April 17, 2014

Florida Law

Profile: Florida Bar President Gwynne Young

Young tries to keep her agendas flexible.

Art Levy | 7/18/2012

Gwynne A. Young
[Photo: Rob Moorman]
As Tampa attorney Gwynne A. Young begins her one-year term as Bar president this summer, replacing Scott G. Hawkins, she has a carefully considered agenda: Boosting funding for the judiciary system, keeping politics out of judicial appointments, expanding legal services for the poor, encouraging diversity within the legal profession and helping the state's county clerk offices recoup the $30 million in funding they lost during the last legislative session.

At least that's the plan.

Young knows that Bar presidents often have to change their agendas on the fly. When Mayanne Downs started her 2010-11 term, for example, she had planned to focus on funding for the judiciary system, expanding lawyers' use of technology through electronic filings and studying the impact of declining numbers of jury trials statewide.

Downs ended up spending most of her time, however, fighting a number of proposed laws that would have affected attorneys, including one that would have split the Florida Supreme Court into two courts — one for civil cases and one for criminal cases.

Young says she's ready to shift gears if need be. "We'll start going to legislators early to see if there are any issues percolating that we might not foresee," she says. "And you never know when you are going to have a big bad act by some lawyer, a Scott Rothstein kind of thing, that you will have to deal with. We have a 'be prepared' philosophy."

One thing that Young is fairly certain of is her billable hours at Carlton Fields will decrease as her non-billable hours increase. She's the fifth Bar president to come from Carlton Fields, so she says the firm has a history of allowing attorneys to forgo some fees for a chance to lead the Bar.

"I'm at the stage of my career, where, it seems to me, if there's something you can do that's a public service and you can do it well, then you ought to do it," Young says. "I'm 62 years old, so I didn't go for this because this is going to be that career-maker for me. I went for it because I thought I could do a good job and the organization does good things."

One of her harder tasks this year will be staying out of politics, a must for a Bar president.

"It's kind of interesting to be in an election year and essentially have to sit on your hands," she says. "That's a downside, but I'm willing to do that because I think the Bar has an important agenda and we'll stick to that."

Too Many Attorneys?

Last year, 3,500 attorneys joined the Florida Bar. "I think a lot of people would tell you there's just too many lawyers," says Gwynne A. Young, new president of the Florida Bar. "The Florida Bar now has 93,000 members, which means there's a lot of competition for work." Young is particularly concerned about recent law school grads who have significant debt and can't find a job. She thinks the Bar can help by offering them mentoring and advice on opening up their own law offices. "We can help them learn how to be a lawyer and run a business," she says.

Tags: Politics & Law

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