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Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy promotes Bar involvement

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Academy class applications will be available December 2

Leadership Academy fellow/Brandon McMullens, BMMB Productions

LEADERSHIP ACADEMY FELLOWS heard from Bar President-elect Dori Foster-Morales when they met at the Bar’s Fall Meeting in Tampa. Foster-Morales encouraged the program’s graduates to become even more involved in the work of the Bar.

Launched in 2014 with a goal of promoting a more diverse and inclusive leadership in The Florida Bar, the Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy is about to claim more than 300 graduates.

At the Bar’s Fall meeting in Tampa, President-elect Dori Foster-Morales urged the Leadership Academy Committee to encourage the program’s graduates to become even more involved in the work of the Bar.

“I got my start doing section work,” Foster-Morales said. “I know the sections want to be more diverse, and I think that’s going to happen as we get more fellows involved, because the whole academy is more diverse.”

To promote greater involvement in the Bar, Leadership Academy Class VI released a short video ( titled “Leadership Academy: Making the Most of Your Membership with The Florida Bar,” where Bar leaders tout the benefits of Bar section and committee work.

With 21 sections and more than 70 committees, President John Stewart notes on the video that there is a place for everyone within the Bar, and that Bar service is a great way not only to advance the profession, but also knowledge of your practice area.

“I learned early as a young lawyer that your involvement in the legal community is more than just a walk from your office to the courthouse and back,” said former President Michelle Suskauer. She said getting involved in the work of the Bar is a great way to get started and give back to the profession and the community.

Immediate past Young Lawyers Division President Christian George said he knows it can be intimidating to get started in Bar work, but the effort is well worth it. George said on the way to his first Bar meeting, he was apprehensive because he was not going to know anyone there. Yet, the first person he met turned out to become one of his best friends.

“I’m not saying that is going to happen to everybody, but trust me, lawyers who are involved in these organizations want to see you,” George said. “They need you. They need new members; they need active members.”

Former Bar President Eugene Pettis says it’s a misconception that lawyers don’t have time for Bar work.

“Every committee doesn’t require extensive amounts of time,” said Pettis, noting some committees only meet a few times per year and technological advances have made it easier for committee members to stay in contact with each other.

“You can find a committee that has the demand level that meets your schedule,” he said.

Bar Executive Director Josh Doyle said Bar work can help lawyers grow personally and professionally and assists them in becoming better leaders in their communities.

The Bar will be accepting applications for the 2020-21 Leadership Academy Class beginning December 2. The academy is open to all Florida Bar members who are in good standing. To achieve diversity among the participants, the Leadership Academy seeks qualified individuals from different backgrounds, large and small law firms, the private and public sectors, different practice areas, and different areas of the state. To be considered, submit your application on or before January 15, 2020, by 5:30 p.m.

The annual committee preference form for Bar members seeking appointments for the term of President-elect Foster-Morales will be available beginning December 1 and will be posted on the Bar’s website.

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