Scott Westheimer President of The Florida Bar
A mere block from the majestic Mediterranean Revival style Sarasota County Courthouse sits the law office of Syprett Meshad. With over 50 years of service to the community, the firm has built a sterling reputation.
At the heart of Syprett-Meshad is partner F. Scott Westheimer, who, like Sarasota founding father Charles Edward Ringling, proved that success isn’t geographically defined. The 51-year-old, who was sworn in as the 75th president of The Florida Bar June 23, is the first lawyer from Sarasota or the 12th Circuit to be elected to the office.
Westheimer, a 1989 graduate of Riverview High School, earned his law degree with honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in 1996.
While in Gainesville, Westheimer was a member of the Order of Coif, the honorary society that recognizes the top 10% of law students. Westheimer’s talent and energy could have taken him anywhere in the world.
But Westheimer’s Sarasota roots run deep.
“I just have a bond with Sarasota,” Westheimer said. “It’s hard to explain the magic of this town until you visit here. It’s a town where people are still genuine and welcoming. It’s somewhere where you can still make your mark and it feels like a small town but keeps growing at a crazy pace. I had great relationships here when I graduated law school. It was just always home.”
Syprett Meshad President Michael Resnick, a founding partner, says Sarasota sets the standard for the way law should be practiced in Florida “forever.”
“We don’t practice the cut-throat sort of law here and that’s one of the main reasons people continue to come back to Sarasota and Manatee County,” Resnick said.
Practicing law “the Sarasota Way” is at the heart of Westheimer’s presidential platform.
Back to Basics
Westheimer said he is “humbled” by the opportunity to serve the lawyers of Florida and represent the Bar, a national leader in professionalism, ethics, innovation, and access to justice.
“During my term, we will continue to focus on investing in our members, to help them with the daily practice of law, their ethical duties, and health and wellness, which all serve to effectuate our core mission of protecting the public and supporting our independent court system,” Westheimer said.
Westheimer hopes to steer the Bar back to basics and concentrate on its core mission.
“Our main focus this year is doing everything we can to analyze, enhance, and improve our discipline system, which I think is already one of the best in the nation. We plan to help educate our members on compliance, improve communication about the system to our members, and the public, and provide lawyers resources to succeed. We need to give our lawyers all the tools and resources they need to comply with our disciplinary rules, so they can focus on practicing law,” Westheimer said.
One of the priorities Westheimer is focusing on is free trust accounting software for members to assist them in complying with the trust accounting rules.
Westheimer served as the Sarasota County Bar president from 2010-2011. That led him to prioritize collaboration with local bars in the coming year.
“We need to strengthen our bond with the voluntary bars,” Westheimer said. “They do so much amazing work for their members and their programs that focus on things like professionalism, ethics, health and wellness, and mentoring, which are right in our lane. We should be partnering and collaborating with them instead of trying to recreate the wheel all the time. They connect with their members in ways that we, as the state Bar, can’t and their members are our members. If we’re helping them out, we’re doing the same thing.”
Westheimer says running for office while practicing law during the pandemic helped him focus on technology.
“You don’t realize how much technology affects your day-to-day practice until something like COVID hits and that’s all you have,” he said.
Westheimer says technology shouldn’t be feared and Zoom meetings and hearings (that aren’t evidentiary) are a great benefit to the practice and the public.
“We can do hearings throughout the state without charging our clients five or six hours for travel and other expenses. Its effect on access to the courts and the cost of litigation are immense; however, we now have to work to find new ways to continue our connectivity that can be lost without seeing each other in person all the time.”
Westheimer — whose family moved to Sarasota from the Baltimore area when he was a young child — and Resnick go way back.
“I first met Scott when he was little and I bounced him on my knee,” Resnick said. “The Westheimers were very good friends of mine. I kept in touch as Scott went to school and then Scott wanted to be a legal intern.”
Following Westheimer’s first year of law school, Resnick and the other partners hired him as a law clerk during the summer of 1994. Resnick believed he found a diamond in the rough.
