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Bar Leadership Academy applications now available

Associate Editor Regular News

Bar Leadership Academy applications now available

First session is set for the Bar Convention

Megan E. Davis

Associate Editor

As The Florida Bar’s new Leadership Academy readies to begin accepting applications March 1, the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism is hard at work developing a diverse and thorough curriculum to shape new leaders for the profession across the state.

Renee Thompson “The Leadership Academy provides an exciting opportunity for the fellows to learn new skills not taught by most law schools or legal employers that are going to strengthen the lawyers’ own personal and professional development, while benefitting their employers when they bring back and share their knowledge and expanded network,” said Linda Calvert Hanson, director of the center.

The topics to be covered will range from strategic planning initiatives to building consensus and synergy to team building to harnessing the power of relationships to leaders looking at the future of the legal profession.

The academy is a key initiative of Bar President-elect Eugene Pettis, who said a growing need for leaders in the profession provided the impetus for the idea.

“It is my hope that fellows who graduate from the academy will be inspired to be leaders within our profession in their chosen path,” said Renee Thompson, who worked closely with Pettis in drafting the program. “Fellows will be given a curriculum tailored toward enhancing personal and professional leadership skills which they can utilize in organizations like voluntary bars, bar sections or divisions, the judiciary, governing boards or their local community. The academy hopes to develop effective leaders at all levels within our profession, which will hopefully create a network of those leaders to allow them to best utilize resources and work with one another on common initiatives in the future.”

Thompson will serve as chair of the Leadership Academy Committee in the coming year.

During its inaugural year, the program plans to invite a diverse group of attorneys from throughout the state to participate as fellows.

The fellows will be divided equally into two geographical branches, a Northern branch including the First, Second, and Fifth district courts of appeal and a Southern branch including the Third and Fourth districts.

The academy is set to kick off at the Bar’s Annual Convention June 28-29 in Boca Raton.

Two additional full group meetings will take place at the Bar’s fall joint meeting in September and January meeting in Tallahassee.

Each branch will also hold three meetings in July, November, and March at rotating locations within their jurisdictions.

Meetings will include two half-day sessions, a networking dinner, and an overnight stay.

Fellows of the program’s inaugural year will graduate at the Bar’s Annual Convention in 2014, as new program participants for the second year gather for the first time.

In addition to leadership skills, the academy plans to instill an in-depth knowledge of the Bar and how its component parts can best function together.

“As a decades-long legal educator, I’m highly pleased that the Center for Professionalism has been entrusted to shape the curriculum that we are designing to maximize the fellows’ experience by including interactive and reflective learning styles in addition to panel discussions and presentations,” said Calvert Hanson.

“It will provide fellows with several self-assessment tools and the opportunity to put their newly gained knowledge into action by designing and implementing a team service project.”

To practice what they’re learning, the program will require each branch to brainstorm, plan, and execute a service project.

The fellows will be responsible for formally presenting their proposals to the Bar president and Leadership Academy Committee at the Bar’s Fall Joint Meeting, assigning duties for the project, and making sure it’s executed before the end of the program year.

Networking will also be a key focus of the program.

“The practice of law is about relationships, and the Leadership Academy is being designed so that fellows will be able to foster and build new relationships with our leaders on a statewide basis as well as within their own community as the fellows develop their leadership skills,” Calvert Hanson said.

Through the academy, fellows will have an opportunity to network with both past and present Bar leaders, including presidents and Board of Governors members.

Midway through the program, fellows may indicate two preferences for Bar sections, divisions, or committees in which they would like to become involved following graduation.

The program will facilitate introductions to fellows’ preferred committees, divisions, and sections, though fellows will not be guaranteed particular positions or roles.

“As part of the academy curriculum, fellows will be given the unique opportunity to look at what they think the future of the legal profession holds and come up with ideas to help change it for the better,” Thompson said. “Fellows will be taught skills to assist them in implementing a service project related to issues affecting our profession. The academy will give them the tools, and even a class budget to help them bring that project to life. Part of being a leader is giving of your time and talents for the greater good, and the academy hopes those who graduate from the program will be able to share their gifts to make our profession better for the people it serves.”

Diversity is also an important component of the program.

“The fact that the Leadership Academy Committee is seeking applicants with different backgrounds, who are employed by diverse types of employers, will make the experience richer not only for all participants, but also by providing training and opportunities that fellows who may be employed in a small firm or by a legal services organization or by a state attorney or public defender or other government agency would not typically have available to them,” Calvert Hanson said.

Applications will be made available at on March 1. Completed applications must be emailed to Arnell Bryant-Willis at [email protected] by 5 p.m. April 1.

Applications will be reviewed by the Leadership Academy Committee.

The Bar’s president-elect will appoint a committee chair and co-chairs of the two branches.

The Bar’s immediate past-president will also be invited to serve on the committee.

In reviewing applications, the committee plans to consider geographical and practice area diversity; professional experience level; prior leadership roles; whether applicants are in good standing; and any disciplinary records.

Successful applicants will be notified by May 1.

Fellows will be responsible for accommodations and travel to meetings.

The academy plans to offer scholarships to about half of the participants to help offset the costs of travel and accommodations.

This month, information about the application process is being sent to voluntary bars.

Voluntary bars as well as Bar sections and divisions are encouraged to nominate applicants. However, applicants are not required to be nominated by a section, division, or voluntary bar.

To apply or for more information about the academy, visit

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