by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
A gathering of past presidents of The Florida Bar from Jacksonville and members of The Jacksonville Bar Association heard current Florida Bar President Mayanne Downs urge them to help improve the image of the legal society Wednesday.
Downs was the featured speaker at The Jacksonville Bar Association monthly luncheon at the Hyatt. She was joined at the head table by immediate past President Jesse Diner and past presidents from Jacksonville James Rinaman, Rutledge “Rut” Liles, John DeVault, Howard Coker and Henry “Hank” Coxe.
Also at the head table was her presenter, Florida Bar Board of Governors member Jake Schickel, who is a candidate for president-elect of The Florida Bar. Schickel talked about some of the guiding influences in Downs’ life.
“She is grounded in what she calls her ‘rules of life,’” said Schickel. “There are 15 of them, and several of them caught my eye as I was looking through them today. One, always remember the three R’s: Respect for self, respect for others, and responsibility for all your actions,” he said. “Learn the rules and follow them.”
Also, he said, “The last one is, develop guiding principles for your life and check them frequently. Mayanne has and she has done a great job as she will do as our president of the Florida Bar,” said Schickel.
Downs quoted Helen Keller in relating how she can make a difference in improving the image of attorneys.
“My favorite quote of hers is ‘I am only one, but still I am one. I can not do everything, but still I can do something. Because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do,’” said Downs. “So what is it that I can do to further this profession that I love so very dearly.”
Downs detailed the role of The Florida Bar, which includes ensuring proper funding for judiciary.
“It is a bulwark for what we do and we cannot operate without it,” said Downs.
The foreclosure crisis was also discussed as a priority for The Bar.
“There is a pending backlog that threatens to go well over 425,000 cases,” said Downs. “Mediation programs are being put in place and we are starting to see some processing of those extraordinary burdens that our courts have been having to operate under while still handling the regular caseload.”
Technology is another priority during Downs’ term as president.
“I want to explore, investigate, educate and, when appropriate, advocate, for effective and efficient uses of technology,” said Downs. “Our website has become an extraordinary tool. We are up to millions and millions of hits a month. We are going to be rolling out a new website in January. The goal is to make it a great tool for people to access.”