The future of any state bar rests in the hands of the next generation. At the Florida Bar’s Annual Convention, Jason Silver, outgoing chair of the Student Education and Admissions to the Bar committee, shares with host Laurence Colletti a bit about what his committee has been doing to help law students achieve their best in law school, while taking the bar, and when they start their practices.
Jason Silver is an associate at Greenspoon Marder in their Financial Services group.
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The Florida Bar Podcast
Florida Bar Annual Convention 2019: Jason Silver on Student Education and Admissions to the Bar
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, where we highlight the latest trends in law office and legal practice management to help you run your firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Center. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Laurence Colletti: Hello, welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, recorded from the 2019 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. This is Laurence Colletti, I’m the host for today’s show, and should bench, I am stepping in still, still with the conference coverage here for Christine Bilbrey and Karla Eckardt while they attend to other matters, but fear not everybody, I got a great guest, we have a really interesting topic here.
I’ve got Jason Silver joining us today. Welcome to the show, Sir.
Jason D. Silver: Good morning. Thanks so much for having me, Laurence.
Laurence Colletti: So before we get into our topic of discussion here, just if you could tell us a little bit about yourself, where do you work, what do you do?
Jason D. Silver: Sure. So I’m at a law firm called Greenspoon Marder, it’s a national firm. I am in their Fort Lauderdale office.
Laurence Colletti: Awesome.
Jason D. Silver: So I do what’s — banking and finance litigation.
Laurence Colletti: Finance, I love it.
Jason D. Silver: Yes, I’m in court a decent amount, but I love it. I travel the State of Florida and I also do some work up in New York. So I get around. I interact with a lot of lawyers and get a good vibe for what’s going on out there, which is fun.
Laurence Colletti: So just as brief foreshadowing into our topic, how many bars are you a part of?
Jason D. Silver: That’s a great question, three.
Laurence Colletti: Three?
Jason D. Silver: Three, I’m reminded of it when the bills come in every year.
Laurence Colletti: Always. Never a pleasant communication from the bar when you have to pay that bill, but I digress, but anyway. So the topic that you were speaking, or the topic you met about, because you didn’t actually speak on, you guys had a meeting, it was the student education and admissions to the bar committee.
And so within that committee what is your role?
Jason D. Silver: Sure. So this past year just a little while ago, I finished up my term as Chair of the committee for this past year.
Laurence Colletti: Congratulations.
Jason D. Silver: Thanks. It was really a fun, great, exciting, and inspiring year. I’ll tell you, I was put on a committee in 2013. So I’ve been on it for a number of years now, and it’s always been a fun experience, yeah.
Laurence Colletti: So tell me about some of your fellow committee members, and I understand it’s a grouping of professionals, but just kind of tell me what’s the type of professional that joined you on that?
Jason D. Silver: Yeah, so obviously every year we get a great amount of new members and then we have some veteran members appointed by the President of the Bar. Because there’s a big focus on legal education and obviously taking and hopefully passing the bar, we’ve got a lot of great people such as deans of law schools here in Florida, some student affairs professionals, faculty, just a moment ago, we had the executive director of the Florida Bar, the Board of Bar Examiners and another guest speaker from that board.
So a lot of shareholders, or stakeholders I would say in that process of getting students, getting through law school, taking the bar and getting reviewed by the bar, and we also have some student leaders from law schools on the committee too.
Laurence Colletti: I was going to ask you that. So how about young lawyers as well, people that just got through, taking the bar pass, you have some of those folks joining you as well?
Jason D. Silver: Yeah, we have some young lawyers. We have I’d say certainly lawyers in their first few years of practice, and then of course we have — there is a lawyer there today who’s been practicing 30 plus years, and he’s on the Board of Trustees of Stetson Law.
So, that’s just so great about it is there’s a wide spectrum of voices and perspectives that ultimately help the law student.
Laurence Colletti: All right, so in terms of the student education and admissions to the Bar Committee, what is your mission? So I know that you guys don’t make the rules, you guys are not administering the exam and so what is your mission?
Jason D. Silver: Right and we actually, it was very cool this morning, we actually adopted and voted in a new mission statement, but gist of it Laurence is that we really want to serve as a springboard and a conduit to the leadership of the bar possibly to the Bar, Board of Bar Examiners and to even the Supreme Court about what’s going on with law students and law schools and how things could get better.
