Growing in Unexpected Ways
There is a difference between change and growth. As lawyers, and in our personal lives, we undoubtedly faced a lot of changes during the pandemic. But on multiple levels, we have also grown during this past year — whether it be from acquiring new skills, developing crisis-oriented coping mechanisms, or learning advanced ways to communicate. As Bar president, I personally grew in ways I did not anticipate.
The challenges of this last year prevented me from traveling across the state and gathering in-person as I’d naturally expected in my leadership role; like most of you, I found myself anchored. But I learned the task at hand could be accomplished, even in a crisis, and that I could still connect with folks. While maneuvering my virtual presidency, I saw the better side of human nature and received so much encouragement from members via text, emails, and videoconference. That support meant a lot to me. I cared about every single Bar member, and it was gratifying to witness so much growth in others. It is my sincere hope that members felt the Bar was there for them in these trying times. Our profession was forced to confront seismic changes and adjust accordingly. But we kept working hard. While we were not perfect, we achieved many goals. We shared an understanding of what we were going through, and could, therefore, get through it together.
I thank the many section and committee chairs, and the members who volunteered their time to serve the Bar through the pandemic. These folks worked on complex, difficult issues, and didn’t let anything stand in their way. They even developed several CLEs that were COVID-related. They did important work and didn’t make any excuses to avoid it. The Bar’s volunteers are passionate about the profession of law. They didn’t just show up — they delivered. I could not be more impressed and grateful.
The heroes of this pandemic surfaced in different ways, and the Board of Governors was no exception. They exemplified diligence and dedication while coping with such an unusual environment and time in history. Board members stepped up to the plate and worked 10 times harder than normal. I applaud them for putting themselves out there while so many unknowns rattled our society. They made me prouder than I can say.
It has been a tough year, yet we did a lot of fantastic things to help our members: we launched the Florida Lawyers Helpline — a 24/7 free and confidential service that connects members with professional counselors (833-351-9355); we put together the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, chaired by President-elect Mike Tanner, to study the impact of the virus on the legal profession; we created The Florida Bar Recommended Best Practices Guide for Remote Court Proceedings thanks to the hard work and grit of the Technology Committee chaired by Jay Kim; and the 20-Circuit Virtual Town Halls were a successful way to engage our many voluntary bars and membership at large and hear from them about the stresses the pandemic caused.
As I close this chapter and hand the reins to President-elect Tanner, who I know will do a wonderful job, I acknowledge the good work of Bar staff who never missed a beat, and wish a happy retirement to staff members, in particular Communications Director Francine Walker, who has been 21 years in the position, and Assistant to the President Rosalyn Scott, who recently celebrated her 44th Bar anniversary. They have been so essential to our organization over the years. Thank you, also, to Executive Director Josh Doyle for his invaluable assistance during a challenging year. The professional staff of the Bar makes sure we are on track in everything we do.
We learned a lot, we developed new skills — I grew, we grew. As lawyers, we didn’t let anything stop us from turning the wheels of justice. The best I can hope for is that Bar members learned that this year proves we will, and we can, continue to put the needs of Bar members first no matter what happens. We worked incredibly hard in the service of our profession. One thing is sure — we are a resilient group of people. I am incredibly proud to recognize how much we accomplished during this very difficult year. Onwards we go!