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.”
William Schifino Jr.
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.