2018-19 President’s Message
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