Iris Elijah leads the Young Lawyers Division
Calling her term as president, 'the highest honor of my career,' Elijah promised the YLD Board of Governors that she is 'committed to showing up for you'
YLD President Iris Elijah — described by a mentor as “authentic, brilliant, and charismatic” — vowed at her June 24 swearing in ceremony at the Annual Convention that under her leadership, the division will remain the “workhorse” of The Florida Bar.
“The YLD has always and will continue to thrive where creativity and leadership are necessary,” she said. “And you can expect the same dynamic responsiveness to the needs of young lawyers, in a substantive way, with clear next steps, during my year as president.”
A South Florida lawyer who has served as associate general counsel for Florida International University since 2018, Elijah detailed several initiatives she intends to pursue, including new government lawyer CLEs that focus on retirement and trust accounting; “reimagining” a 2015 Survey on Women in the Legal Profession; strengthening the YLD’s new Council of Affiliates; and a new financial webinar series that includes managing student debt.
Addressing the “next generation of lawyers,” Elijah said her contemporaries are committed to service, unafraid to lead, and “boldly changing society.”
“So many of us are running for elected positions, managing our own law firms, leading our families, dominating non-legal occupations, rising within the ranks of government offices, or even creating disruptive technologies,” she said.
At the same time, young lawyers are rising to meet new challenges, Elijah said.
“We’re also dealing with obstacles no other generation has ever had to overcome, including crippling student debt, stagnant wages, social turmoil, and COVID, just to name a few,” she said.
Born in Ft. McClellan, Alabama, to Army parents, Elijah spent her high school years in Tallahassee before earning an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of South Florida.
A 2011 FIU College of Law graduate and Wm. Reese Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy fellow, Elijah has served on the YLD Board of Governors for seven years while simultaneously serving on various minority and voluntary bar associations, said her friend and mentor, South Florida attorney and former YLD President Juliet Roulhac. Roulhac suggested Elijah apply to the Leadership Academy, and to keep trying after her initial application was rejected.
“She often credits the academy for honing her leadership skills as well as encouraging her and preparing her for this role as president,” Roulhac said. “And prepared she is.”
Roulhac said the two met when Elijah was a second-year law student and assigned to Roulhac in a career shadowing program. Elijah impressed Roulhac’s clients and colleagues, and Roulhac agreed to be her mentor.
“She is a deep thinker, a visionary strategist, and a strong leader,” Roulhac said. “She is also incredibly social, and all of those skills will serve her well to lead the YLD.”
Roulhac said Elijah will be only the second Black YLD president, a distinction that holds a special resonance.
“This is a uniquely special moment for me, as I was the first, exactly 20 years ago to this day, in 2002,” Roulhac said.
Elijah said she is a first-generation lawyer who never knew a lawyer until she attended law school. Discouraged when she couldn’t find a practice area that appealed to her, Elijah said she was considering dropping out — until Roulhac suggested becoming an in-house counsel.
Elijah said she intends to rely heavily on the advice of her friend, YLD President-elect Anisha Patel.
The two became close when they co-chaired the YLD’s Inclusion and Equality Committee and helped create the “#YLDisMe Campaign” that highlights diverse lawyers.
“The president-elect’s most important job is telling the president ‘no,’ or telling the president, ‘Your ideas are not as amazing as they sound,’” Elijah quipped. “And ladies and gentlemen, my president-elect, Anisha Patel, has absolutely no problem keeping me humble.”
Calling her term as president, “the highest honor of my career,” Elijah promised the YLD Board of Governors that she is “committed to showing up for you.”
“Thank you for showing up, yourselves, and for answering the call, and sticking with our mission, and for zealously advocating for young lawyers,” she said. “Now let’s get to work.”