“He was top 10 in his class in law school and whip-smart,” Resnick said. “He had a good feel for people. You can be one of the smartest people in the world, but if you can’t convince the client that you are the best attorney it doesn’t matter.”
Sweet Home, Sarasota
Syprett-Meshad partner Teresa D. Jones, a Florida Super Lawyer in the personal injury field, came to Sarasota in 1986. She was a partner during Westheimer’s first summer as an intern and remembers how he kept coming back.
“Most of our clerks would come in and work the summer and that would be it,” Jones said. “We wouldn’t see them again. Particularly if they were freshmen. But this kid kept showing up. He finally graduated, took the bar, and then showed up again. Once he came in the door, he was ours.”
Corporate practice attorney John Patterson, a partner at the Sarasota office of Shutts & Bowen, also remembers Westheimer from childhood. Patterson said the Westheimers moved into their Sarasota neighborhood in 1979.
“The Westheimers moved in not immediately behind our house, but right behind that,” Patterson recalled. “We introduced ourselves to his dad and mom and we liked them. They would come over to our house for dinner and we’d go over to their house for a drink, and we were very good neighbors.”
Scott’s mother, Carol Westheimer, said the family moved to Sarasota County when Westheimer was in the fourth grade.
“We moved to Siesta Key in Sarasota from Columbia, Maryland, when Scott was in elementary school,” Carol said. “All three of my children went through school in Sarasota.”
Scott’s younger brother, Ryan Westheimer, now a movie producer in Los Angeles, said he and Scott were typical siblings.
“We are 15 months apart and like normal brothers growing up, we fought constantly as anyone else with a brother can relate,” Ryan Westheimer said, “which is funny when you see how close we are now.”
Patterson said the two families had a lot in common and Scott was the same age as his daughter, Kim. They went to high school together and ran in the same circle of friends. As a kid, Westheimer had a penchant for picking oranges from Patterson’s tree.
“I say getting but he was really stealing,” Patterson joked. “Think about that, the president of The Florida Bar stealing oranges from your citrus tree.”
Patterson, a Board of Governors member from 1996-2000, is also a past president of the Sarasota County Bar Association and encouraged, even pushed, Westheimer to get involved in bar service.
“I’d been active and had been president of the local bar, and you owe something to your profession that’s been good to you, and Scott got involved,” Patterson said.
Elevating Local Bars
Westheimer enjoyed his work at the local bar level and those relationships helped immensely when he began his state Bar work.
“Our circuit has 2,000 members and one seat on the Board of Governors,” Westheimer said. “When I ran for that seat, it was the first contested election here in almost 20 years. Putting yourself out there and building relationships was a great experience.”
Jan Jung, who served as executive director of the Sarasota County Bar for 25 years until her retirement in 2015, said Westheimer’s reverence for the law fuels his passion to serve.
“I think one of the things about Scott is he recognizes how important it is to belong to a local bar association and to continue his effort toward professionalism and getting to know his fellow lawyer colleagues and be interested in the type of service the bar was interested in at the time,” Jung said.
Westheimer agrees with Jung’s assessment.
“At that point, I had not thought of being Bar president and honestly, I didn’t even know everything that the Board of Governors did,” Westheimer said. “But once I joined, I found you can truly make positive change if you put in the effort. You can see tangible results from what you did. Eventually, more people told me I should run for president.”
While president of his local bar, Westheimer championed professionalism and the independence of the courts. During his Sarasota Bar service, he also helped establish the Richard R. Garland Diversity Scholarship, which awards second-year minority law students a paid summer law clerk position at a Sarasota firm along with a tuition assistance scholarship of up to $5,000.
The goal of the scholarship is to increase diversity by encouraging recipients to return to Sarasota.
Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Williams helped Westheimer get the scholarship off the ground.
“It started out basically as an idea with a group of lawyers and a few judges that decided we needed to do more to welcome more diverse members to the Sarasota County Bar,” Williams said.
