The Florida Bar President Jesse H. Diner visits UF Law
UF Law students were offered a rare glimpse into their own futures as members of The Florida Bar during the Feb. 23 visit of Jesse H. Diner (left), president of The Florida Bar. In what has become an annual event of UF Law — which has hosted three Bar presidents in as many years — Diner, who was accompanied by Alvin Alsobrook, a member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors, spoke eloquently on the Bar’s efforts in support of the state’s legal practitioners.
In the intimate setting of a small classroom, about 25 students enjoyed Diner’s brief presentation followed by a 40-minute question and answer session. Diner, a shareholder of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., firm Atkinson, Diner, Stone, Mankuta & Ploucha, P.A., spoke on a variety of subjects, but lingered on the Florida Legislature’s responsibility to properly fund the state’s judicial system.
“Court funding is a new and extremely important initiative of The Florida Bar. The state’s judicial system is being treated like a state agency,” Diner said. “Everyone recognizes our three-branch system of government and the separation of powers, yet everywhere we turn we run into a brick wall in terms of funding.”
The Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court have been working to raise public and legislative awareness of the negative effects of under-funding on the state’s judicial system, which Diner said suffered a 10 percent cut in funding last year. The reduced funding resulted in layoffs and reduced court services during a time of skyrocketing foreclosure actions, which has restricted citizens’ access to the courts.
“People have a difficult time getting their disputes resolved in a timely manner,” he said. “The courts are absolutely clogged.”
Though the dramatic increase in foreclosure filings provided an unexpected boost to the courts’ income through filing fees, Diner said he expects the legislature to raid that money from the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund to pay for other state budget items that are not related to the judiciary — even as the courts remain overwhelmed and courthouse buildings and paper-based filing systems grow more archaic.
During the Q&A session, one law student asked what responsibility the Bar has in assisting its members in job searches, especially as it applies to young lawyers.
“I think it is The Florida Bar’s responsibility to help young lawyers find jobs whenever and wherever,” Diner said. “The Bar’s Career Center Web site to help young lawyers connect with employers debuted in October, and we offer discounted business services as member benefits. … I remember when I graduated from law school, how hard it was to get that first job, and you feel, ‘If I could just get that first interview, I could get that job.’ ”
Once young lawyers have that first job, Diner recommends they go the distance to prepare for every case, to put themselves into the shoes of their opponents to understand every angle and every argument that could be used against them. During his 37 years of practice, he said he’s never found a short cut for preparation.
“Don’t ever become satisfied with being good. Don’t ever stop digging deeper to be better,” he said. “When they tell you the law is a jealous mistress, they’re not kidding.”