But from 30,000 feet, I’d say it’s really helping improve the chances for students to have a successful law school experience, apply for the bar, take the bar, pass the bar and to an extent become successful professional young lawyers.
Laurence Colletti: All right. So let’s take a snapshot. So I understand 2019 did not have the greatest results for the Florida Bar and so, what was the pass rate for 2019, the most recent records you have?
Jason D. Silver: Yeah, and that’s something obviously changes every bar period and I’m certain, yeah, while I’m not part of the committee or the company that does have the bar examiners, what I can say is I’ve looked over the results that came out and the February 2019 exam had a 57.3 bar passage rate out of 599 applicants.
So the first time takers, let me elaborate. So yeah, look that’s not the highest pass rate. It’s not an easy exam, it’s one I think the toughest in the country. I think Florida along with states like New York and California and Texas even have probably the most takers in the most competitive exam.
The Bar of Board Examiners has their own job to do and it’s a serious one and it’s a hard exam.
Laurence Colletti: So I mean based on that, I mean what are some of the recommendations that you’re going to bring forth?
Jason D. Silver: Yeah. So this year as Chair, and this is something I took from the theme of the past couple bar presidents. We felt that — we felt really that health and wellness was a huge aspect of what goes into a student’s experience and success on a law school campus and certainly, once that bar comes looming, I remember the blood pressure and anxiety goes up when you become a third-year law student and when that bar exam approaches, you start to get a little nervous.
So because it’s a big undertaking and so we’ve focused on health and wellness. We focused on helping kids, law students manage stress, what they can do to better do that, being healthier physically and mentally, knowing how to get help, knowing where to go on their law school campuses to seek assistance. We focused on mindfulness as well because we feel that if you are at your top, tip-top shape mentally and physically, that will increase your chances of passing the bar dramatically.
Laurence Colletti: Yeah, one of the common complaints that I hear in that, I think that I’ve had it in my humble opinion. So I’m injecting my opinion which I don’t often do into an interview, but –
Jason D. Silver: We are at a Bar Conference, there are a lot of opinions.
Laurence Colletti: That’s true. There are a lot of opinions at a Bar Conference, but I’ve always felt with the Bar exams that I feel like I’ve heard this from multiple jurisdictions, different state bars, I have felt that Bar examiners are very concerned about the timing of the exam, like meaning how much time they allot, and seem to be wanting to compress a lot into a very limited period of time, as opposed to testing the knowledge.
So obviously they want to know about the knowledge but I feel like they’re trying to kind of jam in so many questions and making it a difficult exam and I feel that that falls way short of measuring what people ought to know, and I feel it ought to be a more so emphasized what you know and how fast you can recall and throw it down in your computer, throw it down on paper.
So in terms of the format, I mean you guys make any recommendations for the format and some of the way the test is set up?
Jason D. Silver: So that’s an interesting question. I have taken the bar exam in two different, at least a couple of different states, successfully passed in Florida, New York, and I could tell you that yeah, there’s certainly a time crunch there. As far as the timing our committee hasn’t really gone into that, well we are discussing, we certainly like to get feedback on what’s going on with national trends. A big part of what our committee does is monitoring what for example, the ABA is recommending or finding, that’s the American Bar Association or what other law schools are doing to prepare their students to take the bar and after.
So we are always looking at what — a part of what we do is to look at what we’re hearing and seeing from other law bar exams around the country and what trends are going on and if needed we will convey a recommendation or concern or discussion topic to the right channels, obviously, we have a member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors on our committee and that would be the person we would talk to about that, but sure, so there’s a lot of trends out there. You’re talking a lot of topics, there is a lot of topics down in exam.
So one thing that came up I attended the Deans Summit a few months ago, we were invited, so we saw some talk about well is there too many subjects on exam. Because guess what, the more subjects there are to study, that’s what makes it harder to prepare. As far as time, I’m not sure what’s change on that, but look if that’s something, I’ll give you an example to compare. In New York State I had to do six essays in an allotted time period, in Florida I had to do three.
The styles of the essay questions were different. In New York it was more let’s say direct, here’s the issue talk about it, in Florida you get a scenario and just talk about everything.
So we haven’t done timing issues but there’s a lot of things we’ve been watching and giving feedback on.
Laurence Colletti: So anything just in terms of recommendations like as the trends I mean any feedback that you’re giving that you prefer over others or any favorites?
