The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Farewell and Thank You: Reflecting on a Year of Progress and Partnership

President's Page
F. Scott Westheimer

Scott Westheimer

As my time as Florida Bar president draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the journey we’ve embarked upon together over the past year. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your president, and I am immensely grateful for the support and dedication of each and every one of you.

As I step away from this role, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside the talented and committed individuals that make up the Board of Governors. This tireless group of volunteers are leaders of our legal community and have been like a family to me over the years. Together, we made significant strides in advancing the mission of The Florida Bar and serving the profession with integrity and excellence. I wish I had the room in this column to thank each board member individually. I give special thanks to board member Paige Greenlee who really went above and beyond this year. From co-chairing the Disciplinary Review Committee to serving on multiple special committees, including the Bar workgroup that studied how the Bar should respond to circuit consolidation efforts, she was invaluable.

Throughout this year, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to the foundational principles that underpin our work: To regulate the practice of law, ensure the highest standards of legal professionalism, support our independent court system, and above all, protect the public we serve. It is with these principles guiding us that we have undertaken initiatives aimed at empowering our members, enhancing their everyday legal pursuits, and facilitating adherence to ethical standards.

Central to our efforts has been a renewed focus on providing tangible support to our members in navigating the complexities of our shared profession. From addressing trust accounting violations to embracing the transformative potential of artificial intelligence, we have attempted to equip members with the tools and resources needed to thrive.

I am particularly proud of the strides we made in the realm of trust accounting. By partnering with Nota, we became the first state in the country to offer free trust accounting software to all our members. This innovative platform has already begun to streamline fiscal management for lawyers across the state, empowering them to manage their trust accounts with greater efficiency and confidence and avoid the Bar’s grievance system. Bar Programs Division Director Terry Hill, the Bar’s team of auditors, Bar attorneys, and Bar Communications Director Jennifer Krell Davis, and her team, did a tremendous job in working with Nota to design and promote a product that simplifies our members’ lives and complies with Bar rules.

Our commitment to embracing modern technologies, while maintaining our core values, extends beyond trust accounting to encompass the expanding field of generative AI. Recognizing the profound implications on the practice of law, we established a Special Committee on AI Tools & Resources — co-chaired by board members Duffy Myrtetus and Gordon Glover — to explore its potential impact and develop ethical guidelines for its use. Through these efforts, we are ensuring our members are equipped to harness the power of AI while upholding the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct. The Florida Bar has been at the forefront of providing ethical guidance to our members with proposed amendments to comments of various Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and the first ethics opinion in the country on the use of generative AI, Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 24-1. The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics, chaired by Brian Burgoon, and ethics counsel Jonathan Grabb, did a tremendous job drafting this influential opinion that will assist our members navigate the ever-changing world of AI.

At the beginning of my presidency, we created a Standing Committee on Cybersecurity and Privacy Law tasked with developing resources for Bar members to achieve “cyber-resiliency” and compliance with ethical standards. I appreciate the extraordinary efforts of the team, Steven Teppler, Franklin Zemel, and Ioannis “John” Giantsidis, to educate lawyers about the escalating threat of data breaches and strategies to minimize their impacts.

I also recognize the work of Young Lawyers Division President Anisha Patel and the entire YLD board for all their hard work, including creating a series of programs and initiatives to ensure young lawyers are equipped with the necessary tools, education, and resources to uphold the highest standards of professionalism.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and collaboration of our esteemed partners, stakeholders, and the Bar’s professional staff. The Florida Bar is always a national leader and that is due to its tremendous team. It is truly the best Bar staff in the country — hands down. I am deeply grateful to Executive Director Josh Doyle for his leadership, friendship, and support throughout this journey. His guidance has been instrumental in driving our collective efforts forward, and I am thankful for his partnership and friendship.

I also extend my appreciation to Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz and the entire Florida Supreme Court for their trust in the Bar and board and the monumental responsibility they’ve given us to regulate the practice of law in our state. I truly appreciate the chief justice’s support and guidance this year as we navigated the challenges and opportunities facing our profession, as we continued to improve our system and protected the public.

As I prepare to pass the baton to my good friends and incoming Bar leaders President Roland Sanchez-Medina and President-elect Sia Baker-Barnes, I am filled with pride and confidence in the bright future that lies ahead for The Florida Bar. I could not think of a better pair of lawyers, or people, to assume leadership and I believe they will excel. Their leadership, vision, and dedication will undoubtedly propel our organization to new heights, and I am excited to see the contributions they will make in the years to come.

In closing, I thank my family for their love and sacrifices over the years for my service. As I bid farewell, I can confidently say leading this organization has been one of the highlights of my career and going forward I firmly believe The Florida Bar will continue to set the standard for the nation.