The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

The Girl Scout Law

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Even as a transactional lawyer, Lavinia Vaughn still lives by The Girl Scout Law. Photo by Mike Ossola.

A shareholder with Carlton Fields in Tampa, Lavinia Vaughn will expertly explain the team approach her firm takes in representing lenders, borrowers, and developers, but if you really want to hear her gush, ask her about what she and the firm’s real estate and finance team have done for girls.

“I’m pretty passionate about working for girls, and, in my experience, girls who are Girl Scout members and participate in Girl Scout programs tend to become very confident. They tend to become leaders,” Vaughn said. “I can’t tell you how many judges, architects, engineers, and other professionals I’ve encountered who participated in Girl Scouts as girls, or got involved as adults.”

Vaughn grew up in a scouting family in eastern North Carolina, and later, as the mother of two daughters, she founded and led their Girl Scout troops. For a dozen years or so, she also handled cookie sales for 50 troops in the Tampa area.

“Because of that contact, and because of our partner Sylvia Walbolt’s work with the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, our local council, I was asked to serve on the board of directors,” Vaughn said.

As a real estate and finance attorney, Vaughn was invited to sit on the Girl Scout Council’s Property Committee, and then to serve as chair of their Program and Properties Task Force.

The task force is charged with conducting a thorough review of the Girl Scouts’ more than 1,000-acre property portfolio in an eight-county area. As part of the council-wide strategic visioning, the group is working to position the properties to meet the programmatic needs of the nearly 12,000 girls who use the camps each year and the untold thousands who will use them in the future. The council currently owns five camp properties and leases two in Florida, and has three donated lots in the mountains of North Carolina.

“I thought of the fact we were going to need title information, surveys, and survey reviews — kind of a comprehensive due diligence on all of these real properties, which fit into my toolbox,” Vaughn said. “I then approached [fellow Carlton Fields shareholder] Kathy McLeroy and talked to her about pro bono work that would encompass all of this and would allow real estate paralegals, land use and zoning [attorneys], and other people at the firm in the transaction group to have the opportunity to provide pro bono service.”

Since that time, four attorneys and two real estate paralegals from Carlton Fields have been working on the project, which began in January 2015 and was nearing completion by the end of 2016. Together they put in more than 77 hours the first year working on matters for the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. In the current year, Vaughn alone has put in 135 hours, not including her community service time spent at task force and board meetings.

The team has looked at how the Girl Scouts can approach renovations, acquiring or divesting of properties as necessary, and every aspect of the properties in order to put them in the best position to serve the Girl Scout mission.

“The Carlton Fields team is a true partner to the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. Their expertise and service has helped us advance the strategic goals of our organization,” said Jessica Muroff, Girl Scouts of West Central Florida CEO. “Their wide range of specialties, skill sets, and relationships is ideal for the broad needs we have as an organization.”

Muroff said Vaughn’s leadership on the long-range planning process provided the foundation for its success.

“Her attention to detail, wealth of knowledge, and ability to connect with volunteers is terrific. Our council is developing a very strong, long-term vision for our properties that will enable our girls to enjoy them for years to come.”

The camps offer an array of natural habitats and phenomena the girls can study, Vaughn said, as well as opportunities for them to go canoeing or kayaking, and to experience camaraderie around the campfire as opposed to interaction via smartphone.

Vaughn said those benefits are what made her excited about participating in the process to enhance the Girl Scout properties. “Also, dealing with the properties involves environmental concerns, it involves a desire to be outdoors, a desire to disconnect from social media and some of those pressures and just become much more acquainted with our natural surroundings,” she said.

Her pro bono work is an extension of everything scouting taught Vaughn from an early age.

For her, the life of a lawyer is not just about applying one’s expertise in federal, state, and local laws and ordinances; it’s also about living by The Girl Scout Law, which says: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

Nancy Maass Kinnally is the director of communications for The Florida Bar Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide greater access to justice. She is also a member of the communications team for the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice.