The Florida Bar
  1. Home
  2. About The Bar
  3. President’s Welcome
  4. 2017-18 President’s Message Archive

2017-18 President’s Message Archive

November 2017


Mental health issues touch all of us in our legal community.

Hello, I am Michael Higer. As President of The Florida Bar, the health and wellness of our lawyers should be and is a top priority.

From solo and small firm practitioners who make up approximately 76% of the lawyers in Florida to lawyers who practice in the public sector to lawyers who practice with large law firms as well law students–all of us face daily pressures and stresses that compromise our overall mental and physical health.

We cannot solve or eliminate these stresses. But we can and we must make a positive difference in identifying specific tools and ways to help attorneys lead healthier lifestyles and to be able to seek and receive help without the stigma too often associated with mental illness.

I am so proud The Florida Bar Board of Governors created a Special Committee on Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers.

This five-member, multi-disciplinary committee is already working to identify ways the Bar can destigmatize mental illness within our legal community and to recommend the means and ways to better support our members statewide.

Ways to help may range from creating and enhancing peer counseling resources, adding member benefits that focus on physical exercise, personal health, diet and stress reduction.

The committee is also working on dedicated CLE courses; toolkits to help guide law firms and employers on best practices, and they are exploring an online support group or hotline. The Florida Bar will also be partnering with local bar associations to host town halls across the state and will hold a statewide town hall in January. As we strive to develop and implement a comprehensive health and wellness program, it is critical that we get input from all of you.

Additionally, the January issue of The Florida Bar Journal will focus on mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers. We are very excited that the theme for the 2018 Annual Convention will likewise be health and wellness.

There is a reason flight attendants always remind us to first put on our own oxygen mask before assisting anyone else. It is because before we can help others, we first must help ourselves. Similarly, the health and wellness of our members is paramount to The Florida Bar, because by creating healthier attorneys, we will all be better advocates for justice.

Another new program of The Florida Bar focuses on public education about the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

I encourage all Florida Bar members to join in this effort to educate everyone in our state about the CRC process before the amendments are finalized and placed on the 2018 general election ballot. Recently, The Bar launched an educational initiative we call “Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts,” which among other things provides a website with learning activities, a speakers bureau for community groups, social media, and a Floridian’s Guide to the CRC.

In closing, I want to remind you that the 2018 legislative session begins in January, two months earlier than usual, and I assure you The Florida Bar will be monitoring bills of interest to the legal profession and advocating to ensure that the judicial system is fair, impartial, adequately funded, and accessible to all.

My best wishes to all of you and your families as you celebrate the upcoming holidays. And as you do so, please consider helping someone in need by giving the gift of your time in any of the many ways available to each of us as lawyers.

Thank you.

Michael J. Higer, President
The Florida Bar

September 15, 2017

Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. We have endured them before and will do so again. There are significant challenges ahead as we rebuild and recover, but together we will meet these challenges. The Florida Bar is focused on assisting our members and Floridians in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation and gathered many helpful resources at We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available. Here are ways the Bar can assist you — our members — in recovery as well as ways you can volunteer to assist Floridians, and please check the Bar’s website frequently for updates. Help for Florida Lawyers

  • The Practice Resource Institute (PRI) provides a webpage with disaster planning and business continuity resources for Bar members and a FloridaBarNews.TV video also provides resource information. PRI advisors will assist members by phone during regular business hours by calling 1-866-730-2020 and the live chat feature at is active. In addition, members may email for assistance: [email protected].
  • The Florida Bar is setting up a system to connect Florida lawyers who have been adversely affected by the storm with other lawyers who are able to assist them with needs including temporary housing, office space, and cleanup services. Please watch for another email from me with a link to a form to request or provide assistance and check “Lawyer Resources” section for updates. If you have an urgent need, please email [email protected] and we will do anything we can to assist you until this system is operational.
  • Fastcase legal research is already available free of charge to Florida Bar members and for recovery relief assistance, Fastcase is making its full research service available through the end of Sept. 30, 2017. If you have any questions or need support, call Fastcase at 1-866-77-FASTCASE (1-866-773-2782) or email [email protected].
  • It may help you to take advantage of the more than a dozen Florida Bar Member Benefit providers that offer free trials, demos or initial services including practice resources, legal forms and legal research.
  • If you have been impacted by Hurricane Irma and have not yet paid 2017-2018 annual fees and late fees as a Florida Bar Member, Authorized House Counsel (AHC) or Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP), the deadline to pay has been extended from Sept. 30 to Oct. 30, 2017. If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please call the Membership Records Department at 1-800-342-8060.
  • If you have been impacted by Hurricane Irma, and your Florida Bar Member, AHC or FRP Continuing Legal Education Reporting Cycle ends on Sept. 30, an extension is being granted until Oct. 30, 2017. Questions about CLE reporting can be emailed to [email protected].
  • The Florida Supreme Court is posting announcements about state court closures, re-openings and tolling orders following Hurricane Irma on an emergency information webpage — please check this page if you have business pending in the state courts. The webpage also provides links to local courthouses to access the latest local information.

