bar in so many areas this year. All convention events will have a fresh focus on every member’s convention experience, from committee meetings to receptions, to keynote luncheon speakers, to networking one-on-one. We’ll also have outstanding CLE seminars with many excellent speakers and legal scholars.
Thursday’s Judicial Luncheon features Governor Ron DeSantis giving greetings and the State of the Judiciary address by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady. We’ll also share in a formally welcome to our three new Supreme Court Justices: Justice Barbara Lagoa, Justice Robert J. Luck, and Justice Carlos G. Muniz.
The convention also includes many opportunities to relax and have fun with family and friends. All of the activities and events have been planned to make your convention experience both worthwhile and enjoyable. Make your reservations early, and plan to enjoy all that this year’s program has to offer. This will truly be a convention to remember and I look forward to seeing you in Boca Raton!
And once again, with this message I am pleased to offer you the latest in our LegalFuel Speakers Series, a free CLE providing you with sage advice from some of Florida’s best-known experts. In this video, Past President Eugene Pettis speaks about “Building a Gold Reputation” and how that is important in developing a successful career. I hope it will stimulate some thoughts that will lead you to both self-reflection and to develop your own plan to strengthen your reputation.
Thank you for all that you do for your clients and our profession. I am so grateful for the opportunity to lead the best Bar in the country.
I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar. As we all transition from winter to spring, The Florida Bar continues our focus on improving the mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers, expanding our Bar’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and introducing ways to help you, with the business of practicing law.
I’m happy to share with you the recent launch of the Young Lawyers Division’s “StigmaFreeYLD” initiative, designed to help our Bar members overcome the prejudices that discourage them from admitting problems and seeking help. This message is being spread through videos of Florida lawyers sharing deeply personal experiences. I want to thank the first two participants, Hillary Cassel and Ron Ponzoli, for their amazing stories and emphasizing that seeking help doesn’t make you less of a lawyer — rather, seeking help makes you a better, stronger lawyer. More Bar members will tell their stories in videos to be released in April, May and June. Please watch these videos, share your own stories on social media using the hashtag #StigmaFreeYLD, and check out the many programs and resources listed on the Bar’s online health and wellness center.
Read the latest Florida Bar Journal’s feature articles on our continued efforts to tackle bias challenges and strive for diversity and inclusion. This year, I’ve made it one of my missions to raise awareness about these issues and to lift and encourage others to pursue leadership positions within their law firms and in the Bar. We can be proud of how far we’ve come, but there is much more work to be done. Thank you to the members of the Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, who are focused on closing gaps of all kinds and at all levels.
Spring is also the time when we focus on legislative advocacy. We must ensure that our justice system continues to be a co-equal branch of government and our courts remain fair, impartial, accessible and adequately funded. This protects Floridian’s rights and provide for the peaceful resolution of disputes. For updates on all legislation of interest to the legal profession, watch for coverage of the legislative session in The Florida Bar News and visit floridabar.org/legislative activity for weekly updates.
Finally, please join the thousands of Florida Bar members taking advantage of the free CLE LegalFuel Speaker Series videos. The newest is titled “Making the Jump: A Step-by-Step How to Launch Your Own Law Firm” presented by Valerie Barnhart, co-founder of Perera Barnhart in Davie, FL, acclaimed lawyer, author and speaker on cybersecurity and business law. In this video, Valerie provides a practical and detailed guide to starting a firm and advice on how to overcome common obstacles. Plus, she covers choosing a location, hiring great staff, making sure your technology is secure and more.
Thank you, our members, for the work you do every day in service to your clients, our bar and our state.
I am Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar. As 2019 begins, The Florida Bar continues to work hard to recognize the good work of Florida lawyers and to better serve our members and the public.
Connecting our lawyers to the public is the goal of The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service which has made millions of referrals, either directly or by connecting them through local bars. Starting this month, our Lawyer Referral Service will be available 24/7 through our new enhanced website focused on making these connections more easily and efficiently for both attorneys and the public. The site uses the latest in marketplace technology, with hundreds of data points to provide a quicker, more intuitive referral process. This helps LRS panel lawyers to grow their practices by continually improving the accuracy of matches of clients to attorneys. Through an easy-to-use online dashboard, participating lawyers can access their entire referral history, update their profile, complete case status reporting, and remit referral fees. Visit lrs.floridabar.org today to take a look!
