ZACK ZUROWESTE accepts the gavel from past YLD presidents. From the left are Renee Thompson, Frank Bedell, Sean Desmond, Wayne Helsby, Zuroweste, Jewel White, Katherine Hurst Miller, R.J. Haughey, Jamie Billotte Moses, Michael Fox Orr, and Paige Greenlee.
YLD looks to Zuroweste
The young lawyers will work to promote fellowship, education, and mentorship
By Rawan Bitar
Zack Zuroweste of Clearwater was sworn in as president of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division at the 2017 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton.
The trial lawyer is a shareholder at PersanteZuroweste, and has served eight years on the YLD Board of Governors. In his practice, he focuses on probate litigation, the contests of wills and trusts, and general business litigation.
Goals as president include pushing mentorship efforts for young lawyers, and supporting inclusion and diversity in the legal profession. (Watch Zuroweste's General Assembly Speech)
“I am both humbled and moved by this opportunity,” Zuroweste said in his installation speech. “I, along with my YLD governors, have pledged to support Florida young lawyers every way we can, including fellowship, education, and mentorship.”
Zuroweste said this year, under the leadership of YLD board members Santo DiGangi and Andrew Picket, the division will create a Legal Accelerator website designed to reach and mentor Florida young lawyers. The website will feature short mentoring videos, creating “a virtual hallway of mentoring advice.”
“I know first-hand how support from a mentor can shape your career,” Zuroweste said. “Every chance we have, every success we achieve, is possible because someone in our lives supported us.”
Zuroweste said when he graduated in 2006 with a J.D. from Stetson University, the best advice he received was “to find a mentor, not just a job,” and then met Bob Persante, who welcomed Zuroweste into his law firm and family. The YLD president said his law partner and mentor, Persante, made him “a better lawyer” and “a better person.”
Zuroweste was born in Albany, Georgia, but calls Franklin, Tennessee, his home town. As an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee, he was a fraternity president and got involved in campus politics. Zuroweste’s parents worked full-time during his upbringing, and his mother was the first female executive in her company. Zuroweste’s wife, Elizabeth, is a Sixth Circuit assistant state attorney, and they have two young sons.
The new YLD leader said the division advocates for inclusion and equality. He announced YLD board members Rob Batsel and Chrystal Thorton will lead the division’s Inclusion and Equality Committee.
“We believe that our profession is stronger when we remove implicit barriers, and give everyone an equal shot to prove themselves,” he said.
“We know progress must be made, and we’re ready to push for it by educating our colleagues on the tangible and intangible benefits of inclusion. We embrace change, and we celebrate both the successes of our diverse colleagues and judges around our state.”
Looking ahead, Zuroweste said exciting initiatives are underway: YLD board members Margaret Good and Travis Santos will expand the YLD’s Basic Skills Courses; Ben Gibson and Natasha Dorsey will promote quality of life, including mental health, initiatives; Cherine Valbrun and Jen Thomas will expand the Practicing with Professionalism program; and Paige Gillman and Iris Elijah will refine the YLD’s Law Student Division.
Zuroweste said there are several issues that young lawyers face in current times, including high cost of living, competition for jobs, and family time is “pitted against the billable hour.” He said young lawyers often feel forced to choose career over starting a family, and when they do start having children, many women lose advancement opportunities. Meanwhile, he noted, the ever-growing diverse legal profession has outgrown the rigid norms of decades past.
“Progress isn’t made overnight. It’s built over time, and is the result of the work of those who walked before us,” Zuroweste said. “It is an exciting time to be a Florida lawyer.”