ORLANDO – William Schifino Jr., managing partner of Burr Forman law firm’s
Tampa office, was recently sworn in as the 68th president of the Florida Bar at
its annual convention in Orlando.
Schifino explained that he is regularly asked what he has slated for
the year, and he has an easy reply.
“I look forward to working with our Board of Governors to further what we all
agree is the appropriate platform,” Schifino told the Florida Bar News. “We, the members of The
Florida Bar, will continue to build consensus. We will make it our year,
remembering the issues being addressed impact all of us.”
Schifino also outlined five core issues he would like to address during
his tenure: to continue addressing changes in the profession, such as
technological advancements and how they can help serve clients; to spend a
considerable amount of time on legislative issues and involved with the Constitution
Revision Committee; to continue to serve the working class and indigent so
justice is available to all; to promote diversity and inclusion; and to
continue efforts to provide more value to Bar members.
While the legal profession faces challenges and likely always will, Schifino
explained, he is always happy to meet lawyers and members of the judiciary who
are passionate about the profession.
“I see an opportunity for all of us to continue to work together, as a team,
utilizing all our available resources and our skills to collaborate to find
innovative solutions,” Schifino told the Florida Bar News.
With regards to the biggest challenges facing Florida’s legal
community, Schifino explained that the legal profession certainly faces its
fair share of challenges, but when addressed appropriately, they can also
become significant opportunities for both attorneys and all Floridians.
“These challenges are many and far-reaching, including but not limited
to ensuring our judiciary remains independent and adequately funded, both of
which are critical to preserving the third branch of our democracy,” he said in a Q-and-A with the Tallahassee Democrat. “Additionally,
we must address changes in the profession, including the advancements in
technology, and channel these advancements to assist our fellow practitioners
so that we may all better serve our citizens and manage our practices.”
Schifino further explained that technology impacts everything, and
while it has created greater efficiencies and access to real-time information, it
is still important that the counsel of an attorney and the attorney-client
relationship stay in the foreground.
“Achieving greater diversity within the ranks of the Bar and in the judiciary
are also necessary, because in order for a justice system to work, it must be
reflective of the people it is sworn to serve,” he said
in the Tallahassee Democrat. “One of the ways The
Florida Bar is working to increase diversity in the profession is through its
Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Leadership Academy, which just kicked off its fourth year.
Founded in 2013 by the Bar’s first African-American president, Eugene Pettis,
the program is designed to foster diversity and pipeline future leadership.”
With regards to working together to strengthen the profession, Schifino
stressed the importance of collaborative efforts.
“While we shouldn’t expect perfection as we navigate through these challenging
times, with change all around us, we will navigate together ‘in the right
direction,’” he was quoted as saying in the Florida Bar News.
Lawyers will "never sacrifice their commitment to professionalism, never waver
on our commitment to serve the citizens of our state, never lower the standards
of what it takes to become a Florida lawyer, and never compromise the ethical
standards that have been established for the privilege of practicing law,” he told the
Florida Bar News.
Schifino earned his J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law. After law school, he worked for Taub &
Williams PA, then helped establish Williams, Schifino, Mangione &
Steady PA, where he was a founding shareholder, president, and then managing
director before the firm combined with Burr Forman in 2012. He recently
completed an eight-year term as a member and chair of the 13th Judicial Circuit
Judicial Nominating Commission.