Next month at The Florida Bar’s annual meeting, Jacksonville attorney Michael Fox Orr will be sworn in as president of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”). Orr, a graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law, has served on the YLD’s Board of Governors since 2006. After chairing most of the board’s committees, he will now lead the division.
It promises to be a full-time job; the YLD is responsible for many programs and initiatives.
The division has more than 21,000 members. If you’re an attorney and under the age of 36 or have practiced for less than five years, you’re a member of the YLD. The division was established to encourage young lawyers to participate in Florida Bar activities, and to provide resources to help new lawyers transition into the profession.
Your first introduction to the YLD was probably the Practicing with Professionalism seminar you attended during your first year of practice. The YLD is responsible for administering the program and ensuring that the materials and message remain relevant.
You might also recognize the YLD as the producer of the “Basic Skills” substantive CLE programs that newly admitted lawyers must complete within their first three years of practice. Over the last few years, the YLD has worked to produce Basic Skills CLE programs covering a variety of topics. For example, the programs now cover discovery, criminal practice, trial practice, technology in the legal practice and real property, along with other topics. In addition to the Basic Skills CLE programs, the YLD produces other CLE programs that address issues relevant to young lawyers — often via live-streaming, and often for free.
Of course, providing CLE opportunities is not the YLD’s only business. It also conducts a number of other activities to assist new lawyers. For example, each year the YLD hosts local Bar association members at its Affiliate Outreach Conference.
The conference provides an opportunity for lawyers from around the state to share what service projects they’ve implemented in their communities and exchange ideas about how they can be improved and expanded. At the conference, the YLD provides grants to assist the local Bar organizations develop and sustain their services. Last year, the YLD distributed more than $50,000 in grants to its affiliates.
Locally, The Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section received three grants this year from the YLD to help with its programing. One of those grants went to fund its Holidays in January initiative. Every January, Jacksonville’s young lawyers throw a holiday party for children who were in foster care during the December holidays. This year, the party was held at the Jacksonville Zoo and included face painting and crafts stations. The most memorable part, of course, was when Santa appeared and brought each child a new scooter or bicycle. The YLD’s grant ensured that every kid received a gift from Santa and experienced the warmth and cheer of the holiday season.
To assist new lawyers who may not have access to a mentor in the profession, the YLD has recently developed a video series titled “Mentoring with the Masters” where Bar leaders discuss specific topics relevant to young lawyers and offer practical tips and advice. So far, the videos cover topics such as how to answer a judge’s questions during hearings, e-etiquette, initial interviews and selection of clients, and, how to keep your clients happy.
Lastly, but importantly, the YLD works to promote diversity within the profession. The division sponsors a variety of events throughout the year that highlight the need for diversity and inclusion. And it partners with local Bar associations to support and implement diversity initiatives on a local and state-wide level.
Coordinating these and other activities (the YLD also hosts symposiums, seminars, and even a moot court competition) will certainly take a great deal of time and sacrifice. But devoting time to serving the profession won’t be new to Michael Orr. He has always dedicated a significant amount of his time to activities and groups that aim to improve the legal profession and his community.
Indeed, his being tapped as president of the YLD — he’ll be only the fifth president from our area since 1950 — is a testament to the extraordinary level of service that he’s provided the profession, and a vote of confidence in his ability to lead others in investing their time and talents.
Join me in congratulating Orr for this achievement, and in wishing him the best of luck as he seeks to make the profession better for Florida’s newest lawyers.