Sunday, January 3, 2016

HCBA President's Message: The Path from Service to Leadership: Doing Small Things with Great Love

By Carter Andersen

        Mother Teresa of Calcutta started with nothing and impacted millions of people through service and leadership. How did she do it? We know that Mother Teresa’s work started with one person – Mother Teresa refused to walk past a sick and dying person on a street in Calcutta, and in her own words, she helped just one person. With that start, Mother Teresa’s loving service to the poor eventually grew to a worldwide community of support for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and the homeless. Mother Teresa’s path to being one of the most respected and effective world leaders was grounded in service.

        I met Mother Teresa twice as a teenager (first in 1985 and again 1988), and both times Mother Teresa impacted me powerfully with her example, words, and smile. Mother Teresa spoke about the power and gift of a smile – if you can give nothing else to another person, you can always give them a smile. I think about Mother Teresa’s powerful words almost every day. Mother Teresa’s inspirational teachings can be applied in so many areas of our lives:

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.

~ Mother Teresa

        Some of the greatest things about our legal community are the acts of service that our colleagues perform, often with little recognition or credit. I want to recognize four of our colleagues for their service and leadership in three very important areas.

        Sacha Dyson, of Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A., and Lara LaVoie, of LaVoie & Kaizer, P.A., are currently the co-chairs of the HCBA Community Services Committee. This year, Sacha suggested that in addition to everything else the CSC does, the committee could adopt and lead the HCBA’s efforts to present The Florida Bar Benchmarks programs to the greater Tampa community. In recognition of the important role that attorneys play in adult civics education, The Florida Bar created Benchmarks: Raising the Bar on Civics Education, which provides presentations and activities that attorneys can use to teach adult civic and community groups about the government and the courts. Sacha has coordinated our efforts to train lawyers and to present topics at local libraries and in a series of presentations at USF! Meanwhile, Lara LaVoie and other committee leaders have been out in the community planning and implementing the CSC’s ongoing programs: Adopt a Veteran, Elves for Elders, Dining with Dignity, and a Pirate Plunder Party at A Kid’s Place. Thank you Sacha and Lara for your service and leadership!

        In December at the Federal Bar Association (Tampa Chapter) Annual Meeting, Anne-Leigh Moe was sworn in as president of the chapter. I recall about eight years ago when Anne-Leigh first volunteered to serve on an FBA committee, and I have observed Anne-Leigh’s service to the FBA in many ways throughout the years. One pro bono service opportunity Anne-Leigh took on during this time was a civil rights (Bivens Act) case for a federal prisoner. United States District Judge Virginia Covington presided over the case, and at the annual meeting, Judge Covington presented Anne-Leigh with the FBA Pro Bono Award for Service and Excellence. Anne-Leigh’s path from service to leadership is a great example of the good things lawyers do for our community.

        Kevin Johnson, also with Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A., recently led The Florida Bar’s efforts to create the Florida Bar Practice Resource Institute. The PRI was designed to tackle some key challenges that Florida lawyers face on issues related to technology and practice management. Kevin chaired The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Technology and Office Resources to build a website that would deliver helpful content in five key focus areas: technology, management, marketing, accounting/finance, and new practice. The PRI went live in January 2015 at The site has the most up-to-date information, available in several different formats that the end user can select based on whether he or she prefers to read written answers, listen to a podcast, watch a video, or even interact with a practice-management advisor via live chat. It also features a searchable Knowledge Base that contains multiple tips for working with common office software programs. The Special Committee on Technology and Office Resources is now a standing committee of The Florida Bar, and Kevin is the chair. The committee continues to improve the PRI website as it receives feedback from Florida Bar members. This is a great effort by The Florida Bar to help Florida lawyers, particularly small firms and solo practitioners.

        Sacha, Lara, Anne-Leigh, and Kevin did not act alone in the areas where they serve. They have committee members, board members, or consultants who helped them achieve great things. But they did raise their hands – they did volunteer to serve – and that set them on the path to leadership. I would argue that they each found their path to leadership not by waiting for others to lead but by doing small things with great love – similar to feeding just one person – by serving others.