Monday, February 23, 2015

Professionalism And Ethics Committee: Mentoring Pioneer Receives Inaugural Professionalism Award

By Katelyn Mae Desrosiers

The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s Committee on Professionalism honored Deborah Werner with its inaugural Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Professionalism Award in October at the HCBA’s 18th Annual Bench Bar Conference Membership Luncheon. The Professionalism Committee had sought nominations to recommend a member of The Florida Bar practicing within the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit for at least 15 years and meeting the following nomination criteria: an attorney who has consistently demonstrated honesty, integrity, fairness, courtesy, and an abiding sense of responsibility to comply with the standards and rules of professionalism in the practice of law and who has earned the highest respect among local lawyers and judges for his or her commitment to professionalism.

Werner has served the legal community for more than 30 years, focusing her practice on probate, trust administration, estate planning, elder law, and real estate transactions. She has been an active member in the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers (HAWL), including helping found HAWL’s Mentoring Program that pairs attorneys with students at Stetson and Thomas Cooley law schools. She has received numerous professionalism awards, serves as a guest lecturer at local law schools and universities, and sits on several boards, including the HAWL Board of Directors, the Tampa Bay Estate Planning Council, and the Alzheimer’s Association Board of Directors. When asked whether the Professionalism Committee found the right person to present its first award to, the Honorable Claudia Isom replied: “Deb stood out head and shoulders above the rest of us because Deb, before the rest of us even understood the mentorship movement, was there advocating for HAWL to be involved in mentoring, serving as a professional role model, bringing young lawyers into her office, giving them the opportunity to see how she practiced law and giving them the opportunity to network with other attorneys.”   

In 1998, the Florida Supreme Court issued an Administrative Order directing the chief judge of each circuit to create and maintain a Circuit Committee on Professionalism. Following that administrative order, the Thirteenth Circuit created its Professionalism Committee, which is made up of members of the judiciary and representatives of the circuit’s voluntary bar associations and sections, committees, and divisions of the Hillsborough County Bar Association.  This year, the Professionalism Committee, operating under the direction of Executive Chair the Honorable Ashley B. Moody, decided it should issue its own professionalism award.  When asked why the legal profession needs to issue another professionalism award, the Honorable Lamar E. Battles responded: “One of the biggest issues facing our profession today is professionalism. Any time we can recognize it and encourage it and get out there and try to bring attention to it, then that’s worth doing.”

The Professionalism Committee plans to issue the award annually with the hope that it will continue to promote professionalism within the circuit by recognizing and honoring those attorneys possessing the qualities the award is designed to embrace.