Jason D. Silver: Well one thing we discussed this year and we conveyed on was the application process because sometimes there were concerns about the overall application process of giving certain information and that could cause concern or consternation by applicants. So we had a panel about that at UF Law in — University of Florida Law in Gainesville is part of what we talked about. And we conveyed concerns we heard.
As far as recommendations, our main concern is building a bridge from deans to the Florida Bar points of contact in a Supreme Court and the Board of Examiners because that’s sometimes where the gap is. Because you have to understand well from what I’ve learned as years on this committees is deans and administrators are given a lot of stringent requirements, coming all the way down from the American Bar and then of course to the Florida Bar, and the Bar of Board Examiners. So they have a lot they have to do just with that.
So one thing we’ve aimed to do is build the bridge and help the communication stream from deans and administrators to the right contacts who are good decision makers. And we felt that it’s been helpful along with of course really promoting professionals and ethics and other things related to becoming eventually a good young lawyer, passing the bar and becoming a good young lawyer.
Laurence Colletti: So in addition to getting different ideas from different jurisdictions and trying to come up with different ideas for making that process a little bit easier, a little less stressful on the applicants, you guys put on events and what type of programming do you put on to help folks out there looking to take the bar exam?
Jason D. Silver: Fantastic question. I was thrilled this year that this year at least I said when I was starting out last June 2018, I said look this year I want to bring our committee to the law schools because I felt that if we get in front of law students and administrators and faculty that we could really get feedback, engage, what is going on really on campus, and then we could convey that on to the right people.
So this year for example we went to the University of Florida in Gainesville and we had almost an all day panel which discussed health and wellness and then we had a roundtable with student leaders from different leadership groups on campus that really gave some good feedback about what needs to go on. And then, we had an event at the Nova College of Law and Fort Lauderdale and Davie that discussed almost more of a practical application of – all right, so here’s how you become a good law student, young lawyer and how are you are going to take that into the real world.
So and then of course we held events about professionalism at FSU Law in Tallahassee. So I will say that a big part of what we’ve been doing is we consider almost like the holistic approach, whereas if you do certain things the right way in law school, if you get yourself on a right track that will help you become a better bar taker and then young professional.
Laurence Colletti: Excellent. So Jason I just have one last question for you, it’s the end of your chairship, is it a chairship or what is it?
Jason D. Silver: Yeah I think we just call it a chair.
Laurence Colletti: Just call the chair, it’s the end of your chair.
Jason D. Silver: Every year new chair takes over and some new vice chairs. This year a wonderful friend and colleague of mine Jaclyn Behar from Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale is taking over and she’s been such an active member to community and the committee, I’m so happy for her.
I could tell you that there’s a lot going on, we’ve built a really good basis to carry on it to next year. A couple of trends that we’re seeing that there’s a lot of discussion about really conveying to law students and possible law students, let’s say whenever at a college campus or even earlier that there’s a heck of a lot of expenses that come with applying to and going through law school and then getting barred.
So we — a lot of times that is a lot of student debt that are coming up and sometimes in certain situations it impacts an applicant’s ability to apply for the bar affair if you’re having financial issues. So we think it’s a very big thing. We want to do some programming on that, there is a major handbook we’ve been working on for a couple of years now that is almost going to be like a go-to guide for students to say I have a question about how the heck do I pull up this application for financial aid at a particular school or where do I go or why and it’s this document — I’m sure it’ll be a PDF will have helpful information links about every law school in Florida and a lot of different things going on there.
So I think that’s going to be a great thing as well and together with the Center for Professionalism which we’re under that umbrella the Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism with our wonderful bar staff, Rebecca Bandy, and a Adriannette Williams from the Center, I think there’s going to be even more wonderful programming events, panels on campuses that will continue to get our committee right before in the presence of law students on their campuses.
Laurence Colletti: Well Jason we’re reaching the end of our time here together and so if our listeners, they want to follow up or they have questions how can they find you.
Jason D. Silver: Sure and again thanks so much for having me. I am very, very active on social media they can look me up on Instagram, @JSilver44 is my handle on Twitter, Facebook my name, LinkedIn also and of course email, I am pretty easy to find, my law firm email address which is [email protected]. Yeah if anyone ever has feedback or questions, hope I’ve explained the role of our committee and how we try to help out.
Laurence Colletti: Well that’s all the time we have for this episode of the Florida Bar Podcast. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in and if you like what you heard please rate and review us in Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app. I am Laurence Colletti, until next time, thank you for listening.
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