Adherence to the fundamental ideals ... of our justice system by all those privileged to serve in the system is an essential requirement if the system is to carry out its obligation of service to the people of Florida.
-- Supreme Court order establishing the new Commission on Professionalism
I am proud to be a lawyer. Actually, one of the best benefits of this year has been learning new things, and one of my most important realizations is: I am even prouder to be a lawyer now than I was in June of 1996. From the very start of my travels throughout Florida, and my conversations with you and other lawyers, I have learned more and more about the practice of law as a noble profession. I have met Florida lawyers who are heroes in big and small ways in their communities--from the lawyer who gives up weekends to install roofing for Habitat for Humanity, to the one who, having chosen to put aside her practice temporarily to care for an infant and a three-year-old, still donates her legal expertise to represent dependent children. In my mind's eye, I can see these two lawyers' faces and many more like them that I have come to know this year.
The statistics on pro bono services have taken on some of your personalities and your individual voices as I have travelled the state. Here are the current Florida numbers on pro bono, defined strictly, in this case, as meaning service to the poor: 827,069 actual hours spent in pro bono work and $1,238,262.50 donated to pro bono activities. Thank you, Florida lawyers who have put in these hours and who shook my hand in the communities and clinics and hallways where you do pro bono work, and thank you, local Bar officers who have welcomed me into these communities and made these contacts possible.
There are other thank-you's I need to say, because I am proud not only of those who have served in obviously heroic ways, but also of those whose work has been a sacrifice of a different sort. Individuals filling many different roles in the practice of law have made me even prouder than ever to be a lawyer. Some of those to whom I am also indebted are nonlawyers who have helped make it possible for the Bar to encourage and support lawyers as we strive to demand and maintain the highest possible levels of professionalism, and to serve the public in countless and varied ways.
I could not have done this job without Jack Harkness, Mindy Boggs, Vicki Russell and the entire staff at The Florida Bar. This dedicated group of...