The 10th Jacksonville lawyer to serve as president of The Florida Bar, Gunster shareholder Mike Tanner, was sworn in at a hybrid in-person and online Bar Convention appropriately themed “There are brighter days ahead.”
As president-elect, one of Tanner’s roles had been chairing the Bar’s COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, a unique challenge in his 30-year history in Bar leadership.
Going forward, Tanner will turn his attention to improving the profession, focusing his presidency specifically on professionalism, access-to-justice issues, and how to create opportunities for young lawyers.
“I chose those three issues because I personally believe they are very important for our Bar and our profession,” Tanner said. “And they’re also issues I heard about frequently from our members when I was on the campaign trail and when I was president-elect.”
A lack of professionalism was also a top concern of members as indicated in the Bar’s most recent opinion survey. To tackle that issue, Tanner has tapped Florida Bar President-Elect Gary Lesser to chair a committee that will look at how professionalism is defined, taught, promoted and enforced, as well as its relationship to mental health and wellness.
When it comes to access to justice, Tanner believes that being more proactive about addressing unmet legal needs is not only a professional obligation to the less fortunate, but also a way to maintain the relevance of the profession to society and our citizens in the future.
In that regard, he’s engaging the Bar in a review of the potential for an online platform administered by the courts, and accessible to self-represented litigants, for managing and resolving civil claims under $1,000. Given that most people with civil legal needs try to resolve them on their own, or don’t even realize a lawyer could help, he likens such strategies to growing the pie of service to the public, not giving a piece away.
“What that [the online platform] would do is bring more people into the system and make them familiar with and comfortable with using legal services; over time those people will be accessing lawyers for a variety of needs,” Tanner said.
At the same time, Tanner wants to enhance career opportunities for young lawyers by developing best practices that employers of lawyers can use to increase mentoring, training, and leadership roles, as well as the economic participation of young lawyers in the success of their firms.
At his swearing in, Tanner told his fellow Bar members that it is important to ask why lawyers do things the way they do, and to answer that question with more than “because we’ve always done it that way.”
He realizes that not every idea that comes out of leadership discussions during his presidency will be a great one, but he wants members to be open to change.
“I’m very hopeful that the new ideas that come from these initiatives will improve who we are and what we do, while at the same time preserving our core values,” Tanner said.