President’s Message: Deborah FitzGerald

August 14th, 2012

Deborah Poore FitzGerald

Thank you so very much for the honor and privilege of serving as your President for the year 2012-13.  The Broward County Bar Association is the third largest bar association in the State,  behind only Dade and Orange Counties.  We have nearly 2,500 members and are growing.  My goal as your President is quite simple, to work with each of you this year to make the Association more vibrant and relevant than when I started.

Those of you who attended the Installation Dinner on June 27, 2012, know what a memorable evening it was as we recognized departing Board members and installed our new Board and Officers.  Awards were presented for outstanding service to our Association.  And the highlight of the evening was recognizing  the recipients of  the most prestigious awards given each year, the Stephen Booher Award to Judge Jane Fishman, the Joe Carter Award to Andrea Gunderson, the YLS Paul May Award to David Hirschberg, and the Lynn Futch Award to Eugene Pettis.  (A complete list of award recipients appears elsewhere in the Barrister).   And, we did all of that and more and concluded at 8:30 p.m. through the efforts of our outgoing President Jordana Goldstein.

I want to give special thanks and recognition to our out-going president, Jordana, who also previously served as president of the YLS.  Jordana is passionate about this Association and her passion is infectious.  In these and other positions she has held, Jordana has always brought enthusiasm and energy to every issue and led in the implementation of many new initiatives.

The August and November elections are an important time for our Judiciary and for our profession.  Every two years, a number of our trial judges run for re-election and appellate judges stand for merit retention.  We continue to see contested elections against incumbent trial judges although certainly not in the numbers we saw in 2010.  Three of our distinguished trial judges have drawn opposition this year.   Additionally, there are renewed attacks by special interest groups against the three Supreme Court justices up for merit retention.

Debate continues about Florida’s method of selecting our judiciary.  Trial judges are elected with the exception of appointments and vacancies.  Appellate judges are initially appointed through the nomination process but thereafter must be considered for continuation in office ‘on merit’ in uncontested elections.  As late as 2000, voters had the chance to extend the current system of merit selection and retention in place for appellate court judges to trial judges in their local circuit and county courts.  The measure was rejected everywhere in the State.

What is not in debate is the need of our profession to take part in judicial elections/merit retention.   At this year’s Law Day luncheon, former Supreme Court Justice Cantero urged attendees to be ‘ambassadors’ for our Judiciary.  As an English major, I thought ‘ambassador’ was an interesting word to use in this context so I ‘Googled’ the definition and one of the meanings is ‘somebody or something regarded as an unofficial representative or a symbol of something.’

Each member of our profession should assume the role of ‘ambassador’ for our Judiciary.  We are in the best position to know the importance of an independent Judiciary and the attributes and qualifications of our judges.

Your Association leads in the education of voters by sponsoring judicial forums.  One was conducted with other voluntary bars last month for trial judge candidates.  However more needs to be done and that responsibility rests with each of us.  Our Judiciary is limited in their ability to speak for themselves.

We must take every opportunity to speak to civic groups, family, friends, and neighbors. We must inform voters that merit retention and, indeed, re-elections are not to be a referendum on a single ruling or opinion but designed to let voters remove judges who prove somehow unfit for office. And, importantly, we must lead by example by being informed and exercising our right to vote.

The stakes are high.  We cannot allow judicial elections to be influenced by the sound of one’s last name, reasons irrelevant to a candidate’s qualifications, or special interest groups. As for the latter, the influence of special interest groups can result in intimidation of the Judiciary.  Judges can risk losing their seats if their decisions are not in keeping with the positions of these narrow interest groups.

There are many statements about the importance of an independent Judiciary but one that struck a chord with me was by Andrew Jackson who said: “All the rights secured to the citizens under the Constitution are worth nothing, and a mere bubble, except guaranteed to them by an independent and virtuous Judiciary.”

