Message from the President – Spring 2018

Florida Bar Foundation President Jewel White
Message from the President - Spring 2018 Florida Bar Foundation President Jewel White

Jewel White

If you are reading this newsletter, then you are a friend of The Florida Bar Foundation and I would like to thank you for your ongoing commitment to promoting access to justice in Florida. It is only through the collaborative support of partners like you that we are able to advance this mission.

I want to keep you updated on some recent changes at the Foundation. CEO Bruce Blackwell has retired after more than four years at the helm. Bruce was originally planning to serve as an interim director, but stayed with us longer than he expected. The Foundation has established a search committee, chaired by President-Elect Juliette Lippman, to undertake a nationwide search for Bruce’s successor. While our schedule is ambitious, we expect the search to be completed in the next few months.

Only the second executive director in the Foundation’s history, Bruce has maintained and strengthened the Foundation’s relationships with The Florida Bar and its sections and with lawyers throughout Florida. During his tenure, a number of other notable accomplishments have been achieved:

  • The Foundation stepped up fundraising, including staff’s repurposing of the Annual Dinner into a fundraising event, raising more than $86,000 in its first year alone
  • Heralded by national experts as an innovative approach, the strategic reset was adopted by the board of directors and its implementation is well underway
  • New emphasis was placed on pro bono partnerships, with a focus on using technology in new and innovative ways to match lawyers to cases
  • In response to Hurricane Irma’s impact on almost the entire state of Florida, the Foundation moved swiftly to meet Floridians’ needs, awarding nearly $800,000 in grants aimed at disaster recovery
  • The Legal Aid Summer Fellowship Program was resurrected, helping the Foundation renew its commitment to promoting public service by making it a part of the law school experience.

These achievements were a combined effort of Bruce, our great staff and the volunteers who support us. They were accomplished despite the stark reality of unprecedented declines in revenue from Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts program.

Several other staff members have moved on to other opportunities. Despite these staffing changes, we will continue to move forward with the strategic reset and ensure that this transition will be seamless. I believe a streamlined organization will provide a new executive director with great opportunities to shape a staff that best meets the needs of the organization.

The Foundation board remains focused on providing much-needed services to the community through grants and pro bono efforts. We appreciate your support and look forward to introducing you to the next executive director as we continue to drive the Foundation into the future.