Presidential Perspectives: John W. Frost II —1996-97
As part of a project to document the history of The Florida Bar, the former presidents were asked to comment on the same three questions. In this series, the News will share their answers, some of which were edited or condensed.
Q: How would you like to be remembered as a lawyer and a former Bar president?
Frost: Professionalism was the heart of my term as Bar president. On July 19, 1996, about a month after my being sworn in as president, the Florida Supreme Court created the Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. The mission of the commission was to promote the fundamental ideals and values of justice within the legal system and to instill those ideals of character, civility, confidence, and commitment in all those persons serving therein.
A statewide commission was appointed, comprised of judges, deans of Florida law schools, and lawyers. These men and women spread professionalism ideals and importance, emphasizing the need for professional ethics in a fast growing and increasingly competitive profession.
Since then, The Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism was established, as was a Standing Committee on Professionalism with full-time Bar staff charged with running the center.
There is still a need today for lawyers to approach fellow professionals with respect and avoid “Rambo” tactics. When each of us treat opposing lawyers and their clients in such a way that the public sees us as dedicated advocates, but courteous professionals, we can be known as advocates who do not need to stoop to rude and condescending behavior to win. I would hope my term as president would be remembered as having campaigned for a brand of professionalism that can make the practice of law fun again.
Q: How do you think the legal profession has changed over the years?
Frost: Through the years, the practice of law has, sadly, transferred from a “calling” to a business. I believe lawyer advertising has cheapened the public’s perception of lawyers. Technology (emails, text messages, etc.) has eliminated time to think and replaced that thoughtful time with the implied requirement for immediate reaction. During my presidency (1996-97), the play and film, “The Lion King,” was all the rage. I borrowed from one of its songs, and still believe in the importance of its sentiment. We, as lawyers, even in these fast-paced, technologically complex and highly-competitive times, “should never take more than we give.”
Q: What suggestions do you have for improving the profession or for young lawyers?
Frost: Young lawyers need to recognize that the practice of law is a privilege that comes with some definite, and sometimes heavy, responsibility. It is more than a way to make a living; to do it right takes very hard work. There can be no shortcuts to giving the kind of service that honors the law and takes serious-minded care of the client. All lawyers need to offer our professional skill and professional conduct — not only to our clients, but to our communities and the rule of law.
In order to improve our profession, all lawyers must become more community minded, and dedicated to performing as ethical and idealistic parts of a vital American legal system.