Broward County Bar Association Promotes Public Education of Judicial Races

August 8th, 2012

Part of the mission of the Broward County Bar Association (BCBA) is to educate the citizens of Broward County on their legal rights and to provide necessary legal services to Broward County’s residents. With this said, the BCBA, in conjunction with BECON TV, the Instructional Television Station of the Broward County School Board, has made available for Internet viewing and/or downloading a series of video interviews with candidates seeking election to the Broward County Court Bench and Circuit Court Bench. 

To view the interviews, go to www.browardbar.org/judicial-candidates-video/ and watch them on your computer. These links will be posted on the BCBA Website until the August 14th primary election.   Interviews were conducted by Frank Loconto, host of the CountyLine program.   Please share the links with your clients, neighbors and colleagues.  Special thanks to the staff of BECON TV and Frank and Phyllis Loconto for their support of this project.

For more information about the Broward County Bar Association, visit our website at www.browardbar.org.

The way law firms are run has changed radically

June 19th, 2012

By Deborah C. España
Daily Business Review/6-18-12

Kenneth Colbert began his career in 1987 when computers with orange screens were the size of small cars, secretaries used electric typewriters and snail mail was the way to go. Law firms often had two or three receptionists to handle the switchboard, secretaries took dictation and each lawyer had a secretary.

Colbert, chief financial officer of Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Pastoriza, Cole & Boniske in Fort Lauderdale, has seen plenty of changes since he began his career, not only in equipment but in business models. Back then Colbert had to wear different hats. Sometimes he had to be an office manager, a human resources manager, an administrator and an accountant. Today, Colbert is one of two office managers at Weiss Serota, He has a strategic development committee, an administrative team that handles human resources and an outsourced information technology department that is supervised by two partners.

“Because technology has advanced so quickly in the last 20 years, the mechanics of running an office have changed,” he said. “Now you have to have a working knowledge of VoIP phone systems that run through the Internet, PCs, human resources departments, 401(k)s, escalation of office product pricing, and no one ever thought of iPhones, iPads or iCloud as additional devices one would be using during their normal day’s work.”

Business models in today’s world have changed from a paper-oriented environment that used liquid paper and carbon copies to a fully computerized and electronic world, said Lisa Dasher, chief financial officer with Wicker, Smith, O’Hara, McCoy & Ford in Coral Gables.

“We have more responsibilities and need to be more knowledgeable with regards to law firm operations. Advances in legal industry technology dictate what you need to do in order to be competitive,” said Mario Rumasuglia, director of administration with Berger Singerman. “Things change quickly, and we have to adapt in order to compete with larger firms with more substantial budgets.”

Competing with the big boys has become harder than it was in the 1980s.

Watching The Dollars
Law firms have changed their business approach from a legal model to a corporate model, said Claudia Hoffman, South Florida business manager for Holland & Knight. When she began with the firm 29 years ago, offices operated more independently and had a one-to-one ratio of attorneys to secretaries, and attorneys from other cities traveled to see a client. Over time, a firm with 250 lawyers in nine offices grew to a firm with 1,000 attorneys in 21 offices.

“Our partners and management worked very hard and managed our expenses very carefully,” Hoffman said. “It also helped that we have a very diverse mix of practices and when one area is slow, another one could be very busy.”

But law firms weren’t exempt from the recession and the economy’s prolonged slowdown. Partners, chief financial officers and office administrators are watching the firm’s dollars as their own. Some firms were aggressive in recognizing a new era of financial constraints. Others tanked.

Law firms have changed business practices and cut expenses by laying off younger attorneys and support staff. Job security is no longer guaranteed. Diversifying practices, changing marketing strategies and refocusing on existing clients while watching expenditures are new ways to go these days. Leases gained new scrutiny.
“Five, six years ago at the height of the market, you could say that we can move into this space with little disruption, and you were charged a certain amount of dollars per square foot as determined by the market,” Colbert said. “I could move down the street for less money today; there appears to be an abundance of space, given the fact of all available space for lease’ signs one sees.”