Assisting Floridians

  • The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division, working in conjunction with the ABA Young Lawyers Section and FEMA, set up a Disaster Relief Hotline 1-866-550-2929 and an online request for assistance form, and all Florida Bar members eligible to practice may volunteer to provide basic civil legal services for people who cannot otherwise afford legal representation in non-fee generating cases. Volunteers return calls placed to the YLD’s hotline or requests for assistance via the online form. To volunteer, complete this form and review the  FEMA Disaster Assistance Manual for Legal Services Advocates posted here. The types of legal questions most frequently asked will involve landlord/tenant and other housing problems, consumer protection matters, and home repair contracts.
  • Florida Free Legal Answers now has a Hurricane Irma category and a temporary increase of the qualifying cap is in effect so all Floridians can pose questions relating to Hurricane Irma. To volunteer for Florida Free Legal Answers, a virtual civil legal advice clinic, please register here. If you are already a volunteer, please subscribe to the Hurricane Irma category to receive email alerts when questions are posted.
  • The Florida Bar Foundation created a webpage with resources and volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys, as well as information to help Floridians seeking civil legal aid. The Foundation has also created the Florida Hurricane Legal Aid Fund for donations to go directly to civil legal assistance for Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma and any subsequent hurricanes making landfall in Florida.
  • Florida Pro Bono Matters is another way to assist Floridians via an interactive website funded by The Florida Bar Foundation — both in hurricane recovery and year-round. Lawyers can view descriptions of available pro bono opportunities and indicate an interest in any of them, and then will be contacted by the posting organization with more information.

Now is the time for each of us to help each other, help our colleagues, help our neighbors, and help our communities. Together, we will make a difference and we will recover stronger than ever. Michael J. Higer, President The Florida Bar

September 6, 2017

As our state prepares for Hurricane Irma, your safety, security and well-being are The Florida Bar’s foremost concerns. To assist you and the citizens of our State, I write to make you aware of resources provided by The Florida Bar and to advise as to other information and assistance we are offering for all those affected by the storm.

All court closure notices and tolling orders will be posted on theFlorida Supreme Court’s website. The Florida Bar has a link on its homepage to the Supreme Court site. The Florida Bar homepagewill continue to share updates and provide additional resourcesas they become available.

The Practice Resource Institute (PRI) has posted disaster planning information and resources for Florida Bar members, including links to American Bar Association disaster response, preparedness and recovery advice, a LexisNexis publication “Surviving Disasters: Questions and Considerations for Law Firms Preparing Business Continuity Plans,” an after disaster strikes checklist and links to FEMA, and to disaster recovery services provided by the Florida Small Business Development Council.

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. Not only can you help answer questions from those bracing for Hurricane Irma’s impact, but as a result of a recent Texas Supreme Court order, you can also help those still recovering in Texas from Hurricane Harvey beginning now through February 2018 when the order is set to expire.

If the past couple of weeks have shown us anything, it is that there is no such thing as too much preparation. 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 to ensure your well-being and the well-being of your families. The Florida Bar will continue to stay in touch and share information with each of you as we learn it, including from the Florida Supreme Court and the Governor’s office.