As attorneys, we know how critical it is to connect to our communities and provide access to justice. I am so thrilled to report that last year, Florida lawyers provided more than 1.5 million hours of pro bono services to those in need, and more than $5.8 million to legal aid organizations. We celebrate some of these lawyers during the 2019 Pro Bono Awards Award ceremony on February 7th at the Florida Supreme Court. I will be recognizing 22 lawyers for their work on behalf of low-income, disadvantaged and other clients. Also, Chief Justice Canady will present the Tobias Simon, Distinguished Judicial Service awards, a Law Firm Commendation, and a Voluntary Bar Association award. A Young Lawyers Division award will be given as well. This event is always inspiring and is truly one of the highlights of the Bar year – and you can watch it live. [Watch live on the Florida Channel or on the Florida Supreme Court’s Facebook page.]
I am also pleased to present our latest LegalFuel Speaker Series CLE Video “Enhanced Results through Effective Communication” from acclaimed speaker Debbie Lundberg. During this video, Debbie focuses on four discussion points: defining communication and what is effective, sharing reasons for things happening and not happening along with how to overcome them, exploring drivers and motivation and how to talk to people’s interest, and communicating professionally in difficult situations and with difficult people. Tune in to make a difference, make an impact, and make your communication both timely and lasting.
Thank you for all that you do and have a wonderful 2019.
Hello, I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar.
Since my installation, I have been proud of the Bar’s ongoing efforts to support our members in the day-to-day business of law, to improve our justice system and to help Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael.
This storm impacted thousands of families dealing with legal issues with property damage assistance and insurance claims.
Our members quickly stepped up to the challenge and volunteered to help with the FEMA Legal Disaster Hotline from the ABA and our Young Lawyers Division. Calls are still coming in for help, and I urge you to visit floridabar.org/hurricaneinfo to sign up.
In October, The Florida Bar convened the first ever Criminal Justice Summit. We brought together stakeholders across the legal system to collaborate and discuss how to improve the criminal justice system in Florida.
We addressed important topics such as pretrial release, sentencing reform, juvenile direct file and specialty courts.
Coverage of the summit is in the latest Bar News, online and in the January Bar Journal. Videos of all of the sessions will soon be available for CLE credit with additional information posted at floridabar.org/cjsummit.
Looking ahead, Florida’s 2019 Legislative Session, which begins on Tuesday, March 5th, will involve new elected and appointed officials across all three branches of Florida government.
We look forward to continuing our work with legislative and executive leaders on issues involving the legal profession and in support of improvements to the administration of justice.
Recently, The Bar launched LegalFuel: The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar offering the latest technology and firm management tools for Florida lawyers, especially small and solo firm practitioners.
The challenging business of practicing law is the focus of LegalFuel which also offers live chat, discussion boards and timely articles to get the information you need quickly and efficiently.
This month, we are releasing the newest LegalFuel Speaker Series CLE Video “Five Simple Lessons to Help You Earn More, Stress Less and Be Awesome” featuring Nora Bergman.
In this free one-hour program, Nora, a lawyer and nationally-known law firm coach, shares easy ways to improve your law practice and increase productivity while guarding your mental health and wellness.
For this and many other practice management resources, please visit LegalFuel.com.
With the holiday season upon us, The Florida Bar remains focused on helping lawyers to improve mental health and wellness and reduce stress. This time of year can be hectic and overwhelming, and we can all benefit from taking a moment to acknowledge this reality.
Please take care of yourself! The Florida Bar has several member benefits that can be particularly helpful:
Wellbeing Coaches – they can help you take small steps that lead to improved health and happiness;
and EVideo Counselor – which provides online face-to-face video counseling with licensed mental health therapists.
Visit floridabar.org/memberbenefits for more information.
Thank you for all that you do and have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year.
I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar.
In October, our state braced for Hurricane Michael which impacted many Floridians in the Panhandle including lawyers who lost homes and offices.
If you were impacted by Hurricane Michael, The Florida Bar is here for you. The Florida Bar is organizing volunteers to provide legal assistance to anyone affected by the hurricane who cannot afford a lawyer. We are also working with our member benefit providers for extended free trials and other discounts for Bar members to help restore their practices. Visit www.floridabar.org/hurricaneinfo to learn more or to volunteer to help.
The Florida Bar’s Criminal Justice Summit was held on October 16 and 17 in Tampa. This was the first time the Florida Bar led an initiative to discuss the future of criminal justice in Florida. The summit yielded many productive discussions among high-level leaders including judges, elected state attorneys and public defenders, legislators, advocates and other stakeholders.
Participants are now being asked to provide feedback on all of the issues and discussions on topics including offender reentry, sentencing reform, juvenile direct file and specialty courts. Coverage of the summit will appear in The Florida Bar News and in a future Bar Journal focused on criminal justice reform. Videos of all of the sessions will soon be available to all members for CLE and additional information is posted at floridabar.org/cjsummit.