Technological advances have helped in the cost-cutting department.

“New attorneys don’t dictate and are very computer and text savvy, and to them it’s easier to type right on their computers as opposed to handing it off to a secretary,” Hoffman said. Video conferencing eliminated some travel.

Great Expectations
But along with changes in technology, client expectations are different, too.

“In 1993 when I first became a legal administrator, things were simpler. The digital age had not fully arrived,” Rumasuglia said. “Today the pace of things has been multiplied and the expectations are 24/7.”

Fifteen years ago, you would FedEx a document to a client and wait for a reply, he said. Today a client sends email and expects an instant response.

“Clients would discuss cases and expect responses, but they did not expect to be involved on a day-to-day basis,” Dasher said. “In today’s environment, clients expect instantaneous information and resources related to their cases and access to their lawyers.”

Clients with higher expectations want communication and involvement.

“We live in a different world today. Expectations are higher,” Rumasuglia said. “Productivity has increased tremendously and, with advances in technology things continue to change, leading to higher expectations. The needs of the industry have changed as well. You have to keep up with the pace of society.”

BCBA Offers Private Practice Marketing Videos

June 14th, 2012

Watch our sample video featuring BCBA member attorney John Sorkin. This private practice marketing videos are now available to all BCBA members.

Call Braulio Rosa for more details at 954-832-3620.

Northwest Area Section Luncheon Register Today

June 14th, 2012

June 15, 2012 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Featured Events

1 Hour 30 Minutes

This is an organizational meeting
$25 BCBA Members
$30 non-members
$5 additional for walk-ins

Mythos Greek Taverna 2864 N. University Drive Coral Springs FL,

Traci Lewis (954)832-3618 or traci@browardbar.org

CLE Luncheon “Depositions: What you might not know… but should”

June 4th, 2012

June 12, 2012, 12:00 pm-1:00 pm

Description: Free for NEXT members $25 for non-members

Venue: Gray Robinson, PA
Address: 401 East Las Olas Blvd., 10th Floor
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Contact: Janet Palma
Contact Info: jpalma@legalaid.org or 954-746-2423

YLS 9th Annual Family Day

June 4th, 2012

June 10, 2012, 12:30 pm-3:30 pm
Description: Children/Adults $5.00 (12 months and under free) Delicious food, refreshments, ice cream, outdoor games and access to Castaway Island Water Park (1:30-3:20)

Venue: TY Park
Address: 3300 N. Park Road, Pavillion #5
Hollywood, FL

Contact: Jon Stief
Contact Info: (954)767-0300 or jon@haberstief.com

Solo/Small Law Firm Networking Lunch

May 30th, 2012

Date: June 5, 2012, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm
Venue: Champps
Address: 6401 N. Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Contact: John O’Brien
Contact Info: 954-782-9066 or john@johnobrienlaw.net

E-Discovery for Paralegals and Legal Assistants *Free CLE Lunch for Paralegals/Legal Assistants*

May 30th, 2012

Date: June 8, 2012, 12:00 pm-2:00 pm
Description: Free for Paralegals/Legal Assistants
Sponsored by: Legal Learning Series and Broward County Bar Association
Venue: BCBA Offices
Address: 1051 SE 3rd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
Contact: Traci Lewis
Contact Info: (954)832-3618 or traci@browardbar.org

Register For Event: HERE

Annual Meeting Installation Dinner

May 24th, 2012

Join us for the Induction of the 2012-2013
Board of Directors
&
Young Lawyers Section Board of Directors

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Broward County Bar Association

Marriott Harbor Beach Resort
3030 Holiday Drive • Fort Lauderdale
Cocktail Reception 5:30 P.M. • Dinner 6:30 P.M.

Cost: $85 for members • $95 for non-members
Sponsorship, Advertising &
Preferred Seating Available

Contact Traci Lewis at 954.832.3618 or via email: Traci@browardbar.org
Register online here.