Newly inducted president of the Florida Bar, Dori Foster-Morales sat down with Attorney at Law Magazine to talk about plans for the upcoming year and other issues impacting the legal community at large. A native of Miami Beach, Foster-Morales began her career at the United States Environmental Protection Agency where she worked both in Washington, DC and New York City. When she returned to her hometown, she worked as an assistant state attorney for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office where she tried 65 cases to verdict.
Board certified in marital and family law by the Florida Bar and by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Family Law Trial Advocate, she was awarded the Legal Luminaries award by the Dade County Bar Association as the Top Matrimonial and Family Lawyer in Miami-Dade County.
AALM: As the new president, what are your goals for The Florida Bar in the coming year?
DFM: The Florida Bar is fully focused on our members and how we can help them continue to navigate the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are taking a very proactive approach, listening to our members and working to identify their needs and their clients’ needs – with the goal of ultimately making the practice of law even stronger.
AALM: How has COVID-19 impacted the legal profession, and what is The Florida Bar doing in response?
DFM: Everyone’s lives have changed as a result of the pandemic. Most of us are having to balance taking care of our families while dealing with the added stress of shifting from an in-person office environment to working from home. To listen and look for ways to help, The Florida Bar is holding a series of Virtual Town Hall Meetings in all 20 of Florida’s judicial circuits in August and September to gather feedback from members on how they are coping during the pandemic and what the Bar can do to assist them. We also have a Pandemic Recovery Task Force working on ways the Bar can best address member needs.
AALM: How do you hope to advance the mission of The Florida Bar? What steps have you taken toward that end?
DFM: As an arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar’s mission mirrors the Supreme Court’s mission to deliver justice and includes protecting the public and advancing the professionalism of Florida lawyers. To achieve this mission, I firmly believe in the Bar’s responsibility to serve our members and help them be the best lawyers they can be. That’s why we are taking steps to enhance resources that will improve the lives and practices of our members and help them better serve their clients. One such resource, which launched in May, is the Florida Lawyers Helpline, 1-833-FL-1-WELL, a 24/7 confidential member benefit that provides counseling and a referral for up to three free sessions with a licensed mental-health professional. The program also offers assistance with such issues as childcare, elder care and finances with advice, referrals and materials addressing individual concerns.
AALM: What experiences do you bring from your previous positions that will help shape The Florida Bar?
DFM: I have practiced law for 30 years in both the private and public sectors, which has given me a better understanding of the diverse perspectives of our more than 108,000 Florida Bar members. I also feel that my experience in family law has given me a lot of insight into people and made me a more empathetic person. For this reason, I’m very focused on listening to our members, and I understand there is not a “one size fits all” solution to the challenges caused by the pandemic.
AALM: What advice do you have for a member looking to increase their involvement in The Florida Bar? For a member hoping to join the leadership?
DFM: I would recommend that they start by joining a Florida Bar section or committee. With 22 sections and more than 70 standing committees, there’s a good chance you will find one that relates to your interests or legal expertise. I got involved in Bar service through the Family Law Section of the Bar, which led to my involvement in other committees – and ultimately leadership roles within the Bar. The local voluntary bars also provide paths to leadership while also encouraging mentoring, networking and community service.
AALM: What resources or benefits are available to Florida Bar members?
DFM: The mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers is something I’m very passionate about, which is why I’m proud of the many wellness resources offered by the Bar, including a mental health helpline, free CLE videos and self-assessments. LegalFuel, the Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar, has a wealth of information and free CLE videos on marketing, finance, technology and how lawyers can overcome some of the challenges caused by the pandemic. The Bar also offers more than 70 free or discounted products and services dealing with banking, legal forms, insurance and more to help members reduce the cost of practicing law.
AALM: What are some topics you think the organization will be addressing in events in the coming year?
DFM: We will continue to address the impacts of the pandemic, which will be felt by our profession for years to come. Our Pandemic Recovery Task Force is focusing on the impact of the pandemic on Florida’s legal profession and will identify key issues and needs of members. We will also continue to prioritize expanding access to justice, increasing diversity in the legal profession, and enhancing resources available to Florida Bar members.
Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser Photography