The local bar came up with the idea of offering a scholarship and Judge Williams and Westheimer convinced local firms and other entities to consider hiring a second-year law student from the Sarasota area, pay a living wage, and at the end of their internship in the summer the local bar would provide a small scholarship.
Williams believes the internship gives students a chance to make the local connections they need to succeed.
“That has proven to be successful,” Williams said. “It creates a pipeline to keep our best and brightest students here locally.”
Westheimer’s commitment to inclusion was inspired by his self-described “brother from another mother,” and best friend Keith DuBose — a partner at Eastmoore Crauwels & DuBose in Sarasota. DuBose, an African American and Sarasota native, confessed that when they would go to bar functions together it would sometimes be awkward.
“I was the only person there who looked like me,” DuBose said. “Sometimes it would be uncomfortable and sometimes I didn’t want to go and be ‘the one.’ He was empathetic to that and when I talked to him, he was like, let’s do it.”
Westheimer insists DuBose is the force behind the voluntary bar’s commitment to diversity.
“He’s [DuBose] is the real trailblazer, I did what little I could do to help out,” Westheimer said. “It’s always important to reach out and have everyone at the table. At that point, we only had two or three African American attorneys in town — at the most.”
Since its inception, the Sarasota Bar has awarded more than $130,000 in minority law student scholarships.
The two Sarasotans were schooled at rival high schools. Westheimer attended Riverview. DuBose went to Booker High School. They met at law school at the University of Florida and learned each wanted to go back to Sarasota to practice.
Sports Agent Detour
It was 1996. The same year “Jerry McGuire,” the Academy-Award winning picture about a professional sports agent who finds a conscience, hit theaters.
Whether inspired by the movie or not, Westheimer and DuBose decided to take a shot at becoming sports agents. Westheimer’s position at Syprett Meshad presented the perfect opportunity.
The daughter of partner John Meshad was a University of Georgia student and dating starting quarterback Mike Bobo. Bobo graduated in the spring of 1998 and was awaiting the NFL Draft.
So, two Gator law grads became agents for Bobo as he hoped to follow his dreams to the NFL. In October of 1997, Bobo became the only Bulldog signal caller to hand famed Gator head ball coach Steve Spurrier the lone blemish on his coaching record (11-1) against Georgia.
The budding sports agents were now working for a player from their biggest rival school. A point not lost on DuBose.
“Not only was Scott a double Gator, but I went to undergrad at Duke University and played for Coach Spurrier on the 1989 team that won the school’s only ACC Championship,” he said.
DuBose says the experience drew them closer. He remembers taking the Georgia backroads to Bobo’s parent’s house leading up to draft day.
“Just imagine a Black dude and a Jewish dude driving to Cairo, Georgia,” DuBose said. “We find a Motel 6. Scott and I are sharing a king bed and we get up and head to Mike’s house.”
Westheimer said he was living his dream.
“I’ve always had a love for sports and being a sports agent,” Westheimer said. “Keith and I became fast friends out of law school.”
“We had talked with some teams and knew he wouldn’t get drafted on the first day but thought he was going to be a second-day dude,” said DuBose, adding that as each round passed and Bobo’s name wasn’t called, we’re asking, “What’s happening? Do we need to leave right now? Because we’re going to get chased out of town.”
Bobo did not get drafted, leaving Westheimer wondering if he’d have a job by the time he got home to Sarasota. Bobo would go on to become a graduate assistant coach at Georgia the following year and enjoy an illustrious coaching career. He’s currently the offensive coordinator for the two-time defending National Champion Bulldogs.
DuBose maintains a cheerful outlook about the experience.
“Basically, the way we look at it is because we couldn’t get Mike drafted, we put him in a better situation and Mike really owes us some commission on some of these coaching jobs because of us,” DuBose joked.
While speaking with the Journal, Coach Bobo laughed at DuBose’s suggestion but says that Westheimer’s tenacity will serve him well as Bar president.
“Scott was so meticulous,” Bobo said. “He kept right on calling NFL scouts and GMs long after I gave up on it [getting drafted]. It’s that kind of attitude that will make him an excellent president of The Florida Bar.”
