Buzzwords often sound important, but soon evaporate. Phrases like “think outside the box” or “interdisciplinary approach” suffer from overuse. Also popular in the public vernacular were “transparency” and “engaged.” During this year, our board and Executive Director Bruce B. Blackwell have restored true meaning to those shibboleths.
When I became president of the Foundation, we faced a cornucopia of problems: a dire money shortage; a change in leadership; the need to secure a loan from The Florida Bar; and a petition put before the Florida Supreme Court to increase Bar dues to support legal aid programs. To put it mildly, our constituents were not happy. In fact, some of them were in a state of rebellion. They wrote that we were insensitive to their plight and the need to retain tenured legal aid attorneys. Most important to me, they questioned the Foundation’s credibility and integrity.
In response, we opened our office doors and invited grantees and board members to visit our offices and meet our colleagues. We responded to each and every question with factual information and personal contacts. We sought input and solutions to our pressing funding issues. Because we have been transparent in our communications, answering every question and speaking to groups when asked, our credibility and integrity have been restored and enhanced. I have been approached by legal aid board members and directors, attorneys, and community members who take time to thank me for the “openness” of the Foundation board and our colleagues. They were talking about our staff colleagues in our Maitland office.
I asked why they felt we were open. They could only say it was a feeling based on how they were treated and how their questions were answered.
As a result, there has been a renewed commitment to The Florida Bar Foundation and the work we do. Although we still struggle because of diminished funding, our constituents and members of The Florida Bar realize that our decades-long commitment to serve the legally underserved remains steadfast and has not and will not change.
Our decades-long commitment to serve the legally underserved remains steadfast and has not and will not change.