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Departing Board of Governors members have their final say

first_imgDeparting Board of Governors members have their final say Departing Board of Governors members have their final say Gary Blankenship Senior Editor It’s a misconception that may keep some qualified lawyers from seeking to be Bar president, but it is possible to fulfill the Bar’s top job and still practice law, according to immediate past President Miles McGrane.“I did practice law this year. I tried three cases to verdict,” McGrane told the Board of Governors recently. “My billings were 70 percent of what they were last year.”He was speaking at the end of the May 28 board meeting, the last of the 2003-04 Bar year, and a time traditionally reserved for retiring board members and the outgoing Bar president to offer “Comments for the Good of the Order.”Speakers typically talk about friendships and camaraderie on the board, but they also make suggestions for improving the Bar.McGrane said he wanted to debunk the myth that the presidents and president-elects must devote full time to their Bar duties, with no time left over to tend to their practices — something he said prevents many lawyers from seeking to lead the Bar.The secret, he said, is to “trust the staff. They’re not going to mislead you. Let them do their job, delegate, and you can still practice law.. . . You can do both, and I encourage it.”Bar Executive Director John F. Harkness, Jr., gave some perspective to the service on the 52-member board. Noting most of the outgoing board members had served for four years, he said they had served with 81 different board members, and the Bar had grown by 7,000 lawyers during their tenures.On a more solemn note, they had presided over the discipline of more than 1,200 lawyers, Harkness said.Board member Louis Kwall said he never imagined he would have a chance to be a Bar leader, and he enjoyed his time on the board. He said his biggest disappointment was the inability of the Bar to provide free legal research to all of its members when plans for a free Web portal fell through.Such a service, he said, would help the young and diverse lawyers entering the Bar, many of whom can’t get jobs with big firms and practice on their own or in small firms.And on diversity, Kwall noted he recently spoke at a swearing in ceremony for new Bar members at the Second District Court of Appeal, and over half of the new lawyers were women and minorities.“Boys, get ready, it’s coming and it’s unstoppable,” Kwall said. “These are fantastic young people and they are going to enhance the Bar. It’s time for us individually not to talk about it but to do something. I would call on each of you in the coming year to do one thing to enhance diversity. There are so many things you can do to let our minority lawyers know they are welcome in the Bar.”YLD President Mark Romance likened his past year to a ride at Disney World — fast, furious, sometimes in the dark, and over almost before he knew it. And what’s next for him?“The ride still is open,” he said. “You walk around and get back in line and get back on that ride. I intend to get back in line in Dade County and do what it takes to get back on this ride.”He asked the board always to remember that the YLD Board of Governors is a source whenever the Bar faces a challenge or needs a job done.“This is a group of people who goes to the meetings and gets on this board to do work,” Romance said. “They are really there to be involved and do good things.”Public board member Vivian Hobbs noted her service started four years ago at a critical time in her life, as she was dealing with the recent death of her husband of 29 years and worn down by teaching at Florida A&M University.Her four years were marked by a vigorous participation in board activities, including membership on its committees (she chaired the Rules Committee for the 2003-04 Bar year) and in its debates. But more important, Hobbs said, were the friends she made.“I’ve done four wonderful years. I have met outstanding legal minds,” she said, adding with characteristic verve that she expects to be well represented in any future legal entanglements. “All of you are my attorneys, remember that,” she said.Board member David Bianchi praised the high level of debate and courtesy on the board, and said those qualities can help in the vital goal of remaining germane to the Bar’s 73,000 members.“The problems now are not the same as they were two years ago or 10 years ago, or as they will be in 10 years,” he said. “I think the trick is to figure out what you need to do to remain relevant to the rank-and-file membership. The board needs to be the body that thinks about where the practice of law is going and what we can do.”One of those challenges, he said, will be to improve education for state legislators about the legal system. Bianchi said a committee should be set up where each member of the legislature would be assigned two lawyers who know that lawmaker well, and can serve as contacts to provide information about Bar- and court-related issues.He also called for more outreach to clients who have been harmed by lawyers, saying the board could invite those who have filed successful grievances or gotten payments from the Clients Security Fund to board meetings. “We should apologize to them in person for getting ripped off,” Bianchi said. “We should stand here and look them in the eye and apologize to them. The doctors in some states have figured out the best way to reduce malpractice cases is to walk in the next day and apologize. They have found out that lawsuits drop dramatically.”Board member Don Horn said like Kwall, he never assumed he would have a leadership position in the Bar. “It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience to work with some of the best lawyers in this country,” he said.That was underscored, he said, by the way he found out he lost his reelection campaign. After being out of town on business, Horn said he was going through back e-mails, the most recent first, when he began getting messages offering sympathy and condolences before he got to the notice that he had lost the election.“That was probably the best way for me to find out,” Horn said. “It brought to mind the camaraderie that we have on this board and the family that gets created for those who serve on this board.”Board member Mike Kranz noted that the vigorous debates without acrimony or hard feelings are a strength of the board.“Continue to be passionate,” he said. “Some people really get passionate about issues. I’m not the best about doing that, but I’m really pleased that some board members do. We need to look to change to remain relevant.”One change that should be pursued is improving diversity on the board. Kranz said it was “embarrassing” that Horn was the first African-American male elected to the board. He urged board members to actively seek out minorities and encourage them to get involved in Bar work.“That means talking to them and telling them what a great opportunity it is,” Kranz said.President McGrane, who closed the session, concurred in Kranz’s suggestions. “We need to encourage minorities to come along in leadership roles,” he said. “I’ve already reached out to an African American lawyer in Miami-Dade County and told him whether he likes it or not, I’m going to become his mentor.“It’s for the good of the individual; it’s for the good of the Bar; it’s for the good of society.”McGrane also urged board members “to keep your passion. This group is a lively group, but the interesting thing is no matter how lively the debate, we always leave here as friends.“This is a great day to be a Florida lawyer,” he concluded. “I’m proud to be one. You should be, too.” July 1, 2004 Senior Editor Regular Newslast_img read more

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