I am humbled and truly honored to chair the Workers’ Compensation Section this year. I have had the privilege of serving on the Executive Council since 2008 and have learned a great deal under the guidance of my predecessors. First, I would like to thank the past chair, Philip Augustine, who kept our Section running smoothly, and whose efforts resulted in an incredibly successful year. I am excited to continue his great work and for yet another successful year.
As chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section, I recently attended a meeting called the Council of Sections, which is a meeting that takes place every year at the annual Florida Bar Convention and is attended by all section chairs. Each section chair presents a report on their particular section, and I can state without a doubt that the Workers’ Compensation Section is one of the most active sections of The Florida Bar, with more than 1,200 members. We have regular CLE Lunch & Learn webinars, our News & 440 Report is second to none, and we regularly have DCA judges attend our forums to hear oral arguments. Further, we have four Executive Council meetings every year that are open to the entire Section, a winter retreat ski seminar, and the convention in August that brings a nationwide audience.
Significantly, we also have more access to and participation from our judges than any other section of The Florida Bar. To further facilitate open discussions between the bench and the Bar, I, along with the help of Judge David Langham and Judge Jacquelyn Newman, have put together multiple round table events, which allow our judges and Section members to come together to discuss current trends and new laws. These events are an excellent opportunity to interact with judges and other lawyers in person, which has been somewhat of a rarity since the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, we have met in Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Fort Myers, and the feedback I have received regarding these events has been overwhelmingly positive. I want to thank both Judge Langham and Judge Newman for their participation and continued support. I am also incredibly grateful for the local judges who participated in the discussions and helped put them together. We will be looking to scheduling additional round table discussions in the South Florida region this fall. To our South Florida members and judges: be on the lookout for a call from me to help get these events scheduled!
Noticing the need to get younger practitioners involved in our Section, Neil Ambekar is taking charge of developing a young lawyers’ committee (YLC) for our young and newer lawyers. The goal of the YLC is to increase involvement of younger practitioners in the section and start paving the way for new leadership, as well as providing mentorship for those in need.
New to our Section this year is the Emerging Leaders Committee. Out of our roughly 1,200 Section members, we have a little over 200 members with less than 10 years of experience. We created this committee to encourage participation and develop future leaders and to give newer practitioners the opportunity to interact with other members of our Section. It is my hope that these new practitioners will continue to grow our practice and keep the level of professionalism high. With the help of Judge Langham, Judge Newman, and Judge Neal Pitts, the Section had a workers’ compensation boot camp back in June in Orlando. There were 40 participants and registrations were so high that a second boot camp is set for October 16 in Tampa. We have received a lot of positive feedback on the Emerging Leaders Committee. If you would like to participate, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Neil Ambekar at email@example.com, or our two committee chairs, Erin Thorne at firstname.lastname@example.org and Michelle Chase at email@example.com. This committee will also be putting together social events around the state for members to network and get to know each other.
This year, the Section will also be establishing a mentoring program. The idea is to create a mentor repository where younger members can go and seek out a mentor, as opposed to simply having one assigned to them. We know that some mentors will be better suited than others on various topics, so we are hopeful that having a large list of willing mentors will increase the odds of them being used. I am hoping to have this set up and ready to go in the fall, so please be on the lookout for this.
Our Section has also been working very hard since coming out of the pandemic to set new highs in the area of professionalism within our practice. We have focused on getting together as a group more often and providing good examples for our younger members. I would ask that everyone in our Section keep this in mind when working with opposing counsels. Let us all not only be good examples, but good reflections of each other. I am committed to raising the bar in all areas of our Section this year and am proud to serve as your chair. I will make myself available to any member who has questions or wants to get involved.
Paolo Longo, Jr.