Friday, January 2, 2015

President's Message: A Continued Commitment To Diversity

By Benjamin H. Hill IV

As the holidays and 2014 are now but a memory, I hope everyone is well underway to a healthy and prosperous new year. I know many have made resolutions for the year, and I wish you much success in fulfilling them.* Although it is a new calendar year, we are entering the second half of our Bar year, with much work and fun still before us. We have a lot of positive momentum at the halfway mark, but we still have many aspects of Operation Respect and Service ― our themed mission for the year ― to advance. So, what’s next?

I now want to lift up the increasing diversity within our local Bar and profession. In doing so, I only hope to continue the great work that my predecessor, Susan Johnson-Velez, so capably led in highlighting this important subject. As the HCBA continues its growth, so does the diversity of our membership. To be sure, the diversity within our Bar increasingly reflects the diversity within our area, state, and country. As this diversity evolves, we acknowledge both the progress that has been made and the positive impact it has had on our local Bar, profession, and community. As we all know and cherish, our heritage within our local community is richly and inextricably intertwined with great diversity. Of course, this is part of what makes this area we call “home” such a great place in which to live and work.

In this issue, we spotlight diversity through, among other things, a wonderful article in which HCBA Secretary Cory Person remembers the Honorable George E. Edgecomb and his enduring legacy. We also showcase our local legal profession’s significant Hispanic roots and ties via Luis Viera’s well-written article featuring the Tampa Hispanic Bar Association. The HCBA values, and benefits from, the strong and collaborative relationship it has with our smaller but no less important local voluntary bar associations such as the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, GEBA, THBA, and various others too numerous to mention.

Our next General Membership Luncheon on January 22 will also be devoted to diversity. In keeping with our lineup of diverse speakers this year, we are very excited to welcome Paulette Brown as our guest. Ms. Brown currently serves as ABA president-elect and will soon be the first African-American woman to serve as ABA president. If you have not already done so, please register for this event.

Then, on Saturday, February 21, our HCBA Diversity Committee ― led by superstar Co-Chairs Amanda Buffinton and Jessica Goodwin Costello ― will host the Diversity Networking Social at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center. This event will provide law students from across the state with opportunities to meaningfully interact with lawyers and others working within Tampa Bay’s legal market. It aims to connect these students with potential mentors from local firms and area voluntary bar associations and to educate them on the professional development opportunities available in our area.

In resolving to kick off 2015 by continuing our Bar’s strong commitment to diversity, we simultaneously advance another key component of Operation Respect and Service. Indeed, diversity remains a vital part of our Bar’s mission “to inspire and promote respect for the law and the justice system through service to the legal profession and to the community.”

*Note: Although I have not been a consistent setter of New Year’s resolutions, I did commit this year to run the Gasparilla half-marathon on February 22. I will be running in support of Hope For The Warriors, one of this year’s official charity partners of Gasparilla Distance Classic. If you would like information about this wonderful organization and its mission, please visit If you would like to join me and other lawyers on a team in support of Hope For The Warriors, email me at