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Jax Daily Record Monday, Nov. 25, 201905:20 AM EST

Florida Bar president visits Jacksonville, shares story of his path to leadership

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John Stewart encourages local attorneys to seek leadership roles.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Florida Bar President John Stewart visited the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association at its meeting on Nov. 14 to share his goals for the state association during his year in office – and to encourage JWLA members to seek leadership roles in the state Bar group.

“If I can do it, you can find a path to do it,” Stewart said.

The son and grandson of attorneys, Stewart said he took two years off after graduating from the College of William & Mary with a degree in public policy.

When he tried to enroll in law school with his two-year-old LSAT, “no law school would accept me,” Stewart said, other than Nova Southeastern University's Shepard Broad Law School.

But that came with a caveat.

“They enrolled me conditionally. I had to go to summer school,” Stewart said.

After graduating and being admitted to the Bar, Stewart said the only job offer he had was to join his father's firm in Vero Beach, his hometown.

He became involved with the Bar's Young Lawyers Division. On a whim, he ran for president and, much to his surprise, was elected.

Stewart then was elected to the Bar board of governors and after 11 years as the 19th Circuit's representative, he was in June sworn in as The Florida Bar's 71st president.

“I've come a long way to say anybody can be Florida Bar president,” Stewart said.

“The key is finding what you like. Hard work is rewarded, but you have to put yourself at some risk and run for office.”

Stewart said he will continue to pursue the Bar's initiatives related to attorney health and wellness and diversity and equality in the profession.

Access to justice also will be part of his platform during his term.

Stewart said about 80 of Floridians can't afford to hire an attorney when they need one, but most don't qualify for civil legal aid.

To aid people who have no choice but to represent themselves in a legal dispute, Stewart said legal form providers to register with The Florida Bar, but only if they offer legal forms that are approved by the state Supreme Court or by a member of the Bar.

In addition, the Florida Courts Help app available at https://flcourts.org offers more than 180 court-approved family law forms that can be filled out on Apple and Android devices, plus links to resources and contact information for self-help centers in every judicial circuit in the state.

“It's a way we can protect the public,” Stewart said.

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