The Florida Bar

President’s Video Message Nov. 2017

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President’s Video Message

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