A shareholder with Carlton Fields and a member of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, McLeroy was honored for her innovative ideas to increase Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) revenue, her successful efforts to preserve county funding for legal aid, and for her leadership of organizations supporting pro bono at the national, state and local level, as well as more than 20 years of direct services to pro bono clients.
“Kathy’s advocacy begins at home and extends throughout the United States,” said Maria Henderson, who served with McLeroy on The Florida Bar Foundation board and who, like McLeroy, is a past president of the Foundation.
McLeroy has chaired Carlton Fields’ nationally recognized pro bono committee since 1999; served four three-year terms on the Bay Area Legal Services board, including two terms as president; chaired the American Bar Association (ABA) Business Law Section’s Pro Bono Committee; served on the ABA Commission on Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) and was a liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. She currently co-chairs The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services; serves on The Florida Bar’s Vision 2016 Commission; and chairs the inaugural board of directors of the Florida Justice Technology Center (FJTC), a statewide non-profit dedicated to increasing access to justice through the innovative use of technology. The center was created with a $725,000 grant from The Florida Bar Foundation.
“The fact that she was chosen to head this critical and cutting-edge organization is a recognition of her abilities, knowledge and dedication to finding creative solutions to these issues,” wrote McLeroy’s law partners Gwynne Young, a past Florida Bar president, and Sylvia Walbolt, a past Foundation president and Medal of Honor Award recipient.
While McLeroy’s Medal of Honor Award nominators and supporters remarked on the breadth and scope of her leadership positions, they also pointed to significant outcomes for legal aid and pro bono services that could be traced directly to McLeroy’s initiatives. Bay Area Legal Services (BALS) Executive Director Dick Woltmann and former Florida Bar Foundation President Drew O’Malley noted McLeroy’s critical role in bringing about a change to the Florida Bar rule governing Florida’s IOTA Program that has yielded tens of millions of dollars in additional IOTA revenue in Florida.
“Kathy, a former banker with an MBA, determined that banks were placing IOTA funds in accounts with interest rates far lower than those they offered commercial customers. Banks were profiting, and The Florida Bar was missing an opportunity to increase the funds available for much-needed legal services,” they wrote. “Kathy’s proposed changes to the Florida Bar rule on trust accounts included a requirement that lawyers deposit the funds only into accounts that provide interest comparable to what the bank’s commercial customers receive. Essentially, she redefined what qualifies as an IOTA account.”
After proposing changes to Florida’s rule on trust accounts, McLeroy spoke at conferences about Florida’s rule change and consulted with IOTA and IOLTA program representatives from various states. As a result of these efforts, 35 states modeled their rules governing their respective IOTA and IOLTA programs after Florida’s, which resulted in millions of dollars in additional revenue in those states.
Woltmann and O’Malley also noted that McLeroy helped lobby the Florida Legislature to retain county funding for legal aid and enlisted former Gov. Bob Martinez in the successful effort, preserving approximately $8 million in annual funding for Florida legal services programs.
Judge Catherine Peek McEwen of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida remarked about McLeroy’s constant efforts to improve upon existing pro bono and self-help efforts, including her efforts to secure funding from the ABA Business Law Section to improve a Foundation-funded “Bankruptcy Basics” video and her ideas that led to a Tampa-area judicial summit on pro bono.
Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award; the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Jimmy Kynes Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service; and the Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award from the Hillsborough Attorney Volunteer Efforts Program. She was also honored in 2001 with The Florida Bar Foundation’s inaugural President’s Award for Excellence.
“I am humbled by my selection to receive the Medal of Honor Award from The Florida Bar Foundation,” McLeroy said. “I consider it the greatest honor of my professional career to have my name listed with its prior recipients, many of whom I have had the opportunity to know and all of whom I deeply admire.”
The Medal of Honor Award, sponsored by Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, was presented at The Florida Bar Foundation’s 40th Annual Reception and Dinner June 16 at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.