Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Work Comp Academy 2023

The Work Comp Academy 2023 came off last Friday (May 19) without a hitch. It was billed as bringing over 1,000 years of workers' compensation experience to benefit the next generation in this space. It may have fallen short of that mark with last-minute withdrawals of a couple of speakers, but it came close nonetheless.

It was attended by a spectrum of lawyers from across the state, from Panama City to Jacksonville, and south to Miami. Geographically, this group was as diverse as any. It was split about 60%/40% defense and claimant practice. The response to our invitation was responded to more readily by defense lawyers. It is possible more defense firms hire fresh from law school. It is possible more defense saw the advertisement. But, in the end, this was reasonably diverse.

Faculty? That was magnificent. There were some from the past who linger in the present, and many from the present that will be the strength of our future. And they brought advice, commiseration, and value. They were genuinely and actively engaged with the newer lawyers. There is an honest interest in their success. More on them follows.

The program opened with news from Neal Ambekar. He is leading the formation of an Emerging Leaders committee of The Florida Bar Workers' Compensation Section. That is a noble, worthwhile, and long-overdue effort. The leaders of tomorrow will not emerge if we make it a point to ignore them today. I know the effort it takes to get involved in the practice. I lived it. I would have been so grateful for the opportunity that the Section is creating here.

Paolo Longo introduced the attendees to the Section. He will take over as chair in a few weeks. He overviewed the many efforts to draw people into social and interpersonal engagement. We need to be engaged, and the Section is working on this with Meet and Greet lunches around the state (Tampa is June 2, 2023), Town Hall meetings held virtually, the Forum, and more. This Section is active and eager to engage.

Finally, William Rogner spent a few minutes talking with them about the Section Trial Advocacy Program next May in Miami. They do this every other year. They provide a hands-on trial experience with challenging facts, difficult legal issues, and real judges. If that is not enough, imagine getting critiques from some of the legends of this practice.

If you did not know, the DOAH also has a trial academy each winter in Tallahassee. The food is almost as good as it is in Miami, but the temperatures are a bit cooler. It is a similar opportunity for a trial experience complete with many judges, seasoned attorneys, and challenging legal issues. The best part of the DOAH experience is that it is free. That is a great price.

The organizers of the Work Comp Academy last week were:
  • Natalie Cavallaro
  • Ana Gonzalez-Fajardo
  • Hon Margret Kerr
  • Lindsay Koppelman
  • Javier Melendez
  • Tara Pachter
  • Hon. Neal Pitts
We are grateful for their attention, patience, and contributions. It would have never flown without them. We are likewise grateful for the careful preparation and tutelage of the faculty. I pointed out several times during the day that the faculty was confabbing in the hallway during the opening session on professionalism. I apologized to the attendees for the noise. But, I stressed that they could learn from that. 

What can we say about these varied and diverse folks from all over Florida? They like each other. You gather them and they talk, laugh, and commiserate. Their persistence (I kept shooing them down the hall and shushing them and they kept coming back) and their engagement speaks volumes for this community. 

They like each other. They got together in this environment and it was like a family reunion (without the fried chicken, deviled eggs, and aunt sally's coconut creme cake). It was like old home week. It was enriching, empowering, and rewarding. I appreciate their presence and contribution. But I really appreciate their sense of community and commitment. We are truly blessed. The faculty was:
  • Catharine Frances Agacinski, Esq.
  • Holley Akers, Esq.
  • Judge Wilbur Anderson
  • Judge Brian Anthony
  • Judge Robert Arthur
  • Courtney Collins Bahe, Esq.
  • Caitlin Beyl, Esq.
  • John Paul Brooks, Esq.
  • Jessica Carrier, Esq.
  • Judge Barbara Case
  • Natalie Cavallaro, Esq.
  • Amie DeGuzman, Esq.
  • Linda Farrell, Esq.
  • Ana Gonzalez-Fajardo, Esq.
  • Karen Gilmartin, Esq.
  • Kristen Gottfried, Esq.
  • Silvia Maria Hoeg, Esq.
  • Judge Jill E. Jacobs
  • Daniel Todd Jaffe, Esq.
  • Judge Margret Kerr
  • Ryan Michael Knight, Esq.
  • Lindsay Jo Koppelman, Esq.
  • Judge Sylvia Medina-Shore
  • Javier Melendez Santiago, Esq.
  • Gary Alan Miller, Esq.
  • Judge John Moneyham
  • Ivan P Morales
  • Tara Pachter, Esq.
  • Judge James “Pete” Peterson
  • Judge Neal Pitts
  • Barbara Richard, Esq.
  • Grethel San Miguel-Callejas, Esq.
  • Judge Lourdes Sancerni
  • Judge Megan Silver
  • Carolyn “Lyn” Slowikowski, Esq.
  • Judge Timothy Stanton
  • Dawn Traverso, Esq.
  • Judge Rita Young