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President’s Message: A Tribute to Bar Leaders


 President’s Message // “A Tribute to Bar Leaders” by Richard S. Dellinger, Esq. // The Briefs, May 2019 Vol. 87 No. 4. //

We all know that not all leaders are the same. There are different styles of leaders who serve with varying measures of success. There are some leaders, like William Wallace, who jump to the front of the pack, run head first into the next issue, and hope their team follows. There are other leaders, like King Henry VIII, who lead through threats and intimidation. There are laissez faire leaders who take a hands-off approach, allowing the team to ebb and flow and react “organically.” And there are bureaucratic leaders who follow policies and precedent because “that is the way it was always done.” There are other leaders, such as Bill Gates, who lead by encouraging their team to innovate, follow their ideals, and work together.

Much has been written about leadership styles, but most agree that the Bill Gates approach is the most effective in a professional setting. Management scholars label this approach “transformative leadership.” The hallmarks of transformative leaders are those who trust a team to accomplish tasks on its own, provide guidance as needed for the sake of the organization as a whole, and motivate team members to push a little beyond their comfort zone for the sake of the organization.

When I worked in restaurants and on farms, most of the leaders were either autocratic (like William Wallace) or dictatorial (like Henry VIII). But leadership styles changed as I moved to more professional jobs. While there are still some autocratic or dictatorial leaders in the professional setting, most of the leaders are either transformative or bureaucratic.

I have been at Lowndes for 20 years and learned a lot from our managing partner, Bill Dymond. Generally, the Lowndes Law Firm is managed through transparency and consensus building. Partners are given access to information and encouraged to work together for their mutual success. We have many committees and task forces that work through long-term and short-term challenges. And our managing partner works hard to build consensus among partners before decisions are made. Through committees, our partners participate and equally join in the management and operation of the law firm, and when a decision is finally reached, we know we have “buy in” from the stakeholders. Our law firm has been in existence since 1969, and this leadership style has worked very well for us.

As a leader in the OCBA, I modeled my actions on leaders I respect, such as those at Lowndes. OCBA teams were built, supported, and encouraged to work for the sake of the organization. My first task was to appoint committee leaders and fill vacancies on the Executive Council. Then, we worked with bar staff to support programming and build new programs. We are fortunate to have a full-time team of bar staff as support, but also fortunate to have leaders like you who serve as section and committee leaders. Through your hard work, we accomplished many things this year. We supported and expanded our existing programming while creating new programs and events. We built strong relationships with local voluntary bars, community leaders, and our judiciary. And because of you, this year has been a resounding success.

We are fortunate to have a very capable, passionate OCBA staff that is dedicated to supporting you and the OCBA’s mission. Executive director Kim Homer motivates the team and manages bar operations superbly. Our finances are managed by Mildred Artau; membership and marketing are managed by Karen Fast; and the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (“LRIS”) is managed by Candice Maull. And, while we lost Peggy Storch to semi-retirement, we gained Joan Giovanni as our sponsorship and advertising manager, Ashley Norris as our events and seminars manager, and Shirley Duran and Johnmichael Fernandez in the LRIS department. We were very fortunate to retain Olivia Ramos in the Citizen’s Dispute program, Carolyn Cochrane in member services, and Gloria Warrick as the receptionist.

This year saw growth in our membership thanks in part to a membership drive led by OCBA president-elect Tony Sos and Karen Fast. We remained engaged with our members by holding monthly luncheons, hosting breakfast meetings, publishing The Briefs, and presenting more than 92 CLE seminars. Our monthly breakfast and networking meetings, Member Perks, were organized by OCBA Executive Council member Eric Reed. The programs were well done and participants enjoyed hearing from great speakers, including Hal Kantor, Mayanne Downs, the Honorable Wilfredo Martinez, Cheney Mason, Meena Hirani, Arti Hirani, Scott Gabrielson, Bruce Blackwell, David Yergey, and Stumpy Harris. Our committees presented CLEs, with the most activity coming from the Bankruptcy; Business; Estate, Guardianship, and Trusts; and Family Law committees. And we created a Civil Rights Committee this year, where chair Camila did a great job in organizing our first-ever Civil Rights Law CLE and programming.

The ABA designates May 1 as Law Day, which has been known for years at the OCBA as Law Week. Even that is a misnomer; our celebration of the rule of law should rightly be called Law Months. Committee chairs Andrew Irvin and Lorraine N. Pitre did a great job organizing the committee this year, which put together a poster and speech contest, a DUI Prevention Program, mock courtroom demonstrations to elementary and high school children, a middle school theater program, a naturalization ceremony, a Law Merit Badge day, a job shadow program, and community service awards.

