Bar President-elect Candidate Scott Westheimer’s Platform Statement
A Turning Point for The Florida Bar
We are at a turning point in the fight to preserve the legal profession and the well-being of our members. As a trial lawyer and managing partner of a small, Sarasota firm, I experience the daily demands of the practice and business of law. I have spent the last two years connecting with lawyers to hear how the pandemic, stress, and financial pressures impacted their mental health and wellness. I heard how The Florida Bar can help, become more relevant, and connect with members through tangible support. My core mission is to ensure the stability, diversity, and well-being of ALL our members, the integrity of our profession, and to protect the public.
We are in transformational times, and the Bar needs to support members in meaningful ways. I have served on the Board of Governors since 2013, focusing on opportunities that benefit lawyers, embracing innovation, leading collaboratively, and ensuring all attorneys have a voice. As Communications Committee Chair, I developed and led the teams that rebuilt the Bar website and created LegalFuel.com — which provides free practice management and technology tools, resources, and over 200 hours of CLEs. Recently, I pioneered and developed the Bar’s tech support hotline which provides free tech services to members.
I will continue to empower and invest in my fellow members by creating free resources for our daily practices and health and wellness. This includes providing free trust accounting and case management software, loan forgiveness resources and other assets for government lawyers, cybersecurity tools, and enhanced benefits for health, wellness, and quality of life.
- Practice and Innovation
Technology helped us work through the pandemic but also intensified a growing lack of professionalism, isolation, and cybersecurity threats. We must leverage technology in innovative ways to help members and increase engagement, while maintaining critical personal relationships and live interactions.
- Mental Health and Wellness
My wife and I have two small children, a daughter (7) and a son (18 months), and experienced how the pandemic blurred, if not obliterated, our work-life balance. It has been exceptionally challenging as we all juggle home life, family, and practicing law. Lawyers have experienced depression, isolation, and anxiety due to these stressors. We must continue to invest in resources that support and improve members’ quality-of-life.
Ensure Access to Justice for All
When the pandemic stopped in-person proceedings, the fundamental right to a jury trial was drastically impacted. The Bar must ensure ALL Floridians, especially those that cannot afford attorneys, have access to our legal system. We must leverage our resources to help the judiciary deal with the backlog of cases and work with the Legislature to ensure Courts have funding for additional staff, increased/competitive salaries, technology, case managers, and all resources necessary to address this backlog.
Uphold an Independent Judiciary
The independence of the judicial branch and our profession is paramount to our society and the rule of the law. I will defend this independence and continue to vigorously oppose ideas that would harm the public and our profession. This includes ensuring the Bar stays engaged and maintains its role in the JNC process so that experienced, qualified, and diverse members are selected.
- Mandatory Bar and Integrity of the Profession
Continuing as a mandatory, self-regulated bar is crucial to our mission. Janus and nationwide lawsuits challenge the existence of mandatory bars and threaten to upend our profession’s values. Recent proposals to consider non-lawyer ownership of law firms and fee splitting with non-lawyers are dangerous to the public, negatively impact our profession’s integrity, and undermine our independence. I will protect our status as a mandatory bar and oppose these harmful proposals.
- Professionalism, Education, and Accountability
We need a more proactive and concerted effort to educate attorneys about our discipline system, rules, trust accounting, and professionalism. We must provide members tools and resources early in their careers to assist compliance with the rules. Creating more successful, well-rounded, and professional attorneys protects the public. My experience chairing the Disciplinary Review Committee and teaching a lawyer regulation course at UF Law prepared me for this task.
Develop Intentional Pipelines for Diversity
We need to ensure equal opportunity for ALL members, including those who are racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and persons with disabilities. A diverse and inclusive justice system is critical for society and enhances public trust of lawyers. I have always had a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion for our profession. I co-created and chaired the Sarasota Bar’s Diversity Committee and helped create a scholarship/internship program for diverse law students. Developing and fostering intentional, concrete pipelines from our local voluntary bars, statewide voluntary bar associations, our divisions, our sections, and our government lawyers, increases diversity, equity, and inclusion in our Bar, its leadership, and is critical to our path forward.
Synergy and Collaboration with Voluntary Bars
I grew up in voluntary Bars, serving as President of the Sarasota County Bar (and its YLD) and on The Florida Bar YLD, and understand their vital role. The pandemic confirmed that collaboration between our local and statewide bar associations helps everyone. The way that voluntary bars, sections, and divisions pivoted during the pandemic to organize events and provide resources for their members, is a firsthand account of their success. By collaborating with these groups, providing them additional resources to thrive, and partnering with them on programming, initiatives, and communications, we provide critical support for our members.
We are at a turning point for how the Bar can best serve its members in new, innovative ways. I have a proven track record of leadership, collaboration, and innovation. My work on critical Bar initiatives has resulted in positive, tangible benefits for our members. I will draw on this experience to advocate on behalf of all lawyers for our profession’s improvement, and the expansion of benefits and resources.
I respectfully ask for your vote for President-Elect, so that together, we can improve the Bar and make it an invaluable resource for all. Thank you.