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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 29, 202005:10 AM EST

The Marbut Report: JBA holds first in-person meeting since January

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Keynote speaker FSU College of Law Dean Erin O’Connor O’Hara says the pandemic is changing students.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

In its first in-person membership meeting since January, the Jacksonville Bar Association held lunch and a program Oct. 22 at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel.

About 100 members and guests gathered in the hotel’s main ballroom that was set up for social distancing, with tables set farther apart and with fewer seats.

The keynote speaker, Florida State College of Law Dean Erin O’Connor O’Hara, spoke via Zoom from Tallahassee.

She said the pandemic shutdown first impacted the law school when FSU postponed the start of summer classes for two weeks because so many students traveled off campus for spring break and university officials wanted to determine if any had contracted the coronavirus.

The university, like the rest of society, dealt with adapting overnight to social distancing, wearing masks in congregate spaces and doing business in new ways, including many law school classes shifting to online learning.

O’Hara said students entered law school believing that being smart and working hard could propel them to any goal. 

The pandemic demonstrated that events could change that and COVID-19 was out of anyone’s control.

“It’s been a tough year. Students had to grapple with fundamental uncertainty,” O’Hara said.

The lessons learned from the pandemic, such as depending more on themselves than their professors, will change the way lawyers of the future work and represent clients, she said.

“Post-COVID students will be more independent. They had to figure out how to teach themselves. The post-COVIDs are taking ownership of their careers,” O’Hara said.

When they enter the workforce after graduating from law school and passing the Bar exam, new attorneys will be less inclined to continue previous workplace practices. That will be particularly true of racial equity and other social issues, as well as work habits, O’Hara told the group of mostly law firm owners and managers.

“In your workplace, there will be questions asked that wouldn’t have been asked before by a first-year associate. They’ll reject the status quo. There will be greater willingness to change traditions,” O’Hara said.

Don’t expect post-COVID first-year lawyers to spend 12-14 hours, five days a week, in the office after attending law school online.

“The go-getters will still be the go-getters, but they’d rather work at home with their dog and their snacks,” O’Hara said.

JBA President Michelle Bedoya Barnett said the association is “acutely aware” of the challenges facing law students and young attorneys.

“We have the resources to help.”

Jacquot joins Gunster

Joe Jacquot joined Gunster as a business litigation shareholder in the law firm’s Jacksonville and Tallahassee offices.

Joe Jacquot

Jacquot was the general counsel to Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

His practice at Gunster will be representing clients in state matters involving litigation and appellate work, as well as counseling companies in regulatory issues.

As the governor’s general counsel, Jacquot was responsible for all litigation and legal matters of the governor and state executive agencies. 

Jacquot received his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and his law degree at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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