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The Florida Bar Journal
December, 2017 Volume 91, No. 10
Have a Heart

by Michael J. Higer

Page 4



By the time you read this, my year as Bar president will be nearly half over. In my travels, I have met with a great many lawyers, judges, and law students across our state. My travels have confirmed what I already knew, which is the difficulty that comes with being a lawyer today. To quote one of my favorites, former Dodger great, Roy Campanella: “You have to have a lot of the little boy in you to play baseball for a living.” And you have to have a lot of heart to be a lawyer for a living.

There are countless pressures on us every day: billable hours, 24/7 client demands, a must-win mentality, and threats from commoditization, online providers, and artificial intelligence. Technology is an accelerant for all of these pressures. Work-life balance can be an elusive illusion.

Have a heart. Have a purpose. Practice with commitment. Practice with passion. Practice with compassion. Doing so will not alleviate all of the pressures that surround us each day, but reconnecting with your higher purpose of service as a trusted counselor and as a zealous advocate for justice will enhance the meaning of everything you do, including the tasks often seen as ordinary and rote. What will ultimately distinguish you, and all of us as lawyers, is the care and compassion we provide clients, the sanctity of the confidences our clients share with us, and the professionalism that characterizes our conduct and communication in and out of the courtroom. Distinguishing ourselves in this manner will give us a renewed sense of value — that we really do make a difference in what we do each day. Finding and connecting with that spark within you will kindle your spirit in how you go about everything you do. It matters to your clients. It matters to our justice system.

Recently, I attended a memorial service for my good friend and former Board of Governors member, Ervin Gonzalez, of blessed memory. At the service, they played a video of Erv talking about the secret of his success. Erv said he approached everything he did with the passion, commitment, and thought, as if he were in the client’s shoes. He tried to be the lawyer he would want and need if he was the client in the same circumstance. Erv understood that what he did mattered, but more importantly, he recognized understanding why he was serving that client shapes how he did so and whether he would be successful. The same is true for all of us. If your passion for your client and for justice burns deep inside of you, then you will be a better advocate for your client.

If you care, if you have a heart, then you will wake up each day eager to get out of bed and fight for what really matters. That passion will carry you through the day. Approach each moment and everyone with heart. Doing so will exponentially increase the meaning of your day and your ability to face all the pressures of each day

Let me end the way I started, which is to, again, quote Campanella: “I never want to quit playing ball. They’ll have to cut this uniform off of me to get me out of it.” That’s how I feel, and I hope you feel, about being a lawyer.

I wish you all a happy holiday season, and hope this coming year brings all of us a renewed commitment to and passion for justice, not justice for some, but everyone who touches our legal system.

This column is dedicated to my good friend, great lawyer, and servant leader, Carl Schwait, who does everything with heart.


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[Revised: 11-29-2017]