A Glimpse Ahead
This year I have been asked often what our profession will be like in the years ahead — in 2030 and beyond. My usual response is that I don’t know except that being a lawyer will undoubtedly be different than it is today. The “winds of change” are blowing in our profession and in our branch of government — from many different directions. Some of those winds I discuss in this column, but there are many others.
We must not fear change, but instead learn to strike the right balance between our old ways of understanding our core values and doing our business and being open to new ways that will evolve. This will require judgment and discernment among our members and Bar leadership of the future. When I look at the quality of the young people coming into our ranks, motivated to serve others and our branch, I am optimistic.
As part of the third branch of government, we have a special obligation to have a positive influence on our fellow citizens and on society. We will do that by zealously defending and perpetuating our core values of public service; of an independent, fully funded judiciary; of lawyers exercising fully independent judgment for their clients; of a diverse and inclusive branch with opportunity for all based on individual merit; and — above all — respect for the Rule of Law, especially, in these times, respect for the right of others to have and express ideas with which we may disagree.
The loss of these values among our members would be deeply damaging to our society and to our freedoms. We see now how countries that don’t respect our values behave toward their own citizens and toward other nations.
As I’ve traveled the state this year, it has been clear to me that our members still fully embrace our core values.
We are fortunate to be a self-regulated profession under our Florida Supreme Court. Self-regulation is one of our key defenses around our independence which is, in turn, a key safeguard for the Rule of Law. Our self-regulation would not be possible without The Florida Bar to assist the Florida Supreme Court in carrying out its constitutional duty to regulate us. And The Florida Bar could not function without the men and women of our Board of Governors, our sections and our committees — volunteers all — who donate hundreds of hours of their time each year on our Bar’s business, as well as paying their own expenses for travel and lodging to attend meetings to carry out the business of the Barr and improve our profession. We are all indebted to them for their service.
This has been an interesting and challenging year for our board. On top of our usual work setting policy for The Florida Bar and overseeing the discipline system and the Bar’s many constituent groups and programs, our board has spent many hours this year reviewing and responding to initiatives from the Florida Supreme Court. These included the response to the court’s Special Committee for the Improvement of the Delivery of Legal Services; the response to the comprehensive rules package from the Court’s Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19; and (as I write this) the response to the report and recommendations of the court’s Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases. Each of these reports had, or will have, the potential to be transformational of our branch and our profession and — it’s more than fair to say — has generated controversy. I know our board’s careful and thoughtful responses, together with the responses of other interested groups, will add valuable perspectives to the court’s consideration of these issues.
I also commend the work this year of three of the board’s special committees: the Special Committee for the Review of Professionalism in Florida; the Special Committee on Opportunity in the Practice of Law in Florida; and the Board’s COVID-19 Task Force’s review of a fully online automated platform to resolve small civil claims. Please follow these initiatives in the coming year because each in its own way will greatly benefit our members and ultimately the public.
It has been a great privilege to serve as your president. I thank my very capable successor and good friend, Gary Lesser, for his friendship and support this year and I wish him, our President-elect Designate Scott Westheimer, the board, and our membership the best for the next Bar year. I especially thank Josh Doyle for his friendship, support, and wise counsel; Presidential Assistant Leslie Reithmiller for her friendship and excellent work in keeping me on track and on schedule; our entire Bar staff for their dedication and excellent work which has made The Florida Bar the gold standard among unified bars; Chief Justice Charles Canady and each of the members of the Florida Supreme Court for their support; and above all, my best friend, my wife Dawna, for her love, wise perspective, and good-humored acceptance of my many absences and phone calls from hotel rooms and airports.
I now look forward to returning with enthusiasm to my litigation practice at Gunster in our Jacksonville and Tallahassee offices and to continuing my training for the role of assistant herd manager at Blue Bear Farm.
Thank you for this past year and God bless each of you.