DuBose said the near miss only strengthened their relationship.
“We were both at similar size firms and we both do similar kinds of law,” DuBose said. “So, we would call each other and ask how we would handle something. It just kind of grew from there.”
Family Is Everything
DuBose said they also enjoy breaking bread together.
“His mom would make me matzah ball soup when we had Passover meals with him, and he would come over to our house and have collard greens and ham hocks,” DuBose said. “It got to the point where we would become members of each other’s family.”
“Keith was just one of the gang,” Carol Westheimer said. “He and Scott met in law school and had great admiration for each other. They had the same goals and became fast friends.”
The sports agent detour didn’t slow Westheimer’s advancement at Syprett Meshad, where he was named partner in 2000.
“I think in the first four years, he was made a partner and I’ve never seen anyone in my firm be named partner that quickly,” Resnick said. “I’m probably the only remaining founding member of that law firm that hasn’t retired, and I had a part in hiring everyone in that firm.”
Resnick said while Westheimer was an associate, he tried his hands at many areas of practice.
“I started having him do family law and criminal law,” Resnick said. “He hated criminal law. He hated family law, but he did it and was very good at it.”
Partner Teresa Jones agrees.
“Our firm has always been an interesting firm because we are a multi-service firm of about 10 lawyers,” Jones said. “The way we would do it, a new associate would basically work for everybody, and Scott started working in family law.”
But seeing couples fight made Westheimer uneasy.
“Family law was tough for me because sometimes people were fighting over things just to be spiteful to the other side — you’d get the smartest, most successful people at their worst,” Westheimer said. “I have a lot of respect for attorneys that do family law. I just didn’t have a passion for it.”
Making the transition to personal injury law came from a desire to help people.
“To me, the things you can do as a lawyer in any field. .. is you can truly make a positive impact on people’s lives,” said Westheimer, noting that as a personal injury attorney, it’s his job to assist those who have suffered trauma and catastrophic loss.
“You’re their lawyer and strongest advocate, but also their counselor, sounding board, and confidant. You’re helping them out at their worst moments,” Westheimer said. “What we do can be truly life changing.”
Westheimer credited Jones with showing him the ropes.
“When I first started, I was able to get to trial on a lot of defense cases with Teresa and she taught me how to try a case. I transitioned to representing plaintiffs pretty quickly,” Westheimer said. “I was lucky to learn from some of the best trial lawyers on our coast in Teresa, Joe Lieb, and Jim Syprett. I really enjoyed being in court and helping my clients. To be able to improve their lives brings a lot of satisfaction and you’re truly serving the public.”
“Back then we were representing a lot of the major insurance carriers and he would learn from us the insurance end of it,” Jones recounted. “The defense side of litigation. Not just personal injury but property damage as well. He learned all this, which allowed him to become a good plaintiff’s lawyer.”
Syprett-Meshad partner Joseph Lieb said hiring Westheimer was key to the firm’s success.
“I came to the firm in 1976,” Lieb said. “He grew on us very quickly. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. He’s just an exceptional lawyer and an exceptional person. I’ve never met anyone like him.”
Everything But A Lawyer
Westheimer became managing partner in 2010 and stayed in that position until last year, running the day-to-day operations of the firm.
“The worst job in the law firm is managing partner, and he’s been the managing partner for 13 years,” Resnick said. “Scott has been that with us and we all agree that his rule is law, and you can’t argue with the managing partner because he makes the decisions.”
When Westheimer decided to run for Bar president, he said it was just another avenue for making positive change. For assistance, he turned to former Bar President Dori Foster-Morales who first met Westheimer when he was serving on the Bar’s Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors.
“At first, it was the ‘Hi, nice to see you; have a drink?’” Foster-Morales said. “Then we became closer and closer and served on the Board of Governors together and we often develop personal relationships on the board. He was one of those people.”
Foster-Morales said when Westheimer was campaigning for president-elect, he spent a lot of time traveling to Miami, her hometown.
