Gwynne Young recently emerged as the winner of a three-way race, the first in 25 years, to become the president-elect of The Florida Bar.
The next state leader for the legal profession discussed some of the issues facing the practice of law with members of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association during its Thursday meeting.
Young is a shareholder with the firm of Carlton Fields in Tampa where she focuses on complex state and federal litigation.
“I now have tremendous respect for anyone that runs for public office because it’s just flat hard. But at the end you feel good about it because you know you worked hard to do it,” said Young.
During her term as president-elect, Young has been traveling the state to meet with legal organizations. She said the most common questions she has been asked are “what are you going to do next year?” and “what are your focus areas going to be?”
She explained that the objectives of the Bar do not change with each incoming president.
“We have a very well thought-out strategic plan and we function under that strategic plan. Each year we tweak that plan, but about 12-13 years ago we put this process in place because we really felt that the Bar should have ongoing objectives that it is working on. It is more effective to have that continuity as opposed to have each president come in with some new focus every year,” said Young.
Leading the strategic plan is ensuring that there is an adequate source of funding for the courts. Another objective is maintaining access to the courts for the poor.
“This is a critical problem for our country. The Florida Bar Foundation is the primary grant making organization to our local legal aid providers and it was primarily funded through the Interest on Trust Accounts program,” said Young.
Falling interest rates have been devastating to the fund, she said.
“The Interest on Trust Accounts income has dried up and until interest rates improve that is not going to get any better,” she said.
She reported that The Florida Bar Foundation’s income has dropped about 88 percent.
“They’ve used their reserves to keep programing going, but we are in the position where many local legal aid providers and The Florida Bar Foundation are very cash-strapped. This is going to lead to, in some instances, staff layoffs and cuts in programing,” said Young.
The issue is one Young will continue to focus on.
“One of the things that I really am trying to make a focus is really trying to encourage people to become more aware of what’s happening and perhaps take the time and dig into your pockets and make a donation to The Florida Bar Foundation and your local legal services providers. It’s really a critical time,” said Young.