In aftermath of Hurricane Irma, lawyers should be proud.
By Tad Delegal
The past few weeks have truly served as a reminder of our profession’s commitment to our community. We started last week by returning to some sense of normality and gearing back up to continue our work as lawyers.
In the meantime, folks like Akerman Managing Partner Christian George and Pro Bono Committee Chair Kathy Para stepped up to help with post-Hurricane Irma pro bono efforts.
Our Jacksonville Bar Association staff, led by our amazing Executive Director Jim Bailey, set up temporary office space, redirected resources, provided free coffee and pastries to our members who visited the Duval County Courthouse and started helping attorneys who were forced to work in temporary space donated by other lawyers and community members.
As you may know, the Jacksonville Bar staff and board worked to keep us updated on Irma-related matters, and to direct resources and pro bono opportunities for our members.
I was privileged to attend two professional events Tuesday and Wednesday immediately after the storm that reinforced pride in our profession.
The Tuesday event, the 18th annual Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Awards, originally set for Sept. 12, was quickly rescheduled for a week later and relocated by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Executive Director Jim Kowalski and his staff at JALA.
The ceremony and dinner honor the service of the many lawyers who have committed themselves to pro bono efforts in our community. U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams delivered a presentation that recounted the history of such efforts in our community. His presentation was truly one of the most moving accounts of Jacksonville’s history of lawyer dedication I could imagine.
He was followed by Sam Jacobson and Bill Sheppard, each of whom was honored for a lifetime of service, and who added to the judge’s history of Jacksonville lawyer service.
Mike Freed was honored for his incredible (if foolhardy) running of too-damned-many marathons in support of JALA, as were the Pajcic & Pajcic firm members for their continued support of JALA. Barry Zisser, Ann Shorstein, the CSX Corp. Law Department, the Smith, Gambrell and Russell law firm, Lisa Dasher and Valerie Faltemier also were honored.
Then on Wednesday, the JBA’s monthly meeting also had moved to another venue, and we heard the very timely presentation given by GrayRobinson Managing Director and Orlando City Attorney Mayanne Downs regarding the handling and response to the Pulse nightclub mass shooting. She explained how attorneys helped address the situation as it unfolded and also dealt with the aftermath.
I want to thank Hank Coxe for helping put together the event, and our terrific staff for salvaging the meeting on the heels of the hurricane.
Many attorneys in our association have stepped forward to assist with hurricane-related pro bono efforts. We are helping to coordinate those efforts, and Kathy Para will continue working diligently with us to identify how Jacksonville lawyers can help.
If you want to get involved, there are many ways to do so, and we have outlined in our email blasts how you can assist our community.
Personally, I have gone from recovering from the shock of the hurricane to a sense of amazement and appreciation for the valuable work that our members provide every day.
We as lawyers should be proud of our profession. We perform more free service to the community than any other profession, and are more represented on civic boards and in community leadership positions than any other professional group.
I also was privileged last week to welcome a new group of lawyers who were sworn in during the same week that we returned from the hurricane. After all the emphasis on pro bono service, 4th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon advised the new lawyers that the JBA does more than just practice law for our clients, and that the association has some social and networking events from time to time.
I am very proud to be your president, and I appreciate your permitting me to represent this great organization to the community. Thank you again for all the great work that each of you do every day.
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