By Mark D. Killian
The Florida Bar will train 52 “fellows” for future leadership roles within the legal profession as part of the third class of the Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy.
Reporting to the Board of Governors at its Key West meeting, Leadership Academy Chair Renée Thompson of Ocala said the academy is an invaluable opportunity for any leader looking to take their leadership skills to the next level.
Thompson said the second leadership academy class is slated to graduate at the Bar’s June convention in Boca Raton.
While the inaugural leadership academy class raised $3,000 to fund a scholarship for a future academy fellow, she said, the second class has pledged a $3,000 gift to The Florida Bar Foundation.
Thompson said the second class was also so moved by the work of the Florida Access to Civil Justice Commission that they individually pledged to become Florida Bar Foundation fellows, raising another $30,000 for the Foundation.
“I am so proud and amazed at their level of commitment,” Thompson said. “They are showing the rest of the leaders of the Bar what it takes to be an ambassador of the Bar.”
Approved by The Florida Bar Board of Governors in January 2013, the program’s goal is to reach out to lawyers from across the diverse state of Florida and help give them the skills and resources to become leaders not only in the legal profession but in their communities.
The year-long program includes one-day meetings at locations throughout the state, beginning at the Bar’s Annual Convention. The curriculum focuses on developing skills and networking opportunities within the legal profession and having the fellows create projects to put their new skills to use.
The meetings that form the framework for the academy generally begin at noon on a Friday and run until noon Saturday with various speakers and topics, such as learning to work with different workplace personalities; balancing personal, volunteer, and work life; motivating others and delegating; conducting effective meetings; effective leadership styles; and public speaking.
Through the academy, fellows have an opportunity to network with both past and present Bar leaders, including presidents and Board of Governors members. Midway through the program, fellows indicate two preferences for Bar sections, divisions, or committees in which they would like to become involved following graduation.
Diversity is also an important component of the program, and fellows are chosen with the goal of creating a leadership academy class that reflects the different regions and populations of the state.
Bar President Greg Coleman praised Thompson’s leadership of the academy over the past two years.
“The behind-the-scenes work of building the academy was led by Renée from the very beginning,” Coleman said. “Thank you for your leadership and hard work, because that academy has really turned into a great project.”
Thompson said she sees “great things” in what the fellows are accomplishing for the Bar.
“They want to be a part of what we are doing as a profession,” she said.
The Leadership Academy’s third class will be chaired by former Board of Governors’ member Juliet Murphy Roulhac of Plantation and Vice Chairs Melanie Shoemaker Griffin of Orlando and Kevin Anthony McNeill of Lake City.