As we recently observed National Cyber Security Awareness month in October, cyber security remains a critical concern for Florida lawyers and law firms because our profession and our clients are increasingly targeted for cyberattacks. LegalFuel.com provides practice management resources including a dedicated section on cybersecurity with practical and timely information for Florida lawyers.
The newest LegalFuel Speaker Series free one-hour CLE is on “Cybersecurity for the Everyday Lawyer,” an especially helpful topic for solo and small firm practitioners without IT staff.
In this video, Al Saikali, who is Chair of the Privacy and Data Security Practice of Shook, Hardy and Bacon in Miami, shares his extensive knowledge on data breaches and technology and gives detailed guidance on how to make your practice and your data more secure.
I encourage all Bar members to take advantage of this free practice management CLE and the others in the LegalFuel Speaker Series posted at legalfuel.com.
We are a strong community, but we have more challenges ahead and a lot of work to be done. Together, I know we will achieve great things.
Dear Florida Bar Member:
Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. We have endured them before, and we’ll do so again with Hurricane Michael, working together for our respective communities and members through available resources created by The Florida Bar. Keep in mind that Tallahassee is in the direct path of Hurricane Michael, and The Florida Bar headquarters will be closed through Thursday, October 11, unless circumstances change.
All court closure notices and tolling orders will be posted on the Florida Supreme Court’s website. The Florida Bar has a link on its homepage to the Supreme Court site. The Florida Bar homepage will continue to share updates and provide additional resources as they become available.
As lawyers, we have a strong sense of duty to help, and can be an incredibly valuable resource to those in need. Although attorneys are strongly cautioned against engaging in the solicitation of hurricane victims (which is prohibited by Rule 4-7.18), the Florida Free Legal Answers program offers a relatively easy way to lend your expertise. It is easy to do, takes only a couple of minutes and can mean so much to those in need.
In addition, you can also sign up here to volunteer to answer the questions of disaster survivors on a pro bono basis through the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Disaster Relief Hotline 1-866-550-2929. This hotline will be activated after the storm for low-income citizens in need of storm-related legal aid, such as landlord/tenant disputes, housing problems, consumer protection matters and home repair contracts.
To be a volunteer, you simply have to complete the form and have a basic understanding of common problems experienced by disaster victims. Visit the YLD’s FEMA page for more information.
Go to LegalFuel.com for information and resources on disaster planning and business continuity, including how to create effective plans and even a checklist for next steps after a disaster, such as the assessment process, communication protocol and more. You will also find links to FEMA and other disaster recovery services.
For a full list of member benefits and other important information as Hurricane Michael approaches, go to The Florida Bar’s Hurricane Information page or the FloridaBar.org homepage for the latest updates.
For those of our members in the path of the storm, we urge you to continue to monitor its approach and take all necessary safety precautions. The Florida Bar will continue to stay in touch and share information with you as we learn it, including from the Florida Supreme Court and the Governor’s office.
Michelle R. Suskauer, President
The Florida Bar
I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar. I’m excited about the many things we’re working on.
As a criminal defense attorney and the first former public defender to lead the Bar, I have worked within the criminal justice system my entire career.
As I traveled the state, I had the honor of meeting with many stakeholders involved in the criminal justice system, including elected state attorneys, public defenders, sheriffs, judges, and legislators.
I learned that there is common ground when it comes to meaningful criminal justice reform.
To that end, the Bar will hold its first ever Criminal Justice Summit next month which will consist of in-depth discussion and most importantly – collaboration – on important issues facing Florida’s criminal justice system. Watch for coverage of the summit in The Florida Bar News and Journal, and for the release of a video of the summit which will provide free CLE credit.
Also coming up are the annual pro bono service awards! This great event celebrates all lawyers who do so much to help Florida families and communities through their pro bono service.
The Florida Bar is proud of the thousands of members who do pro bono and I am excited to report that they have collectively donated over 5.6 million dollars to legal aid organizations and about 1.5 million hours of free legal services last year.
Please nominate lawyers, judges, law firms and voluntary bars for this important recognition. The submissions are due November 1. Visit www.floridabar.org/probonoawards today to get more information!
With this video message, we are releasing our next installment of the LegalFuel: Speaker Series, featuring Florida lawyer Brian Tannebaum sharing ways to better communicate with clients to avoid rules violations and discipline. Brian is well-known for representing clients in Florida Bar cases and before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, as well as in civil and criminal courts.
The Florida Bar is focused on protecting and supporting both the public and lawyers, and I hope that this month’s free half-hour of CLE will provide you with helpful tips to improve your practice.
Please continue to watch for monthly video updates from me to be delivered to your inbox and on FloridaBar.org and I hope to hear from you by email or through social media.
Your Florida Bar, is there for you.
I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar. The Florida Bar Board of Governors — my other family, had a joint meeting with the Young Lawyers Division Board to discuss important issues affecting all Florida lawyers.
