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February eNewsletter Article

History in the Making, St. Augustine:
Where Young Lawyers Were Limited Only by Their Imaginations

By:  Stephanie Bolton, Bolton Law & Melanie Griffin, Dean Mead

Have you been to St. Augustine?  Have you been to an AOC Conference?  Do you know what AOC is?  If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then this article is here to help. 

First, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European established city and port in the continental United States.  Okay, the history lesson is over.  It is also home to some amazing sights including Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College, the Lightner Museum, and the Fountain of Youth.  Yes, the Fountain of Youth is REAL.  Hopefully, it will help us stay young lawyers forever.

This year, St. Augustine was also the site of the Affiliate Outreach Conference (known as AOC).  The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors (YLD) hosts AOC to give local bar affiliates the opportunity to gather for a weekend and share community service, member service, and public service projects with each other and receive funding in the form of grants from the YLD and The Florida Bar Foundation. 

 AOC took place January 19 through 21 and was filled with unique programming designed to foster camaraderie, collaboration and relationship building so that attendees had the opportunity to truly network with and get to know other affiliate and law student leaders from across the State.  To kick off the conference, attendees were treated to a trolley and walking tour of St. Augustine led by none other than “Henry Flagler” himself.  Everyone enjoyed hearing stories about the City Gates, Flagler Hotels, and much more directly from the man who played such a big role in the development of the city.  AOC attendees were further acquainted with St. Augustine when they raced through the city streets as part of the Oldest Amazing City Race Saturday afternoon.  Filled with several challenges, including chocolate tasting, a speed boat ride and sangria tasting, teams competed with each other to be the first to cross the red mat at the celebration party, just like on the popular reality television show.

A true highlight of AOC was the YLD’s signature Friday night party hosted at the Lightner Museum compliments of AOC Presenting Sponsor LexisNexis.  Beginning at the conference reception, young lawyer and law student leaders experienced the rare treat of mingling with the senior leadership of The Florida Bar, including President Scott Hawkins, President-Elect Gwynne Young, and President-Elect-Designate Eugene Pettis.  It meant so much to everyone to have the opportunity to learn from and network with these established leaders.  After the reception, guests enjoyed an Old Florida dinner buffet.  They then danced the night away to the smooth tunes of one of Florida’s best live bands, the Buzzcatz.

Saturday morning of the conference, the local bar affiliates presented grant proposals for funding from the YLD and The Florida Bar Foundation.  The YLD Governors who served as judges were blown away by the genius and creativity of the local affiliates.  In total, $36,865.00 was granted to local affiliates to bring their ideas to life.  We think that bears repeating.....thirty-six thousand, eight hundred and sixty-five dollars! 

Moreover, the YLD was delighted with the exchange of ideas that took place at AOC.  During the grant presentations, the judges were happy to see affiliates present on projects they heard other affiliates present the year before.  Why reinvent the wheel?  The judges also enjoyed some new and creative solutions for challenges in the community.  Finally, the judges were impressed with the affiliates’ professional, fun, and dynamic proposals.  Especially as presentations started at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning (after the night of dancing)! 

After the conclusion of the presentations, the YLD awarded three top grant awards to Indian River County Young Lawyers Division for Best Community Service Project, Dade County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section for Best Member Service Project, and Hillsborough County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division for best overall grant proposal.

Ethan Wall of Richman Greer, who presented for Dade County, commented on how much he enjoyed hearing what other affiliates were doing: “This year, I was inspired from the other AOC presentations to ‘think outside the box.’  Hearing our affiliates speak about zombie marathons, graphic novels, and community food trucks helped me understand that our ability to influence is limited only by our imagination.”

Dade County’s project is entitled “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”  The project includes a week of programming designed to educate our members and the community about the importance of access to the judiciary and the grave situation faced with Court funding.  Dade County has had a presence at AOC year after year, and their representatives find that the conference allows them “to meet other affiliates, exchange project ideas, and to receive feedback and funding that allows young lawyers to plan programming that makes a difference in our community,” according to Wall.

Rachel Greenstein of Akerman Senterfitt agrees that the conference is an ideal place to exchange ideas for projects.  Greenstein did double duty at this year’s AOC, presenting on behalf both the Hillsborough County Bar Association and the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers.

“Both the HCBA and HAWL benefit enormously from attending AOC because it is a great opportunity for our organizations to meet with other affiliates and discuss ideas for new projects we can bring back to Hillsborough County.  It's also a great resource to seek funding to start new initiatives in our community that otherwise may not get funded on the local level,” stated Greenstein.

HCBA’s project this year is a great example of what AOC can do for a local affiliate.  HCBA sought funding for its Historical Narrative Project - "Before the Law was Equal: A documentary of segregation in the Hillsborough County legal community."  This large project is a huge undertaking for the HCBA and will require sponsorship and participation from several organizations.  The YLD is proud to be one of several funding sources for such a project.

Other projects, such as Indian River County’s “Have a Field Day with Youth Guidance,” have fewer sponsors.  The grant given at AOC will be the primary funding source for a day of sports activities with the Youth Guidance organization that will also help pair youth from this organization with mentors in the community.

In addition to affiliates, like Dade County, Hillsborough County, and Indian River County, that have been involved year after year, the judges were estatic to have four new affiliates present grant proposals this year.  Thank you to Manatee Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Cuban American Bar Association, and the Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association for attending your first AOC! 

The YLD hopes that all the affiliates that attended this year’s AOC will be back again next year, along with new affiliates.  The grant applications for this year will remain on our website to encourage idea sharing and dialogue throughout the year.

In closing, thank you everyone who made this another successful, inspiring AOC, especially Presenting Conference Sponsor LexisNexis.  We look forward to seeing you all next year........in DAYTONA!