Law Shool Outreach Fall Tour - Join the Movement

By Debra Henley, FJA Executive Director

In the midst of summer there is great anticipation at the Florida Justice Association as we prepare to embark on a journey across the state of Florida in the fall to connect with law school students – our future leaders – and spread our mission of strengthening and upholding Florida’s civil justice system and protecting the rights of Florida citizens and consumers.  This fall we will raise awareness among the next generation of lawyers and law school faculty about who we are, what we stand for and how we work to protect against threats to the American civil justice system. Throughout all of our professional careers we have seen aggressive attacks against the right to basic justice, and now, we invite you to be a part of the movement to engage the next generation of lawyers to carry on our mission to ensure that Floridians know and understand the importance of the Seventh Amendment and to make certain that these rights, which are at the very core of what it means to be American, are safeguarded.

President Gary Farmer has made outreach to Florida’s law schools one of his top priorities and we have a plan to carry out Gary’s mission. We will begin by serving up some Hot Coffee and free food at law schools across the state. Hot Coffee, a documentary feature film by Susan Saladoff, tells the story of Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who suffered third-degree burns as a result of McDonald’s policy of serving coffee at dangerously high temperatures. The documentary explores how and why the case garnered so much media attention, who funded the effort and to what end. Our first showing of the documentary film was to Florida State University law school students and faculty at the Historic Court of Appeals that is now part of the FSU College of Law. FJA president elect, Paul Anderson attended, welcomed students and discussed FJA and our mission.  Local Tallahassee FJA members sponsored the event allowing us to connect with over 50 students.

The event initiated a conversation about the work of the FJA and misconceptions about trial lawyers. It gave the FJA the opportunity to show a powerful view of how corporations and insurance companies use strong public relations campaigns to spin media coverage and influence legislation. These students were provided an insight into the lengths these corporations will go to discredit American citizens to keep them out of the civil justice system. At the end of the reception, when the event was over, a number of the students lingered. They wanted to discuss what they had seen.  Several expressed strong appreciation for the opportunity, saying that this event and viewing this documentary had absolutely changed their perceptions about personal injury work.  Even openly skeptical students left with a newfound appreciation for the FJA’s mission.

David Hessekiel, President of the Cause Marketing Forum says, “If the world were just and fair, the virtue of a message alone would make it stand out in the marketplace of ideas. Alas, that is not the case. Doing good is not good enough.” Our mission is a virtuous one, and our members work tirelessly to protect the rights of average Americans’ rights to the civil justice system, but all this good we are doing must be passed down to the next generation. We must ignite a passion in these students for protecting the civil justice system – much like the passion we felt starting out as young law professionals that we have managed to hold onto over the years.

Beginning this fall we will be visiting University of Florida Levin College of Law in Gainesville, FL; Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, FL; Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando, FL; and then returning back to Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, FL. We invite you to join us on our journey – it is an excellent opportunity to mentor students, share your triumphs and experiences and open their minds to potential career possibilities in the field of law. Most importantly, it is our chance to impress upon those embarking on this noble profession that they will be the guardians of equal justice for all. Learn more about sponsorship opportunities through floridajusticeassociation.org/jointhemovement