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Photo Gallery from Midyear Meeting
see more pictures here
Photos from HCBA Diversity Networking Social
Almost 100 students from 12 law schools attended this year's Hillsborough County Bar Association Diversity Networking Social. Our BLS was a platinum sponsor, so we got a great, visible place for our booth (near the food line, too). In addition to our prize, the HCBA raffled off various others prizes, including a half-tuition for a BAR-BRI review course. See more photos
Bankruptcy Case Law Updates
The Labor Day Weekend Retreat at the Boca Raton Resort offered a wonderful opportunity for our Retreat Committee, Chaired by Michael Chesal, to innovate while preserving tradition, but in a more relaxed format. Four professionally relevant benefits were achieved at that Retreat, which a few hundred of our 5,300 members experienced. Those who were not able to attend can experience some of the following benefits at our next get together in June:
NETWORKING: The Business Law Section ("BLS") is the primary statewide resource for Florida's business lawyers to get to know other business lawyers from around the State. Networking is important for many reasons. In sight is not out of mind! "Being there" can lead to potential referrals, which is a valid business justification for active membership. But there's more; much more. When you participate your colleagues have an opportunity to observe: who you are as a person; what confidence and passion you express in persuasion or disagreement; what depth of specialized knowledge or expertise you bring to the areas of law in which you practice; what guts and determination you would display as an advocate or what analytical skills you would bring to advising clients or handling a transactional assignment. Tactically, networking may help you or your law firm target financial resources to actively market your skill-set. In-person, targeted opportunities offer a dimension unavailable through social media, blogs, listservs, your Website, etc. Have you developed the social skills and gravamen that demonstrate to peers you would handle a referral competently? If you are a less experienced practitioner, you gain the opportunity to seek informal guidance or mentoring to help you learn your craft. Some may qualify for a fellowship. In that sense the BLS is analogous to a third party provider that offers unique access to developing better networking opportunities, kick-starting more interactions for growth and improving your development as a lawyer. Of course, if the only benefit were just building a durable "network" of acquaintances there are numerous other ways and in other local groups for you to attempt to accomplish that goal without being an active BLS member. However, active BLS membership - aside from facilitating networking and network effects at an unprecedented pace - offers three additional benefits.
BROADENED LEGAL KNOWLEDGE: Business law comprises a wide area of specialization. It encompasses bundles of more narrowly specialized skills needed to competently advise clients or advocate their position in negotiations or disputes. Legal principles and rules of law in narrow areas of specialization tend to form channeled perceptions as one's reality tunnel becomes rarified and less involved with the larger reality of deductive reasoning in business law. The more a lawyer specializes in "silos" or niche areas of law the more important it is to have a broader understanding about the breadth and scope of Florida and federal business laws where parallel or divergent principles and rules co-exist. Broader knowledge provides depth and potentially greater value to clients. Let's face it: the practice of law is broader than simply the sum of its parts. Active BLS membership helps you maintain a broader scope of legal knowledge. It provides greater opportunities for knowledge sharing, mentoring, and continued skills development. Because the BLS develops and offers exceptionally high quality continuing legal education programs - for examples: the annual, widely popular View From The Bench bankruptcy programs; the annual Intellectual Property Law Symposium; the Securities Institute promoted by ThomsonReuters; and the recent CLE program on Florida's totally new LLC Act - being actively involved offers opportunities to contribute to CLE programs and to demonstrate your prowess participating in BLS - CLE programs. The BLS also will be co-sponsoring CLE programs with other Bar Sections in 2014, which will expose our members to other areas of law that intersect with business law. Nonetheless, if the only benefit were just to be maintaining or expanding your knowledge of business laws and sharing such information with other knowledgeable business lawyers, there could be other ways and in other groups (including the ABA, for example) to accomplish that goal. However, you might miss out on two additional benefits.
LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: The practice of law is as continual a learning process as is leadership; both entail consistent renewal and expansion of knowledge (a prime reason maintaining your law license requires at least 30 hours of CLE every three years). By actively serving on the BLS substantive Committees or Task Forces that transcend legal specialties, you develop skills to co-create appropriate work-product across practice silos. As you do this there are modularized leadership opportunities where you can develop or hone curating and editing skills (comparable, in a manner, to serving on a law review). If you happen to be a less experienced practitioner in an area of specialization, you will gain opportunities to observe how more experienced practitioners informally discuss legal principles and potentially contentious issues while seeking consensus to resolve legal problems unique to Florida law or procedure. Because BLS Committees generally meet in person only three times a year, to achieve desired goals in a reasonable time-frame requires thoughtful coordination and compromise. All these aspects of leadership skills are learned, assimilated, and practiced in ways that other lawyers may have few opportunities to develop outside the BLS committee or task force structures. Because active participation on a consistent basis may be rewarded with increased opportunities to lead colleagues in constructive projects that benefit the constituencies we serve, the BLS needs to actively seek new leadership talent. Moreover, active participation gives those of us in Section leadership an opportunity to evaluate, mentor, and provide constructive feedback to potential new leaders. Our sponsors know that. They seek to develop relationships with future leaders of the business Bar.
HELPING DEVELOP BETTER BUSINESS LAWS AND REGULATIONS: We practice law in a highly regulated industry where Rules of Professional Conduct (proscribed by the Florida Supreme Court), an overlay of trade regulation rules (promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission), and procedural or local rules (promulgated by Courts or the Florida Legislature) may constrain us in many ways other lines of commerce do not experience. Some of the effects of the myriad rules and regulations applicable to practicing law in Florida entail constraints on competition (and competitiveness). In a recent article in The Florida Bar News Bar President, Gene Pettis, explained that numerous externalities (including pervasive regulation, accelerated presence of more law schools over the past three decades, and economic pressures) have had a pronounced effect on the practice of law, which is undergoing unprecedented changes. As a member of a unique professional community of shared interests in business laws and regulations, BLS members have a collective opportunity to learn about regulatory changes and externalities that may adversely affect our profession, some of which can be minimized or avoided by careful planning. As an active member you may be provided an opportunity to proactively inform legislators (through White Papers), regulators (through meetings), and Courts (through amicus briefs) why proposed regulations or decisions may be ill-advised or can be modified to achieve a better result from a sounder public policy perspective. Similarly, because the BLS is a long-standing incubator of business legislation in Florida - with its own highly regarded, exceptional lobbyists and a vibrant Legislative Committee, Chaired by Jon Polenberg, comprised of active members from all substantive committees - there are opportunities to work on proposed legislation, prepare White Papers, and speak with legislators and their staff to help improve the legislative process. There are few equivalent analogs outside active BLS membership (other than to run for and be elected to office, or to work with a client's lobbyists) where you can have the potential opportunities in an organized and potent manner to infuse public policy considerations that can influence legislation, rules, and regulations that affect the business of law.
In summary, BLS members enjoy more than just an illusion of comradery, packed with networking opportunities, Committee meetings, numerous Task Force initiatives, multiple tracks of wonderful CLE programs, Retreats with fun-filled family events, and the commencement of strategic planning for the Section. The infusion of networking, broadened legal knowledge, leadership opportunities, and helping develop sound policy-based laws that active BLS members enjoy distinguishes our Section in the legal community. It confers on those who actively participate an opportunity to be much better informed about the breadth of business laws, and potentially to become more insightful practitioners. For those who inactively participate in BLS membership and visit our Website occasionally, up your game! [The 2014 Labor Day Weekend Retreat (Chaired by Mark Stein) will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, in Naples. Put it on your calendar. Plan to be there!]
Finally, please be sure to save the dates on your 2014 calendar for the Executive Council Spring Retreat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Travel from Florida on Wednesday, May 21st, check-in at the fabulous Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel [fantastic harbor views, free in-room Internet, free use of the fitness facility, breakfast included every day, in one of the best hotels in Vancouver], and an opening reception and dinner; on Thursday, May 22nd, participate in an interactive, very scenic tour to Grouse Mountain (with a suspension bridge, sky ride up the mountain, lunch and lumberjack show, optional helicopter tour or "eye of the Wind" tour, and an evening cocktail reception hosted by Gowlings (a pre-eminent Canadian business law firm with offices across Canada); then on Friday, May 23rd, embark on seaplanes to travel to beautiful Victoria (British Columbia's Capital and western Canada's oldest city), where we will tour Parliament, lunch at the elegant Empress Hotel, and walk/shop in the quaint, historic town, then return by seaplane to Vancouver; on Saturday, May 24th, enjoy multiple options for various tours, golf, shopping, whale watching, museum hopping, seeing more wonderful local highlights that Vancouver has to offer, and then enjoy our farewell Dinner Cruise around Vancouver harbor; on Sunday, May 25th, you can return to Florida after breakfast at the hotel, or (because we are working with e=mc2 event planners) you will not only experience all of Vancouver's top highlights, you also will have an opportunity for add-on travel and accommodations prior to or after the Retreat if you wish to extend your visit with a cruise to Alaska, a multi-day trans-continental train trip (see Banff and Lake Louise), skiing in Whistler, or just bumping around Vancouver for a few more days on your own. Just remember to renew your Passport, if needed, and arrange travel to Canada well in advance to take advantage of reduced airfares. [This is going to be a really great trip. With the Canadian and American dollars at parity it will not be as expensive as it would have been in the past to visit Canada!]