In response to a request for input from the Florida Supreme Court, we continued our discussion of a proposed parental leave continuance rule, which, if adopted, would provide guidance to judges considering requests from lead counsel.
Our board again expressed its support for a rule which requires that a continuance be granted unless it would cause substantial prejudice to the other side.
Many of us are parents or planning to start families in the future, so this issue is very important to Bar members.
The Bar’s input, along with the majority and minority reports of the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee, is being submitted to the Florida Supreme Court this month. Read more about this and possible next steps in The Florida Bar News.
It is important to have a close partnership between the bench and the bar. For the first time, we now have representatives from the county and circuit judges conference participating in all of our board meetings as liaisons, their valuable voices will give us tremendous insight.
The Florida Bar supports our judiciary, and a fair, independent, impartial, accessible and fully funded judicial system is a top priority. Any attacks on our courts endanger the independence of our judiciary. As lawyers, we must all strive to preserve the rule of law.
I am proud to report that Bar members are enthusiastically using the resources of LegalFuel – the Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar – to assist with the business of law and growing their practices.
As promised, the first of many videos in the LegalFuel Speakers Series is now live and you can find a link to it in this email and at LegalFuel.com.
Ethan Wall, a nationally-known author, speaker, law professor, and marketing and litigation consultant, kicks off this free CLE series with “How to Grow Your Practice and Career with Social Media.”
There’s no question that social media has played a big role in my life and practice.
It’s a great tool to expand your network and build awareness of legal rights and issues – Whether you’re a first-year associate or senior partner.
LegalFuel and the LegalFuel Speaker Series are our playbooks for profitability as practicing attorneys. Watch for new videos each month at LegalFuel.com.
You’re probably using social media right now, and I hope you’re also following The Florida Bar’s social media and have liked our YouTube channel, twitter feed and Facebook page where we focus every day on sharing legal news and information on topics from work-life balance to tech tips. We also have events that are on Facebook live.
Please watch for monthly video updates from me to be delivered to your inbox and on FloridaBar.org.
The Florida Bar is working for you. As your President, I hope to see so many of you as I travel around the state.
I’m Michelle Suskauer, President of The Florida Bar.
Last month, I was sworn in as your new President, and it is an honor and privilege to lead our Bar.
I am excited about this upcoming year and finding ways to make the Bar be a vital resource to you, both as legal professionals and business owners.
I know that it is not easy practicing law. As a small-firm practitioner, I know the stress of managing a practice, of keeping the lights on.
I understand what it’s like to bring in business, deal with increased competition, make payroll and balance family life and bar service.
It’s a lot to handle and we want to alleviate some of the stresses and challenges that come with the job!
One way we are doing this is through LegalFuel – The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar. The website is now live, so check it out at legal-fuel-dot-com.
LegalFuel bridges the gap between practicing law and running a business.
It connects you with tools designed to help fuel your law practice. To make you more efficient. To make you more profitable. Covering topics such as finances, trust accounting, and technology, including cybersecurity.
LegalFuel also provides resources like marketing services, launching a new firm, or strengthening internal operations of your existing firm– and everything in between!
The website even offers FREE video CLEs.
A highlight is the LegalFuel Speaker Series…
You will hear from well-known and respected leaders from our legal community.
These videos cover a range of topics from technology to work-life balance and social media marketing.
New Speaker Series videos along with other great content will be added all the time–
And, if you have a specific question, you can always add it to the LegalFuel discussion board and connect directly with other attorneys throughout Florida.
So, keep checking back for more tips on how to fuel your business.
Looking ahead, each month, you can expect to see a video message from me as I share my vision for change, and how we are addressing other important issues such as gender equality, common sense criminal justice reform, and mental health and wellness.
We are a strong community, and we need each other. But, we have more work to be done, and, together, I know we will achieve great things.
Thank you for all that you do, and for joining me on this journey to make the changes we need.
As your Florida Bar president, I am excited to update you on what The Florida Bar will be working on this year. We will focus on helping solo or small firms become more productive and profitable. More than three-fourths of Bar members practicing in Florida are part of firms with 10 or fewer attorneys.
We will continue to advocate for the legal profession and the judicial system during the 2019 legislative session and lead the Bar in seeking common-sense criminal justice reform that focuses on rehabilitation, rather than punishment. The Bar will hold a Criminal Justice Summit in October.
Finally, we will continue to promote the improvement of lawyer mental health and wellness, while also destigmatizing seeking help when needed. The Bar will also implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Gender Bias/Diversity.
Thank you for your commitment and dedication to the legal profession and the people of Florida.
Michelle R. Suskauer, President
The Florida Bar