“Being elected from the West Coast and a small jurisdiction really requires hard work,” Foster-Morales said. “Since my daughter and son were both in college, we had a wing of the house that we weren’t using and I was like, ‘Scott, you know we’re still in a pandemic and hotels are expensive. Just stay with us.’”
Foster-Morales gave Westheimer a key to her house.
“I still have the key,” Westheimer said. “There are two types of family — blood relatives and the family you develop and create along the way. Jimmy [Morales] and Dori are family. The best part about running for president was the relationships I developed.”
“We have had this relationship over many years that culminated in a long sleep-over party,” Foster-Morales joked.
Foster-Morales’ focus as president was the mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers. Westheimer says he wants to empower and invest in Florida’s lawyers and will also prioritize mental health and wellness.
“If you’re not grounded as a lawyer, and if you’re not balanced, then it’s hard to go help other people out every day and serve the public,” Westheimer said. “I think in the past, some lawyers defined themselves by their professional title and not by who they were as a person. I think we need to realize we are people first. Being a lawyer is our profession, it’s what we do, but I’m a husband, dad, son, and brother first. At home, I help with everything — school, bedtime and, whether I like it or not, I am clearly in charge of the garbage. So, to them I’m everything but a lawyer.”
Westheimer said after discussing it with his wife they decided there wouldn’t be a better time to run for president.
“Our son, Arie, was a baby, so he could travel with us,” Westheimer said. “Our daughter, Ayla, was going to be in her early grades. We thought it would be the perfect time to do it. Then COVID hit [during my candidacy] and it was a different world. I’d travel the state alone and then have to do it all over again.”
Everyone gushes about Scott’s love story with his wife.
“We liken the firm to the family and Scott was one of our kids,” Jones said. “We were there when he met his wife and had children. We were there when he bought his first house. ”
Westheimer blushes when he talks about his wife.
“I couldn’t do half what I do without her,” Westheimer said. “We used to joke. I’d tell her she’s perfect for me. She’d say no one is perfect and I would say she is my perfect.”
Westheimer went on to say that she is the best mom and wife he could ever ask for and couldn’t do anything without her.
“She’s smarter, better looking, and probably more athletic than me even though I won’t admit that,” Westheimer said. “She’s a superstar and the thing about her is she stays even keeled and helps me out even when I’m not.”
Westheimer says she makes him want to be a better husband and father.
“Being a dad is the most important thing I do,” Westheimer said. “It’s the biggest thing and the most rewarding thing. There’s nothing like it and my family is why I succeed. You see, some attorneys in the past thought being a lawyer was the most important thing in the world and would burn out. That’s why I think health and wellness is so important and having a balanced family life. It makes you a better person and a better practitioner.”
Friends say Westheimer’s faith in family and fatherhood was tested when his parents divorced when he was in the sixth grade.
“Part of Scott’s life is complicated,” long-time family friend Patterson recounted. “His parents divorced, and it was not a good one. Some divorces are OK and some just aren’t. There was no violence or anything but just unhappiness. I’m not sure Scott really had a strong relationship with his father after that.”
“I think after going through that as a child, it just makes you want to be the best parent you can be when you have kids,” Westheimer said. Scott’s brother Ryan said while their father didn’t set the best example, their mother was a saint, and her role cannot be overlooked.
“She was raising three kids on her own,” Ryan said. “She did an amazing job raising and encouraging us to be the best versions of ourselves.”
Ryan says that Scott, his mother, Carol, and sister Joy Walsh, a CEO and event strategist in Washington, D.C., are a very tight-knit family.
Joy agreed, saying, “even when Scott was dealing with the stresses of law school, he made time every week for us to have dinner together when I was in school in Gainesville.”
She also emphasized how much fun they have together.
“If you know Scott, you know he is quick with his wit and banter. Laughing is a huge part of what you get when spending time with him. When the three of us get together, it is like we are all little kids again and my stomach hurts from laughing so hard.”
Generational Income Properties CEO and longtime childhood friend Dave Sobelman credits Westheimer’s mother with making Scott the man he is today.