Michael J. Higer, President
The Florida Bar

August 31, 2017

Like you, we are very concerned about everyone recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and now in Louisiana. And, like you, we want to help those most in need of our help. The Florida Bar has been in touch with our counterparts in Texas, Louisiana, and other states, and with the ABA, who have shared with us specific ways we can help:

  • If you are admitted to practice in Texas and/or Louisiana you can volunteer to answer legal questions on the Disaster Legal Services Hotlines in those states. More information on legal services for those affected by disasters is available from the National Disaster Legal Resource Center.
  • As we have seen many times in Florida, legal aid is critical to those recovering from natural disasters. In addition to supporting organizations like the Salvation Army and American Red Cross, contributions may be made to the Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund set up by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and the Louisiana Hurricane Harvey Disaster Fund administered by the Louisiana Bar Foundation.
  • Update:The Texas Supreme Court  has amended orders relating to problems created by Hurricane Harvey; the orders have been issued and posted to the court’s web page including an amended Order Admitting Out-of-State Lawyers Temporarily Practicing Law in Texas. Additional information for Texans and State Bar of Texas members is posted at Please note that a similar order has not been issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
  • The Louisiana State Bar Association has activated a Disaster Response webpage to provide information on displacement resources, court closures, emergency declarations and assistance for flood victims. The website’s Disaster Response Message Board is helping to facilitate the giving and receiving of non-monetary donations like housing help, office equipment, commuting assistance and employment opportunities. Please visit the message board if you are willing to donate, or are in need of donations.
  • To learn what other bars in the affected communities are doing, please use the links below. Information from bar associations in affected areas is being updated on an ongoing basis; the list below is based on information available to date and is not meant to be exhaustive: Austin Bar Association; Dallas Bar Association; Houston Bar Association;  San Antonio Bar Association.
  • The American Bar Association established this webpage: to provide members with information to provide assistance to the victims of this disaster. Please check the page regularly as the ABA will continue to update it with important information about ways to support those in need.

The Florida Bar is posting updated information to the Bar Blog on the homepage at, and we encourage you to follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates as well.

Thank you in advance to all of you who I know like me want to do everything you can to help. Together, I am confident that we can and we will make a positive difference.

Michael J. Higer, President
The Florida Bar

August 30, 2017

The Texas Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday allowing out-of-state lawyers to practice in Texas temporarily if they are displaced by Hurricane Harvey or volunteering to serve hurricane victims.

The order allows an attorney licensed and in good standing in another U.S. jurisdiction to practice in Texas for six months from the date of the order under certain conditions. Attorney must register for temporary practice in Texas as soon as possible after arriving and agree to abide by Texas disciplinary rules. Read the full order here.

Michael J. Higer, President
The Florida Bar

August 29, 2017

The Florida Bar’s thoughts and prayers are with our friends in Texas as they recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Our state unfortunately knows all too well the long and difficult road to recovery. We have been in touch and will continue to work with our colleagues at the State Bar of Texas. Our Florida attorneys stand ready and willing to help. 

Michael J. Higer, President
The Florida Bar

July 2017

Dear Florida Bar Member:

During this year as President of The Florida Bar, I am aligned with the Bar’s strategic plan, focusing on five key goals:

  • Using technology to better connect the Bar’s resources with the public and members who need it.
  • Encouraging a more inclusive profession and justice system.
  • Educating members and the public on the work of the Constitution Revision Commission.
  • Delivering the benefits and services that help the Bar’s members grow.
  • Prioritizing health and wellness.

As president, I will continue to encourage diversity on the bench and in the Bar as I did serving as chair of the  Bar’s Special Committee on Gender Bias, which recently issued a 12-point plan to address bias and promote inclusion.  More than half of the committee chairs and vice chairs I  appointed for 2017-18 are women, part of an effort to increase diversity for Bar leadership.

The Constitution Revision Commission, which proposes changes for voter consideration once every 20 years, began its most recent review this year, and the Bar will advise the CRC on issues relevant to preserving an independent, well-funded judiciary. Resisting any efforts that are made to impinge upon our branch, whether it’s through term limits, reduction of funding, splitting the court, or anything of the sort, which would impair an impartial and an independent judiciary, is first and foremost in terms of our mission.

Michael J. Higer, President
The Florida Bar