The Akerman managing partner says it’s time for a vacation.
When Christian George becomes the immediate past president of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division on Friday morning at the Bar’s annual convention in Boca Raton, it will mark the end of his three years of leadership in the statewide and local young attorneys organizations.
George, managing partner of the Akerman law firm’s office in Jacksonville, was president of the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section in 2016-17.
He transitioned the following year to president-elect of The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and took office as YLD president for the 2018-19 Bar year.
“It has been a lot of fun, a lot of work and very rewarding. It’s a lot of work, but I’d definitely do it again,” George said.
One of the division’s initiatives in the past year was a campaign to promote health and wellness and remove the stigma attorneys might expect to encounter when they are deciding to seek help for issues such as stress, depression or alcohol or drug abuse.
George, 36, said he set the tone for the campaign as soon as he assumed leadership of the statewide organization.
“When I accepted the presidency, I admitted that I see a mental health therapist once a month. That doesn’t mean I’m not well. It actually makes me a better lawyer and a better person,” he said.
One of the initiative’s elements is what George calls the “pillar videos” — a web-based collection of testimonials from attorneys who have successfully overcome mental health issues like extreme work-related stress or substance dependency.
“Hundreds of people called me to say how they had helped them. I know we made a difference:
“They were an international hit. I got a call from Spain. An organization wants to put subtitles on them and send them around to their Bar,” George said.
An initiative that began the past year is promoting financial literacy among potential law students.
“They need to realize that student loan debt is a problem in our industry,” George said.
According to a survey of YLD members published in January, the median student loan debt for Florida lawyers under age 36 or in practice for fewer than five years is $150,000. The median income for the group is about $70,000 and 77% have student loan debt.
The survey also indicated that 55% of young lawyers work 50 or more hours a week and 21% reported working 60 or more hours each week.
The bottom line: Only 38 percent of young lawyers said that if they knew then what they know now, they would apply to law school.
Thirty-two percent responded “maybe” and 30% said they would not enter law school, based on their post-graduation experience.
“That’s kind of alarming,” George said.
As he leaves three years of front-line leadership. George said he’s looking forward to being able to focus on growing Akerman’s client base in Jacksonville and he was reelected in May to the JBA board of governors.
He’s planning a vacation with his wife, Whitney, an assistant professor in Jacksonville University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.
“As YLD president, I was traveling 100 days last year. She sacrificed more than anyone,” George said.
“I’ll also be able to catch up on some sleep,” he added.