The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

March 1, 2024 Letters

Letters

Mentoring

I agree that training and mentoring are vital to an inexperienced lawyer. The issue, however, is how that training and mentoring can be effectively provided.
President-elect Designate Sia Baker-Barnes, as I did, had the advantage of working at a firm with experienced, capable lawyers. But that model is becoming an anachronism. More than 20% of law school graduates admitted to the Bar cannot find work in firms or the equivalent, where they could receive training. Many, instead, choose to open solo private practices. They hold themselves out, dangerously, to the general public, as providing a wide range of legal services. The public is then duped into believing, that because these individuals are licensed, they have the requisite skill set to do the work. They do not, of course. The public is victimized, and the reputation of lawyers further diminished.

Two solutions exist to this problem. The first is for all trial judges in the state to have a list of experienced lawyers, who are willing to provide mentoring services to new lawyers. I have witnessed multiple instances of judges, in open court, losing patience with ill-trained lawyers. Such a circumstance does nothing to solve the problem. If the policy were, that all judges, when they perceived a lack of competence, could order the lawyer into the hands of another lawyer with the capacity to provide guidance, the situation would be much improved.

The second solution is to extend CLE credit to lawyers who provide out-of-firm mentoring. Botching an opening statement is not where inexperienced lawyers get into trouble with the Bar. They get into trouble, for instance, when they accept retainers for work that they do not have the skills to manage or when they fail to communicate clearly and regularly with clients. If experienced lawyers were incentivized with CLE credit for the mentoring they provide, more would provide that mentoring and some progress toward resolving a growing apocalypse avoided.

J. Atwood Taylor III
Nashville

Alberto Gonzales

The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society’s yearly banquet (where you can bank on wit) on January 18 had Alberto Gonzales, former Attorney General of the United States, sitting with Florida Supreme Court Justice John Couriel for a chin-up chin-wag where no man (or woman) wore chinos.

What was the purpose and pertinence of having a polite pow wow with a man who was our nation’s top legal practitioner so long ago? The appealing compendium posted online on January 24 can produce a plethora of particular posits.

What can one glean from the excellent article? Several things, one being (through some of Justice Couriel’s questions and Mr. Attorney General’s answers mainly pertaining to the AG’s parents and ex-POTUS Bush) five things most Americans want in a politician and in those on the politician’s team were inadvertently (?) uttered during the innocuous exchange.

The five things most Americans want in a politician and in those on the politician’s team are key ingredients in the formula to achieve victory in this year’s presidential election, i.e., affectionately labeled Alberto’s V05:

(1) Being “very consistent” with what matters, which includes but is not limited to (2) being at least “average in terms of no pretenses;” (3) having “strong faith” through a “belief in God;” (4) conveying “a great sense of hope and idealism and gratitude for this country;” and (5) simply “showing up, being responsible” and “doing your job.”

Jeff Boston
Rockledge

Diversity

Having served as chair of both the Equal Opportunities in Law Committee and Section, I note the sad irony that as The Florida Bar is on the verge of having its first African-American woman president, we have abolished a successor to EOL, known as the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

I first joined the EOL as part of the effort I began in 1988, to further the mission of Virgil Hawkins, Florida’s civil rights pioneer whose sacrifice desegregated the University of Florida College of Law. During decades of service both as a member and chair of the committee and section, I can attest that our members never sought or fostered exclusion, but sought instead to expand the professions’ knowledge of the challenges of the many diverse segments of our profession and its efforts to serve those who appear in Florida courtrooms.

Forty-five years ago, I began my work in our profession by directing the Marion County Legal Aid program. As Black clients and I entered the Ocala courthouse, I became aware of the message sent by the monument honoring Confederate soldiers that stood at the entrance to our courthouse. My understanding of the needs and access issues of those using our courts expanded during my work on our committee. Those individuals included many who due to mobility and other physical limitations experienced unique challenges to their access to our courts. I became familiar with lawyers from the vast number of ethnic groups and nationalities whose efforts to serve their communities held language and other distinct challenges I was unaware of.

While the current attack on diversity initiatives may have led to the demise of this committee, the challenges of Bar diversity remain. It remains my hope that lawyers who recognize the need for our courts and legal profession to be more inclusive and accessible will find the means to continue the hard work of those lawyers that I was honored to serve with. The vital mission of the legal profession to seek equal justice under the law to all who seek justice, will always remain a work in progress.

Harley Herman
Plant City

More Fine Print

The recent excellent letter from Bruce Hoffman recounting some of his experiences with the sometimes outrageous “fine print” foisted on the unsuspecting (even lawyers), reminded me of a couple of similar situations of my own.

I tried to book a meeting room in a quasi-public mill building to hold a gathering of an organization, for which the venue sent a contract to sign. Their contract contained a broad indemnification of the venue owner/operator, a requirement to furnish a million dollar liability policy, and a personal guaranty of the contract by whoever was submitting it (i.e., me). Obviously, I did not sign the agreement and found another venue.

As our population ages, more of us end up having to use a CPAP machine when they go to sleep. When it came time for my own machine’s replacement, I contacted the national vendor from whom I had obtained the original machine, and they jumped at the chance to sell another machine. When I went to pick it up, they asked me to sign their “standard” contract set out on a tablet. Although I suspect they did not think I would read it before signing, I did read it and noticed that it contained a provision that if my insurance did not cover their charges, I would pay — no problem there. But it went on to grant a security interest in “all my property” to secure performance of my payment obligation. Presumably they could perfect under the UCC without my signature. So, I did not sign and found another vendor without such onerous conditions.
Hoffman blames the phenomenon on lazy contract administrators drafting the documents, but since this is a Bar publication primarily for lawyers, I respectfully suggest that these are usually examples of over lawyering. If you have practiced law for long enough, I believe you will have seen situations of over lawyering in documentation in all sorts of situations. The concept of fairness to, and evenhanded treatment of, the other side seems to have fallen by the way.

Norman J. Silber
Gilford, New Hampshire

News in Photos

Columns

Be An Encouraging Lawyer

Columns | Jul 08, 2024

Warning signs of mental Illness

Columns | Jul 03, 2024

Mindfulness, errors and omissions of attention

Columns | Jul 01, 2024

Be a Judicial Lawyer

Columns | Jun 05, 2024