The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

A Grateful Heart

President's Page

Photo of Michael J. HigerLike all good journeys, when I started, I really had no idea where the road would take me, who I would meet along the way, or what would be the challenges. As I write my final column, let me start the where and the who by saying thank you.

The where took me to all 20 of the circuits — the major metropolitan areas, the more rural areas, the places I had never been, and the places that were not so easy to get to — and several times to most of these circuits. I met with voluntary bar leaders — executive directors, presidents, and boards — all of whom strive each day to give back to their communities and enhance the legal profession. I met with all of the leaders of our sections and committees, all of whom selflessly focus on improving our substantive laws and procedural rules.

I met with the leaders in the executive branch of our government, including the governor. I met with dozens of House representatives and senators. All of these men and women are passionate and dedicated in providing good governance and in creating laws to serve all of us.

I met with a great many of our judges both individually and at their judicial conferences — county, circuit, and appellate. I met several times with each member of the court. All of these judges at every level care deeply about the rule of law and delivering justice.

I met with hundreds (if not more) lawyers from every part of our state who tirelessly serve the interests of their clients. And I met with law students from several of the law schools located throughout Florida. These students shared with me their concerns as well as their hopes and dreams.

Thank you to all who enriched my journey, who shared with me their personal struggles as well as their triumphs. Thank you to all who taught me more than a thing or two. Thank you for your insight, wisdom, care, and passion. It was my honor and privilege to meet with each and every one of you.

The where and the who also starts at home — I should say, my adopted Tallahassee home. That is where you will find our executive director, Joshua Doyle. I don’t know if he was my guinea pig or I was his. Either way, I am so grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to work with someone of such impeccable character, judgment, and demeanor. The foundation, the bedrock, the rock of Gibraltar that provides the support for everything we do are the department heads, the 300-plus men and women who run our day-to-day operations, and who are located in five branches across our state. You will never find professionals who are more dedicated, committed, and passionate than these folks. They truly care about all of us.

Before briefly talking about the challenges, I cannot take credit for any of the successes, because that is a product of the work of all the people I just mentioned and mostly 52 of the most special men and women who hail from every circuit in our state. Fifty are lawyers and two are public members. These men and women comprise our board and each gives hundreds of voluntary service with no other motive other than to serve all of us lawyers, the courts, and the public. So, please, the next time you see them in your home venue or elsewhere, let them know how much you appreciate what they do.

The biggest challenge going into this year was clearly the Constitution Revision Commission. Based on the tremendous efforts of the Bar’s CRC, Communications, Citizens Advisory committees, and many others, the Bar launched the Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts program, and distributed high-quality educational materials statewide. These materials and online resources informed the public and lawyers about the CRC from the very beginning of the process to the very end. I am proud to report these efforts were highly successful.

We also started a conversation about health and wellness for lawyers that has profoundly touched the hearts of lawyers, judges, and law students everywhere. Through town halls, presentations, a dedicated Bar Journal, and websites, and multi-media coverage, we have raised awareness and begun the process for a meaningful plan of action. We have said, loud and clear, “We care, we want to help, and we will change lives.”

We have continued our strong commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. Our resolve is evident in the make up of our leadership, in our appointments, and in our JNC selections. Our resolve is evident in the Leadership Academy, which continues to be a beacon for this initiative. Our resolve is evident in all of our communications. Our resolve is evident from the good work of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Neither time nor space will allow me to fully or adequately share all we have done and continue to do to meet the access to justice challenge. But this year, we have made significant strides through electronic bridges that connect lawyers 24/7 anytime, any place with people needing a lawyer.

Lastly, recognizing the demographics of our lawyers in which the overwhelming concentration is solo and small firms, we have continued to focus on providing member benefits to our lawyers, which help them better serve their clients. I urge you to check out the full listing of benefits at www.floridabar.org/member/benefits/. If you do, I promise, you will be amazed at the quantity and quality of benefits offered, which will absolutely enhance your practice.

With every fiber of my being, I am so grateful I had this opportunity to serve as president of The Florida Bar. You gave me so much more than I gave you. Thank you.