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The Florida Bar Journal
September/October, 2017 Volume 91, No. 8
Farewell, Jack Harkness, and Thank You

by Michael J. Higer

Page 4

Just two months in and I still can’t wait to get up in the morning and don’t want to go to sleep at night — so excited and honored to be the president of a Bar that is made up of so many people who are so committed and dedicated to serving the interests of justice for everyone who touches our legal system. No one more represents this guiding principle than our longtime Executive Director Jack Harkness who will retire from The Florida Bar after 37 years at the helm.

At the ripe age of 35, Jack took the reins of The Florida Bar in 1980, when Leonard Gilbert was Bar president. Just like Leonard, I will soon be the first president to serve under a new executive director — Joshua Doyle — who will become our new executive director in January. Josh cannot replace Jack but he has the right credentials and background to take our Bar into the future and to meet the great challenges that we will face. I look forward to working with him.

A lot has changed since Jack became executive director 37 years ago. Bar staff size more than doubled, thousands more lawyers have joined as members, and the budget has increased by millions of dollars.

Because of Jack’s excellent leadership, the Bar has not only maintained a stable and effective staff, but flourished by implementing new programs for its members and the public, which have made the Bar a more effective leader. Behind the scenes, he offered his wisdom to 37 different Bar presidents, all of whom — regardless of the variety of issues they faced over the years — turned to him for guidance. For all these years, the one constant was that Jack gave good counsel and served as a trusted advisor. We will all greatly miss his guidance.

On a national level, Jack is revered as the country’s longest serving executive director of a state bar and valued for his advice to other state bars, which has been important to the legal profession’s success. All of the programs he had a hand in establishing have been critical to Florida lawyers, our courts, and the public. Among the innovations he introduced are the Ethics Hotline, Attorney Consumer Assistance Program, Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., the Practice Resource Institute, the Center for Professionalism, an online Lawyer Referral Service, the Program Evaluation Committee, and many other professionalism efforts.

For the first six months of my term as president, I am fortunate to have the benefit of Jack’s continued steady hand. And it is comforting to know he will not be far away. In Tallahassee, when he retires, Jack plans to volunteer with The Florida Bar Foundation and FLA, Inc., a nonprofit program established in 1986 to help Bar members struggling with substance abuse, mental health, or other disorders. He plans to consult with the Bar during the Constitution Revision Commission process, and volunteer with other organizations within the Tallahassee community.

We are lucky to have Jack at the helm, if only for a few more months, continuing to guide us all into the future. As Albert Einstein said, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.” Jack is both successful and valuable.

On behalf of all lawyers in the state of Florida, I extend to Jack a hearty congratulations on his retirement. We are enormously grateful for all he has accomplished during his many years of service. The Bar Board of Governors is especially grateful for his friendship, his leadership, and service to our profession, to our courts, and to the public.

Now, we welcome Josh as he transitions into this major role within the first six months of my term. I have confidence in his abilities, and wish him all the best as he enters the on-deck circle, picks up a bat, and approaches home plate.

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[Revised: 10-26-2017]