“I feel like his mother was a solid foundation in his life and encouraged him to be who he was, but also motivated him to do it on his own because there wasn’t going to be a lot of financial support from her,” Sobelman said. “He’s a hands-on father even though he’s achieved monumental status in his profession, he keeps his family first.”
“I was raising three kids and two boys, and you can’t just let them run loose,” Scott’s mom said. “Scott was the one who always abided by the rules. If he was going to miss curfew he’d always call.”
Carol Westheimer never worried about her eldest son.
“He was always on top of his education and his studying,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about what he was up to because I trusted him.”
Westheimer goes out of his way to put his family first.
“To me, I try as hard as I can to be home for dinner every night,” Westheimer said. “When I am in town, I take my daughter to school in the morning. I try not to miss things if I can help it. I don’t want to look back and say I missed my kids’ childhoods. It’s especially important to be there for the big things in their lives. If I have to stay up late and catch up on work, I’ll do it to be able to be there for my family. Luckily, I don’t need a ton of sleep!”
Westheimer’s work-family balance was summed up best by his friend and fellow Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brother, Ted Martin.
“Some of us do very well personally with some cost to our professional lives,” Martin said. “Some of us do well professionally with some cost to our personal life. None of that is true with Scott. His professional life is phenomenal with no deficit to his personal life. If there was one friend I have with phenomenal balance, it would be Scott.”
Scott Is There, Rain or Shine
Martin said a few dozen high school and college friends get together every year to ski at Lake Tahoe, and Westheimer’s ability to stay connected is unmatched.
“There are years where I haven’t made it, but every year Scott is there rain or shine to connect with the guys we grew up with,” Martin said. “So, I don’t know how he does it, but he does it well and with a smile on his face.”
Westheimer said the answer is easy — “I’ve been lucky to make lifetime friendships and I consider them family.”
Westheimer’s family and friends point to his compassion.
Judge Williams recalled when his mother passed away years ago that instead of sending condolences, Westheimer showed up for her funeral.
“While we were friendly, we weren’t great friends and that just shows the type of person that he is and it meant a lot to me,” Judge Williams said. “It was more than just saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ or sending a card. He showed up, and I’ll never forget that.”
Former neighbor Patterson recounted a similar experience — when his daughter, Kim, died of cancer soon after graduating college.
“Our daughter went to NYC after graduation and was doing well when she developed cancer and died after about a year and a half,” Patterson said. “Scott was just as considerate and thoughtful and just the good human being that he is and has always been. That’s hard for younger people, I think, to say something. He’s not only a thoughtful person but he does things.”
“Friendship is gauged by the hard times and not the easy ones,” Westheimer said. “It’s easy to be someone’s friend when they’re successful and everything is going great, but it means more to be a friend for somebody when they’re going through their hardest times.”
Westheimer’s “family” speaks highly of his friendship.
“You can’t identify a seam or gap with him,” Martin said. “It’s not a facade. He showed up at the hospital for both births of my boys. My wife considers him like a brother, and he is an uncle to my kids, but meanwhile, through all these years, his practice has been spectacular.”
Martin and his wife were in the hospital delivering one of their children at the same time DuBose and his wife were there for the delivery of their child. Martin’s wife even allowed Westheimer to be in the room when her son was born.
“He’s Uncle Scott to my kids and was in the hospital and had to be kicked out of the delivery room when my son was born,” DuBose said. “He was there and was one of the first people to meet my son.”
Westheimer admits to being a beach bum at heart.
“I love the beach and I’m a beach kid. I’ve played competitive beach volleyball since high school,” Westheimer said. “I still do if I have time and it is still the greatest stress reliever. It definitely helps me recharge.”
Sarasota County Judge David Denkin recalled Westheimer coaxing him more than once to play beach volleyball.
“He lives right by the beach and would ask me to go play and I said no,” Denkin said. “I don’t want to be compared with you regarding your ability or compared to you with our shirts off.”
Denkin’s known a few Bar presidents and is confident Westheimer has the stamina the job requires.
