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About the Center for Professionalism

Henry Latimer
The Honorable Henry Latimer
1938-2005

The award-winning Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism is here to serve YOU!

The Center for Professionalism was created by Administrative Order of the Florida Supreme Court in July of 1996, as a joint project of the Supreme Court and The Florida Bar. The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Professionalism works in tandem with the Center for Professionalism in fulfilling the vision and mission. The Center for Professionalism was renamed The Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism in honor of Judge Henry Latimer. Judge Latimer served as one of the first African-American judges in Florida. He had a 30-year career as a lawyer and judge, which was exemplified by passion, excellence, wisdom, and diplomacy. Henry Latimer served as a mentor to thousands, instilling in them his passion for equality, excellence, respect, and professionalism


Mission

To promote the fundamental ideals and values of the justice system within the legal system, and to instill those ideals of character, civility, competence, and commitment in all those persons serving therein.


What does the Center for Professionalism do?

  • Coordinates all Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Standing Committee on Professionalism projects and activities
  • Follows Rules Regulating The Florida Bar Chapter 19
  • Serves as a clearinghouse for research and information
  • Coordinates volunteers for projects and programs
  • Provides staff support for activities
  • Serves as a research, writing and teaching resource for professionalism initiatives in Florida
  • Reviews and catalogs articles, reports, and information on professionalism issues
  • Provides resources and information regarding professionalism to members of the judiciary, the bar, law schools, local bar associations and other state bars
  • Publishes ‘The Professional,’ a triannual newsletter that focuses on professionalism in the legal profession
  • Coordinates Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Standing Committee on Professionalism retreats and meetings throughout the year
  • Maintains and updates the Center for Professionalism’s¬†website

Programs and Seminars presented by the Center for Professionalism include:

  • Interactive multimedia professionalism presentation for the professionalism segment of Practicing with Professionalism seminar
  • Professionalism Workshop (a diversion program)
  • Professionalism presentations, symposiums, and seminars upon request

Professionalism Defined

Professionalism is the pursuit and practice of the highest ideals and tenets of the legal profession. It embraces far more than simply complying with the minimal standards of professional conduct. The essential ingredients of professionalism are character, competence, civility, and commitment.

Historical Perspective

In 1986 The American Bar Association Commission on Professionalism studied professionalism and published a report entitled ‘-In the Spirit of Public Service: A Blueprint for the Rekindling of Lawyer Professionalism p.7 (1986) -‘That report cited:

Lawyers’ efforts to comply with the rules is sharply on the rise… Lawyers’ professionalism may well be in steep decline.

[Although] lawyers have tended to take the rules more seriously because of an increased fear of disciplinary prosecution and malpractice suits,…[they] have also tended to look at nothing but the rules; if conduct meets the minimum standard, lawyers tend to ignore exhortations to set the standards at a high level.

The ABA’s observation reflects a crucial distinction: while a canon of ethics may cover what is minimally required of lawyers, ‘professionalism’ encompasses what is more broadly expected of them–both by the public and by the best traditions of the legal profession itself.

In 1993, The Florida Bar commissioned a survey by the Josephson Institute to formulate data regarding the attitudes and characteristics of Florida Lawyers. The results were surprising in that many of those surveyed felt that a ‘substantial minority’ of lawyers in Florida are:

– money grubbing
– too clever; tricky, sneaky, cannot be trusted
– willing to distort, manipulate and conceal to win
– arrogant, condescending, abusive
– pompous and obnoxious

Additionally, in 1995, The Florida Bar commissioned a survey to follow-up on the 1993 attitudes of our members. The study found that the most serious problems that we face as Florida lawyers are the lack of professionalism and the lack of ethics. Seventy-four percent (74%) said that the legal profession is somewhat less to much less desirable and that according to fifty-one percent (51%), the stress levels in the profession have increased.

The fear of burnout is real to almost fifty percent (50%) of lawyers polled by Mike Papantonio in his book entitled In Search of Atticus Finch (1995, Seville Publishing). As stated by Papantonio:

The pressures and demands of law firms and clients, the element of speed created by the advent of fax machines and computers, and the increasing lack of courtesy between lawyers – to name just a few of the factors that create strain between lawyers – have together changed the quality of the hours worked so that 200 hours in today’s practice is far more stressful than 200 hours in the 1960’s.

Over the past twenty years, lawyers nationwide agree that the environment is changing in which we practice our profession. Some might add that the changes were so gradual, that most of us either did not notice or turned a blind eye.

Far too many lawyers are bored, dissatisfied, depressed, or burned out. Many younger attorneys are regretting ever going to law school, while middle-aged attorneys yearn for early retirement, despite earning record amounts of money and exercising more power over our political economy than their predecessors ever did. The glorious vision of lawyers working with others to shape a just society seems very distant on their horizons.

Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith, No Contest, (NY: Random House, 1996) p.xiv

Leadership Response

In response to the clear need to take action, former Florida Bar President John A. DeVault, III, in concert with President-elect John W. Frost, II, set the goal of making professionalism a higher priority to Florida lawyers. Mr. DeVault appointed The Honorable Justice Harry Lee Anstead to Chair the Standing Committee on Professionalism (1995/96 term).

This presidential partnership also recommended that the Bar propose the creation of a Commission on Professionalism and a free-standing Center for Professionalism. In early 1996 a proposal was presented to The Supreme Court of Florida for the creation of both.

By July 1996, President Frost had dedicated his presidency to the professionalism effort, and the joint Senior Board and Young Lawyers Board retreat in Naples reflected that theme. During the formal day of education, the full board, many Standing Committee members, Supreme Court Justices, and other distinguished guests focused on professionalism and its proper place in our adversary system.

At the close of that session, The Honorable Chief Justice Gerald Kogan made a special appearance and signed an administrative order. The Center for Professionalism was created by Administrative Order in July of 1996 as a joint project of the Supreme Court and The Florida Bar. It is governed by the Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism. The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Professionalism works with the Commission and Center in fulfilling the vision and mission.

By late fall, the full commission was impaneled to include:
– Chair; The Honorable Justice Harry Lee Anstead
– Judiciary members: DCA, Circuit, County
– Deans of each ABA-accredited college of law
– President and President-elect of The Florida Bar
– YLD President and President-elect
– A former public member of Board of Governors
– 7 practicing members of The Bar

The Florida Bar Center for Professionalism was named in December 1996, and was fully staffed by March 1, 1997. The purpose was to promote professionalism in law schools, the judiciary, and The Bar membership while the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism would provide focus and direction to the Center for Professionalism.

In May 2005, The Florida Bar Board of Governors passed a resolution to rename the Center for Professionalism after Henry Latimer, a distinguished attorney who embodied the true lawyer’s trilogy of service to family, community, and profession. The Center is now called the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism.