The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division’s Immediate Past President Reflects on a Year of Success and Growth
If Dean Mead Attorney and Florida Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Immediate Past President, Melanie S. Griffin, could summarize her legacy in three words, it would be “communication, technology and diversity.” These were three tenets of her very successful term in leading a group that now includes approximately 26,000 members and more than 50 local young lawyer chapters throughout the state of Florida. Upon assuming this coveted position, Griffin fostered a sense of teamwork to energize her fellow Board of Governors to tirelessly work as a cohesive unit throughout the 2013-14 Bar year to meet the needs of Florida’s young lawyers.
The YLD kicked-off 2013 with a campaign aimed at raising the group’s social media profile, while at the same time, generating funds for The Florida Bar Foundation. Spearheaded by Griffin’s leadership, the YLD pledged to donate $1 in July 2013 to the Foundation for each new follower it gained on Facebook and Twitter, resulting in the YLD’s social media presence exponentially growing from a few hundred followers to a few thousand. By the end of July, the YLD was able to better connect and communicate with its constituents, while also presenting a check for more than $2,000 to the Foundation for legal services for the poor. At the end of Griffin’s presidency, the YLD gave another $10,000 to the Foundation in recognition of its important work providing access to justice to whose who would not otherwise have a voice.
Last summer, the YLD’s Technology Committee launched its monthly lunchtime webinar series with the goal of providing Florida’s newest attorneys with ongoing education to allow them to be more competitive in the marketplace. The wildly successful free CLE series bolstered the YLD’s webinar attendance to up to 1,000 attendees per program, approximately tenfold the attendance of previous YLD webinars. Through the series, Florida’s young lawyers were able to learn about cutting-edge technology, mediation preparedness and strategies, best tips for starting a practice, and more. Griffin remarked that the implementation of the monthly lunchtime webinar series was key in helping young lawyers successfully incorporate technology into their daily practices. “Technology is significantly impacting the legal profession and the way it does business. It was therefore a main goal of the YLD to ensure that our membership was equipped to meet the challenges of and compete in the evolving legal marketplace.”
This group of outstanding YLD leaders also gave great focus to mentorship, and through their efforts, allowed a once geographically limited program to grow to a statewide platform. Hosted by its Law Student Division, participants were given the opportunity to be paired with an attorney practicing in another part of Florida, who could assist them with their plans to practice in another geographic location and/or learn about a practice area not prominent in the student’s law school location. As a result, more than 400 mentor-mentee relationships were established, approximately 4x the number of pairings as created in previous years. With the help of The Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, the Law Student Division also taught students about “balancing life and law” by hosting a panel comprised of accomplished Florida lawyers, for the first time hosting such a program at each of Florida’s twelve law schools. Griffin reports that she was thrilled with the success of these programs. “Providing much-needed mentorship, advice and guidance to law school students is critical to ensuring the future success of the legal profession and service to the public. After working with students at the twelve Florida law schools this year, I am assured that the future of Florida’s legal profession is very bright.”
Diversity was likewise an important initiative to Griffin during her presidency. “It is incumbent upon leaders in the legal community to foster a sense of diversity and inclusion, and ensure that our judiciary, JNC’s, and bar leadership mirror the diverse populations and rich cultures of Florida’s statewide community.” In furtherance of this goal, the YLD hosted its first-ever statewide Diversity Symposium at simultaneous locations in South Florida, Central Florida and North Florida. The half-day seminar in each location featured panels of speakers addressing diversity in bar leadership, the judiciary, and law firms/in-house counsel positions. The Committee also created the YLD’s inaugural Diversity Grant, which awards affiliates funding to host projects that promote and encourage diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and the pipeline.
Furthermore, the YLD increased grant funding opportunities for its affiliates through the creation of the Professionalism Roundtable Grant, which provides funding for members of the judiciary and new lawyers to collaborate regarding key professionalism topics. Through the new Diversity and Professionalism Roundtable Grants, and the YLD’s long-standing Afternoon/Morning at the Courthouse and Holidays All Year Long Grants, the YLD gifted more than $30,000 in funding, well over three-times more than the previous year. Additionally, through the YLD’s Affiliate Outreach Conference, the YLD gave away a record of approximately $50,000 to affiliates to fund member and public service projects throughout Florida over the coming twelve months.
When asked for her final thoughts regarding her past year of servant leadership, Griffin stated, “Serving as YLD President was a tremendous opportunity that afforded me the chance to cultivate lifelong friendships, grow my leadership skills, and make a meaningful impact on Florida’s legal community. I will forever treasure the experience, and look forward to incorporating the lessons I learned into my substantive legal practice to continue providing the highest quality legal services to Dean Mead and our clients.”