It is exciting to begin this new bar year, particularly during this time of transition as we welcome many new Section members to our Executive Council from varied practice areas in and out of state, including young lawyers. Our Section continues to grow at a record pace, no doubt due to the many benefits that we provide our membership.
Our CLE program is robust and cutting-edge, with virtual seminars already scheduled on varied topics such as the use of artificial intelligence in our practices, attorneys as medical marijuana patients, avoiding ethical pitfalls and disciplinary actions, employment law issues, and mental health and wellness. The Section will continue to offer our members free one-credit Wednesday Wisdom zoom webinars that are held at lunchtime. These webinars remain available on demand on the Section’s members’ only Facebook page. We are grateful to our CLE Committee Co-Chairs, Paige Greenlee of Tampa and Stephanie Cagnet Myron of West Palm Beach, for their hard work, as well as our CLE Program Consultant, Linda Calvert Hanson.
We look forward to the virtual Annual Ethics and Professionalism Update seminar scheduled for October 27, 2023, which is being planned by Co-Chairs Michelle Gilbert and Bill Curphey, as well as the annual virtual Solo & Small Firm Conference scheduled for February 23, 2024, which provides valuable insights on technology and business management, and is being planned by Stephanie Cagnet Myron and Camara Williams. Of course, our CLE program would not be complete without our annual live Florida Law Update that will take place at the Florida Bar’s Annual Convention in 2024 and is being planned by Chair Judge Jennifer Kuyrkendall Griffin and Vice-Chair Michelle Adams Gumula. Be on the lookout later this year for the announcement of the location for our 2024 Out-of-Country CLE trip.
The growing use of artificial intelligence and its impact on solo and small firm practitioners has led me to create a Technology Committee, which will be led by Chair Liz McCausland of Orlando. The committee will provide regular education and programming to our members on the use of technology in their practice. This education will focus on:
- Helping members use technology to efficiently run their practices.
- Maintaining a technology plan that aligns with their professional responsibilities.
- Making sure both they and their staff maintain technological competencies.
- Emerging technology and how to utilize it ethically in our members’ practices.
- Cyber security for our members and their practices.
The committee will also focus on assessing the technological needs of the section and make recommendations as needed. Liz will also represent our Section as an appointed member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors.
The Mentoring Committee is another new committee for our Section. The committee will be led by Chair Zack Zuroweste, who served this past year as the Co-Chair of The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Mentoring New Lawyers, which became a Standing Committee and spearheaded the creation of the just launched Counsel to Counsel mentorship program facilitated virtually through the MentorcliQ software. The Counsel to Counsel mentorship program aims to mentor lawyers admitted to the Florida Bar in the past three years and currently working at a law firm with three or fewer lawyers. We look forward to Zack’s innovative leadership and welcome him to our Executive Council.
The Section continues to support legal aid and pro bono programs through its annual Pro Bono Awards, which recognize the organizations within the state that put together the best pro bono service program during the past year. The Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association nominates five programs for consideration. The Section’s Pro Bono Awards Committee selects three finalists, one of whom is named the winner and receives $4,000, while two other finalists receive $2,000 each. Our Secretary, John Maceluch, will continue serving as Chair of the committee and Chrissy Davis will serve as Vice-Chair.
Our Outreach and Expansion Committee will be led by our Chair-Elect Renee Thompson, who will continue our Section’s efforts to increase our membership and boost member involvement in our events and the leadership of our Section. To that end, the Section is a sponsor of the 2023 Voluntary Bar Leaders Conference and will be holding its first joint meeting with the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) during the Section’s Long Range Planning Conference scheduled to be held on April 12 and 13, 2024 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We thank YLD President Anisha Patel for the opportunity to have this joint meeting, as well as our YLD liaison, Rebekah Taylor.
I encourage solo and small firm practitioners interested in learning more about the Section to reach out to an Executive Council member or committee chair. There has never been a better time to join the Section and get involved. Volunteering to speak at our seminars and submitting articles for publication are just a couple of ways to become involved in Section leadership and network with other members. Throughout the year, the Section provides its members with opportunities to publish articles that are circulated to the Section membership via The LINK – the Section’s newsletter that is published three times a year on a variety of topics– and QuickLINK – the Section’s biweekly newsletter that provides tips on technology and business management, and updates on Section events. We thank our Publications Committee Chair Michelle Gilbert for continuing in her role as Chair, notwithstanding her added responsibilities as our Treasurer, as well as our new Vice-Chair Megan Murray.
The work of our Section would not be complete without the continued leadership of Priscilla Horn who has served for many years as Chair of the Affiliate Outreach Committee and CLA Representative & Paralegal Liaison. Our membership has affiliate members that include law professors, Florida law school students, and Florida legal assistants and legal administrators. Dr. Michael Olexa, a Professor of Agricultural Law at the University of Florida and Director of its Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law, is a past Chair of the Section and we thank him for his continued service as Chair of the Agriculture Law Committee.
Lastly, I would like to thank our 2022-2023 Section Sponsors: Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, ElderCounsel LLC, Clio, Aligned CPA LLC, Quantum Cyber Security & Investigations Inc., TitleTap, and Florida Appeals, for supporting our Section. We hope to be able to continue working with them this bar year. We are thankful to our new Sponsorship Committee Chair, Rebekah Taylor, for her willingness to step up to this important position, as well as our Public Relations and Communications Consultant, Lisa Tipton, for ensuring our sponsorship program runs smoothly.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as your Section Chair and look forward to an amazing and innovative year!
Cristina Alonso, 2023-2024 Chair
Solo & Small Firm Section of The Florida Bar