If you have not previously participated in a Spring Retreat here is what you will experience: sustained opportunities to network; to develop deeper friendships; learn about another Country's culture and legal system; enjoy a mini-vacation in a fabulous location; and enhance the value of your membership in The Florida Bar while sharing the travel/tourism experience with your spouse, significant other, or friends and many professional acquaintances through the Business Law Section.
The wonderful Labor Day Weekend Retreat in Boca Raton provided us with informative CLE programs, planning time for the BLS committees, and many opportunities for fun and fellowship, including a cruise. Thank you Steph Nagin and Michael Chesal for your creativity and hard work.
In addition, with Steph's leadership, the Section started its strategic planning process with a goal of making certain that the Section provides maximum value for members. The first planning session produced mostly brain-storming, but that is the nature of the process. We invite your input, now.
Some of the Section's most valuable work is done in non-substantive Committees. With 22 Sections in the Bar, the value of membership and involvement in any Section is dependent on opportunities for networking, referrals, broadening knowledge, and potential leadership. A non-substantive Committee provides all these as well as making a meaningful impact on the professional development of other lawyers. Members with an interest in networking or in leadership opportunities can make a significant impact by becoming active in one of these Committees:
MEMBERSHIP & LAW SCHOOL RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The life blood of any organization is its ability to attract new members. The Chair, Phil Kabler, and the committee have continued sponsoring receptions at Florida law schools. Anyone with interest or contacts at a Florida law school could provide a valuable link between the BLS and that law school.
INCLUSION/MENTORING/FELLOWSHIP COMMITTEE: Under the leadership of Chair Leyza Blanco and Co-Judicial Chairs Florida Circuit Judge Gill Freeman and Federal Bankruptcy Judge John Olson, this Committee is developing a coordinated strategy to increase membership, especially among young and diverse lawyers. The Committee maintains a continued outreach to the Young Lawyers Division and to minority bar associations. It also has represented the Section in minority mentoring picnics in Miami and Tampa. Through the BLS Fellowship Program, the Committee is increasing participation in the BLS by members of the Bar who may not otherwise be able to participate in Section meetings and events. The Section's fellowships provide financial support for diverse lawyers and matches each fellow with a mentor who facilitates the fellow's involvement in the work of the Section. Awarding fellowships combined with mentoring, and encouraging diverse members to participate in BLS activities helps ensure the Section's membership better reflects the overall composition of the clients, juries, and judges who lawyers encounter in their practice.
PRO BONO COMMITTEE: Under the leadership of current Chair Mark Stein and Judicial Chair, Federal Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Isicoff, the Pro Bono Committee continues to expand the number of pro bono opportunities available for all lawyers. The Committee sponsors non-profit clinics in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee at which transactional lawyers provide free legal advice for non-profit entities, many of which provided necessary services to poor or near-poor clients who otherwise would proceed pro se. The Committee plans to add non-profit clinics in Orlando and Pensacola. In addition, the Committee has produced a model pro bono policy for law firms which is being adopted throughout the State.
TWO JUDICIAL LIAISON COMMITTEES: The Section maintains two active judicial liaison committees. The Bankruptcy Judicial Liaison Committee, chaired by Jay Brown with Federal Bankruptcy Judge Paul Hyman as judicial chair, includes as active members Bankruptcy Judges from all of Florida's federal districts. The State/Federal Judicial Liaison Committee, chaired by Barbara Riesberg with Judge Gill Freeman as the State Judicial Chair, has as its members state trial and appellate judges, and federal Magistrate Judges and District Court judges. The meetings of these two committees allow lawyers and judges to discuss the law and issues concerning the courts and the administration of justice. In addition, the Bankruptcy Judicial Liaison Committee historically organizes a dinner for its members the night before the Section's Committee meetings.
