Leadership of the Florida Bar is changing! In this episode from the Annual Convention, host Christine Bilbrey talks to Dori Foster-Morales about her role as president-elect in the year ahead. Dori talks about her support of bar president John Stewart’s planned focus on technology and then shares goals for her own presidency beginning in June 2020. They also discuss how she maintains a healthy work-life balance when managing multiple commitments.
Dori Foster-Morales is a board certified marital and family lawyer and partner at Foster-Morales Sockel-Stone.
The Florida Bar Podcast
Florida Bar Annual Convention 2019: Looking Ahead with President-Elect Dori Foster-Morales
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.
Christine Bilbrey: Hello and welcome to the Florida Bar podcast, recorded from the 2019 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. This is Christine Bilbrey, I’m the host of the Florida Bar Podcast, and joining me right now on her very last day as Florida Bar President Designate elect, we’re on the precipice so in the morning your title changes, I have Dori Foster-Morales.
Thank you for joining us.
Dori Foster-Morales: Happy to be here Christine.
Christine Bilbrey: So you’re about to conclude your year as president-elect designate. So what have you learned? Have you — did you have real responsibilities this year or you just been everywhere?
Dori Foster-Morales: I sort of feel like my responsibility this year is to provide support and sort of follow the lead of our President to be, John Stewart. I know he has a lot of great plans to help the Bar move forward in this sort of new age of technology, and I know that some of the things that he’s looking at are going to be multi-year steps.
So I kind of feel like that’s what I’m tasked to do this year, which is to assist, provide support and guidance and otherwise sort of be the first runner up so to speak.
Christine Bilbrey: And so, John’s focus I know has been like very heavy on technology. We have the new LRS platform, a lot of that’s been going on under his leadership. What have you decided is going to be your primary focus or your goals for when you take over as President?
Dori Foster-Morales: So I think that my skill or what I bring to the table is all about people. So I think technology is incredibly important and like I said, it’s not like I’m dropping anything, but I think you layer that on how all of this impacts human beings, whether it be the practice and the way we conducted, our clients, our relationship to technology and as you know Christine, my focus on mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers, which I started last year but really it is — we’ve just scratched the surface of that.
And we all know that those, all the challenges facing our members impact in part on their health and wellness and so, the question is how do we layer those things together to sort of create a happier and healthier environment of the law practice.
Christine Bilbrey: And I know just from your committee work, you travel a lot and then you add on your board of governors commitments and I know that you guys meet every two months and it’s like a different city, so you’re traveling all over the state and I know because you’ve told us anecdotally, bar members will pull you aside and talk to you.
And so, now that you’re going to be President of the bar, what do the bar members want from you? What are they wanting from the Bar? Are you getting a sense?
Dori Foster-Morales: Well, I do think they want support, they want guidance, they want assistance. So I know I was thrilled because one of the members of the Family Law Section came up to me yesterday and asked me where there was a 12-step program or was an AA meeting. And I thought wow, we’ve really come a long way that a gentleman who is obviously in recovery and wanted to go to a meeting was comfortable enough speaking to the president-elect designate and asked me about a meeting.
And so, what I think they want is they want guidance and acceptance and they want us to help us find acceptance among the judicial branch — frankly, the judicial branch wants to have their own health and wellness initiatives.
So I think they’re looking to us to sort of help them have a sort of a more complete life in the sense of what all the balancing that we all do, whether it’s as a parent and a lawyer, as the child, an aging parent and a lawyer.
There are just so many aspects to our lives and when you layer that with the practice of law, which is about solving people’s problems, whether they’re commercial litigation problems, whether they’re transactional problems, whether they’re family law problems like I deal with, I think life is very complex and it’s only gotten more complex with all of these things that we’re talking about.
Christine Bilbrey: And going through this whole process, I know that you ran unopposed but you’ve been on the Board of Governors for a while. Can you talk about why you decided to put yourself through this?
Dori Foster-Morales: A lot of people ask me that and sometimes I ask myself that. I sort of feel there have been a lot of flavors to leadership on our Bar and on our Board and I thought that I brought a little different flavor to leadership. I’m not like the forever president, I wasn’t president of local bar organization. I got involved with the Board of Governors sort of in a different track.
And as I was getting to that place where I was thinking am I going to go off the board, what else do I want to accomplish? I really looked at the trajectory of all the different leaders whether they come from the Young Lawyers Division or past president of the Dade County Bar and I thought I had a little different flavor, maybe from my perspective and I thought I had something to offer from that different flavor.
And with that, I decided probably two years ago, this time two years ago that I was going to run for president because I felt like I had something to offer and maybe it’s a human element, a human element of leadership.
Christine Bilbrey: And how do you — what about the time commitment, are you — I know you have a very successful practice, how are you juggling that? What goes on back at your office?
Dori Foster-Morales: So I have your typical what I would call small law firm, six lawyers including myself, I recognized I can’t be all things to all people. I’m being very careful about the cases I take because I don’t want to overwhelm myself. I still feel an incredible commitment to my clients to my work product.
I do have a lot of support, my law partner and I have been together, we met in law school. So as I always say it takes a village, I have an incredibly supportive community whether it’s my husband or my law partners, everyone’s really was behind this decision. I didn’t do it in a vacuum. I spoke to people about it because it really takes commitment from all sides to do something like this, whether it’s the folks in my office or the folks at home, my husband, my children.
I needed buy-in so that I could feel like I could really do the best I could do for the Bar.
Christine Bilbrey: And has it been a positive impact are you still — for your own mental health? What are you doing to relieve the stress, carrying the weight of your clients and now all 107,000 bar members?
Dori Foster-Morales: So sometimes I say I need to practice what I preach or do as I say not as I do.
Christine Bilbrey: Right.
Dori Foster-Morales: I think it’s a struggle, it’s a struggle. I mean I think lots of lawyers like me are type A personalities and we want to do a good job for everyone and every aspect of our lives whether it’s my aunt’s 90th birthday party, my kids’ graduation party, to be there for my husband, to be there for my clients and I think it’s sort of like a 12-step analysis which is like you take every day as they come.
And you recognize you can’t do everything, you have to be honest with people when you can’t get something, don’t give an unrealistic deadline. I told people this week my commitment is to the bar. So when people were saying to me I need to talk to you or I need to get something out of you, I told them last week, don’t expect to get anything from me this week and it’s all about setting up expectations and I think when you do that, and you’re honest with people, you avoid what I would say the pitfalls of the practice of law which are the unanswered phone calls. The things that make clients angry and in fairness to my clients, they are all super proud of me as well. They’re really happy that I’m doing this and I’ve gotten a lot of support.
Christine Bilbrey: Yeah and I have to say as a bar employee, we’re very excited that you and John are coming on. I think it’s going to be a great year and we’re looking for it because I personally can tell that you’ve moved the needle through the work that you’ve done in preparation to become a president.
Dori Foster-Morales: Well I will tell you that I think John and I are going to have a great collaborative relationship. We get along very well, both of us are sort of not the spotlight kind of people. So I think that’s a good thing and I think we’re going to be like a really good team and I’m really looking forward to working with John. It’s really exciting.
Christine Bilbrey: Well I know how busy you are, so I want to thank you for taking this time out and I want to congratulate you so.
Dori Foster-Morales: Thank you Christine. I really appreciate and all the help you’ve given me over the years.
Christine Bilbrey: So, that’s all the time we have for this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in. If you like what you heard, please rate and review us in Apple podcast, Google podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.
I’m Christine Bilbrey, until next time, thank you for listening.
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