“Scott will not ask anyone to work any harder than he’s willing to work,” Denkin said. “He’s very inclusive. If you want to work to benefit the lawyers in Florida, he will get you involved.”
Denkin says Westheimer reminds him of a Labrador puppy.
“You can’t help but like him,” Denkin said.
Technology and Cybersecurity
Westheimer has always embraced technology, leading the teams that created LegalFuel and developed the Bar’s Tech Support Helpline. Now he is launching initiatives to ensure Florida lawyers remain on the cutting edge.
During its May meeting in Naples, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a “Board Committee on Artificial Intelligence Tools & Resources,” and a “Standing Committee on Cybersecurity and Privacy Law.”
Westheimer told the Program Evaluation Committee he wants the Bar to keep abreast of the seemingly daily barrage of AI developments.
“No matter how technology changes, we still have the same duties under our rules,” Westheimer said. “We still must protect the public and we still have to make sure that nothing affects our independent judgment.”
The Board Committee on AI is one of the first of its kind in the nation and Westheimer says The Florida Bar needs to be at the forefront when it comes to understanding and adapting to these new technologies.
“It’s naïve to think that lawyers aren’t already using it,” Westheimer said. “It’s our job to make sure there is guidance out there for our members and the public. The committee will consist of board members, AI experts, and lawyers from various fields. We are going to make sure everyone is represented and will provide an expeditious and thorough analysis.”
Westheimer says the AI panel will be a “living and breathing” committee and will act as information is received. It will take a holistic approach, reviewing everything from regulatory aspects, to use by self-represented litigants, and as a tool to help practitioners. He also plans to keep the Supreme Court informed about the panel’s activities and seek guidance from the justices as well.
The Standing Committee on Cybersecurity is also cutting edge and will work with the Bar’s Technology Committee to help educate Florida Bar members.
“We all know how cybersecurity is affecting the day-to-day practice of law and we are the first state in the country that is looking at this with a committee of expert practitioners to help educate our members, make sure they understand the ethical and privacy implications, and know how to protect client data,” Westheimer said.
Westheimer said it’s important for the Bar to provide educational opportunities to solos and small firms to assist them in understanding the dangers that exist.
Westheimer says it all comes back to focusing on the basics.
“We need to give our lawyers all the tools, resources, and education they need to help their practice and help them comply with our rules,” Westheimer said.
Foster-Morales says Westheimer’s year will be successful because he’s likable and works collaboratively.
“In my opinion as a past president, what will make Scott a good leader of The Florida Bar is the relationship he has with his board,” Foster-Morales said. “The board will accomplish a lot of work.”
Westheimer is keenly aware he is making history for his beloved 12th Circuit.
With only one seat on the Bar’s Board of Governors, Westheimer says the circuit rarely has anyone stay on the board for as long as he has and no one from the circuit has come close to becoming president.
Syprett-Meshad President Mike Resnick was beating the drum hard for his partner.
“When I talked to everyone down here, I said, ‘Look, guys, we have the opportunity to get somebody from Sarasota, Florida, to be the Bar president, which has never happened,’” Resnick said.
When he met with Westheimer about his campaign, Resnick wanted him to know his work at the firm wouldn’t suffer.
“Scott, for our firm, is a revenue generator and we sat down and said, ‘Look, I want you to be president of The Florida Bar.’”
Resnick said the role of Florida Bar president was too prestigious to worry about the day-to-day operations of his firm.
“[I told him] if you have a case, we’ll figure it out,” Resnick said. “Don’t worry about the firm, worry about being the best president you can be.”
Westheimer said his hometown of Sarasota made his quest to become president of The Florida Bar easier.
“We have excellent attorneys in my circuit and it’s an amazing legal community,” Westheimer said. “I am obviously biased, but I think it’s the best legal community in the state. Our judges and attorneys are top-notch. We can still do things with a handshake. The support of my circuit’s legal community was humbling and made the decision to be president an easy one.”
Patrick R. Fargason is a senior editor with The Florida Bar News