As Steph and Bill mentioned the Section's Labor Day Retreat in Boca Raton was a tremendous success. The annual Labor Day Weekend Retreat provides unparalleled opportunities for our members and sponsors to come together in a relaxed, family-friendly environment to attend to the work of the Section, while also enjoying good food and fellowship.
FLORIDA'S NEW LLC ACT: The Retreat featured a CLE opportunity examining Florida's revised Limited Liability Company Act, new Chapter 605. That seminar was a preview of an all-day CLE program held in Miami in late October: LL "SEA" Change - Navigating the New Florida Revised LLC Act. This program examined the most significant aspects of the new Act including the major changes from the prior LLC law. The Chair, Lou Conti, and all of the speakers were members of the committee that drafted the new Act and most were active BLS members. CDs and DVDs of the program are available on The Florida Bar's Website.
FLORIDA NEEDS A NEW CORPORATIONS ACT: The
next business statute scheduled for re-examination and a possible overhaul is
the Florida Business Corporation Act, Chapter
607. The BLS Corporations, Securities and Financial Services Committee, Chaired
by Stefan Rubin, is organizing a drafting
Task Force to lead review and revision of Chapter 607. As a BLS member this presents you a unique
opportunity to participate in crafting proposed legislation relevant to your
practice and essential to the prosperity of our State. Please consider getting
involved in the drafting process. It
will enhance your understanding and level of expertise of Florida's corporate
statutes and give you a leg up on your competition.
While the 2013 Labor Day Weekend Retreat was a rousing success for all the reasons Steph and Bill discussed above, speaking as designated "bean counter" for the Section, we have subsequently learned through delayed accounting by the Big Bar, that expenses associated with the 2013 Retreat far exceeded registration fees and sponsorship revenue. As Treasurer, and Chair of the Budget Committee, I will be conducting a close review of both the Retreat budget and our Section's overall annual budget, with the goal of maintaining the consistently high-quality CLE and Retreats that our Section enjoys, while being prudent stewards of our Section's fiscal resources. Additionally, we will seek greater transparency and real-time access to our Section's financial reporting.
Navigating the New LLC Act
102 members attended the live presentation in Miami to learn the latest changes to the LLC Law, standing room only! View the pictures
Did you miss this presentation? Buy the CD or DVD
View from the Bench
2013 marked the 30th year of View from the Bench! Amazing attendance for this outstanding event, 277 attendees in Miami, 288 in Tampa. See pictures
Trial Skills Workshop
Rave reviews from the attendees of the Trial Skills Workshop for Minority Business Lawyers presented by BLS. CABA and Caribbean Bar Association. See the pictures
Posted 10/28/13 Now available, final version of the LLC Act White Paper
10th Annual Minority Mentoring Picnic
The Florida Business Law Section participated in the Second Annual Central Florida Diversity Mentoring Picnic on Saturday, September 21. The Picnic, hosted at the FAMU Law School in Downtown Orlando, was sponsored by several law-oriented organizations, including the BLS, in an effort to connect law students with those organizations and possible mentors.
The National Pro Bono Celebration focuses the nation's attention on the increased need for pro bono services during these challenging economic times and celebrates the outstanding work of lawyers who volunteer their services throughout the year. It is essential that the entire legal community engage in conversation and action that results in equal access to justice for all. The energy generated by the National Pro Bono Celebration is a powerful force that helps us build a just legal system.
Judge VanNortwick is in the news. Learn about the Florida Lawyers in Libraries program.
2013 Business Law Section Diversity Fellows Chosen. More than nineteen highly qualified applicants vied for only three available fellowships this year. The goal of the Diversity Fellowship Program is to increase Section participation by diverse members of the Bar who may not otherwise be able to participate in meetings and events due to the cost. Read the full article
The Retreat's first annual Fun Run/Walk to benefit the Florida Bar was a resounding success!
$500 was donated to the Florida Bar Foundation's Childrens Fund
Copyright 2014 Business Law Section of the Florida Bar