Encouraging professionalism and ethics and boosting mentorship are top priorities for The Florida Bar, said Gary Lesser, the organization’s 2022-23 president.
Lesser spoke to the Jacksonville Bar Association on Aug. 25 at the Marriott Jacksonville Downtown. He also inducted a new member of the JBA board of governors
Lesser is a partner and third-generation lawyer at Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith in West Palm Beach.
To boost ethics training, the one professionalism CLE credit every three years requirement may be increased to a minimum of three credits and the role of local professionalism panels to evaluate and resolve ethics and professionalism issues likely will be enhanced, he said.
The Florida Bar has nearly 111,000 members licensed to practice law in Florida, Lesser said.
Seventy-four percent are in private practice, 15% work for local, state and federal government and 11% practice at legal aid organizations or work in other fields where they do not practice.
Lesser said 60% of members are male, 40% are female.
“That has been consistent over the years. There are more women in law schools and more women taking the Bar exam, but more women are leaving the profession,” Lesser said.
A member survey found that 82% say The Florida Bar should promote mentoring programs to help new attorneys begin their practice.
Lesser said the board of governors plans to introduce a 12-month curriculum for mentors and mentees later this year to address the need, particularly among new attorneys who work in small firms who may not have contact with experienced lawyers who practice in larger firms.
“We have 4,800 members with three years or less experience who work in firms with three or fewer lawyers. Our goal is to enroll 500 members,” Lesser said.
At the meeting, the first of the Bar year, Amber Donley was sworn in as a JBA governor by U.S. District Judge Brian Davis.
Her induction was witnessed by nearly 250 members and guests, the largest attendance at a voluntary Bar group he has spoken to since taking office in July, Lesser said.
Donley was selected unanimously by the JBA board to succeed Lyndsay Tygart Ahmed, who was elected to the 4th Judicial Circuit bench unopposed in the Aug. 23 primary election.
Founder of Donley Law Firm in Orange Park, Donley is chair of the JBA Law Week Committee, vice president of the Three Rivers Legal Services board of directors and a past president of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.