The 5K Committee, led by Mary J. Walter and Ryan Williams, with the support of Joan Giovanni, developed the Fifth Annual Law Day 5K at Lake Baldwin held on Saturday, March 9. This year we saw both record participation and record-setting fundraising. At a time when health and wellness is more of a focus for lawyers, the 5K showed that OCBA members are serious about their health and serious about supporting the run’s beneficiaries, the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc., and the OCBA Foundation, Inc. Past OCBA president Liz McCausland agreed to continue to serve with Karen Persis as co-chair of our Health and Wellness Committee, where they worked to support healthy initiatives for our members. Our Social Committee, led by the “Jens” (Jennifer Smith-Thomas and Jennifer Morando), organized our traditional poker tournament, trivia contest, and happy hour and, as if that wasn’t enough, also organized the first-ever Amazing Race Judicata. The Amazing Race Judicata was the vision of Bart Vickers, and we were happy to see it come to fruition this year.

We made diversity in the bar a priority this year. Our Diversity & Inclusion Committee, led by chair Ahmad El-Gendi and co-chair Brian Lawrence, developed and implemented a written diversity plan, led multiple quarterly roundtable discussions, organized a diversity picnic, and launched the first-ever Woolfork Diversity Award. We focused on diversity in our programming, and we highlighted ways that embracing differences makes our profession better. This year saw the further merging and melding of our OCBA and local voluntary bars. Leadership and members of our bar joined and participated in events held by the Paul C. Perkins Bar Association (“PCPBA”); Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers (“CFAWL”); Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association; Hispanic Bar Association of Central Florida (“HBACF”); and Central Florida Gay and Lesbian Law Association (“CFGALLA”). We were happy to see a large contingent of PCPBA members running in the 5K just a few days after our joint luncheon. Executive Council members and our executive director stood with CFGALLA at the Pride Parade; we organized a charitable event and joint luncheon with HBACF; and we are happy to welcome this year’s CFAWL president, Arti Hirani, to the OCBA Executive Council for 2019-2020.

After the loss of the business court due to inadequate court funding, we made court funding a priority for the year. Our Business Law Committee, led by chair Patricia R. McConnell and co-chair Ronald Edwards, led the charge on court funding initiatives by holding discussions and educational programming; welcoming state senators to speak about the topic; drafting legislation; and lobbying the legislature. Members wrote letters and we gained a favorable ally in the fight, the Orlando Economic Partnership. The court funding effort was also a priority for the OCBA Judicial Relations Committee, where the Honorable Eric DuBois served as chair. I write this message during the legislative session, so we do not know the result. But I am cautiously optimistic that we will receive the funding for the two judges recommended by the Florida Supreme Court.

Our Gala Committee, led by chair Amber Davis and co-chair Karen Persis, organized another great Mardi Gras-themed OCBA event at the Winter Park Racquet Club. Gala attendees ate king cake and crawfish, followed the second line around the building, and gulped down hurricanes with other lawyers and the judiciary. The Gala was a fun event and raised more than $21,000 for the OCBA Foundation. Executive Council member Amber Davis not only organized the Gala, but she volunteered to trademark the OCBA brand and led a committee that developed a policy for consistent use of the OCBA logo and name by various committees and subcommittees.

The OCBA Foundation, led by president Eric Jontz, continued its community education programs, specifically with the Law Explorer program, which educates students about the legal system. For the second year, the Foundation awarded a scholarship to deserving students who will go on to be the future leaders in the legal community. In addition to serving as Foundation president, Eric was an Executive Council member and active participant in our membership drive. He also spearheaded the revival of three dormant committees: In-House Counsel and General Counsel; Tax Law; and Real Property.

Another very active member of the bar was Kate Hollis. As chair of the Professionalism Committee Awards Subcommittee, Kate led efforts to seek nominations for and vet nominees that resulted in the selection of our annual Professionalism Awards recipients. This year, the awards were presented to the Honorable Fred Lauten, Nick Shannin, and Ryan Williams at a ceremony on March 8, 2019. The keynote speaker was Justice Alan Lawson of the Florida Supreme Court. Kate also served as a member of the Executive Council and as the editor-in-chief of The Briefs. It is difficult to find a member with a more positive attitude and stronger work ethic than Kate.

Recognizing that the practice of law is evolving, our Technology Committee actively engaged our members. The committee, led by co-chairs Lisa Gong Guerrero and Barbara Leach, brought The Florida Bar YLD Tech Show to our bar on April 23, 2019. Participants heard from president-elect John Stewart and others who spoke about metadata, security threats, and mobile devices in the practice.

Another priority for the year was access to justice. Throughout the year, the Legal Aid Society has continued to do good work for our community under the leadership of president Wynne McFarlin and executive director Mary Anne De Petrillo. Our LRIS program grew exponentially under committee chair Tony Sos and LRIS staff manager Candice Maull. We significantly increased referrals in the important areas of family law and consumer law. In addition, we continued to support the Ask-a-Lawyer partnership with the Clerk of Court, Tiffany Moore Russell, Esq.

It was my honor and privilege to work with these dedicated professionals throughout the past year. The OCBA stands strong due to the leadership of these fine professionals. Moving forward, I am heartened to see many more leaders stepping forward to apply their own stamp on the OCBA. Thank you for a great year of service. I look forward to seeing you all as the past president of the OCBA.

 Richard S. Dellinger, Esq., a shareholder with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A., practices in the litigation department in the areas of business litigation, trust and estate litigation, and significant dissolution of marriage

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