President’s Message – Winter 2023

In December 2023, The Florida Bar Foundation changed its name to FFLA. Posts prior to this date contain our former name.

There is a new trend I’ve noticed this year – instead of adopting resolutions for the new year, some are adopting a word for the year. For the Foundation, I would choose “partnership” for 2023. The Foundation is fortunate to work with many partners in our legal community that support our work.

Hon. Suzanne Van Wyk

Hon. Suzanne Van Wyk, Foundation President 2022-23

One of our newest partnerships is with The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division. As a sponsor of the YLD, we have the opportunity to spread awareness of the Foundation among their members, to promote becoming a Foundation Fellow to support our Endowment Trust, and to recruit the next generation of Foundation board members.

The Foundation has a solid partnership with many law firms, and several have generously sponsored our quarterly board meetings. We hold our board meetings around the state so that board members, grantees and others have flexibility to attend. We are always open to building more and stronger relationships with firms. If your firm would like to partner with the Foundation in any way, please reach out to Michelle Fonseca, our development director.

We hope to be of assistance to the Florida Supreme Court as they review the IOTA rule this year and make any needed revisions. The Foundation made the first IOTA distribution under the amended rule in December. Our partnership with grantees in developing the distribution methodology was crucial to ensure fairness and efficiency.

Through the Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge, the Foundation continues to maintain a strong partnership with our state’s 12 law schools. (Welcome, Jacksonville University College of Law!) On Feb. 6, the Challenge transitioned to a year-round model (see story). Our grantees are dedicated partners in our pro bono endeavors, posting cases on Florida Pro Bono Matters and shepherding student and lawyer matches through the Challenge.

We are fortunate to continue to have strong, collaborative partnerships with The Florida Bar and our grantees. By way of our grant requirements, grantees are encouraged to collaborate with each other in order to pool their resources, avoid duplication and serve more clients.

We collaborate with The Florida Bar to achieve our collective goals, especially as it relates to increasing access to the legal system and promoting pro bono and mentoring. We also support the Bar by promoting their projects, like the recently announced “Life’s Legal Moments” effort.

Importantly, we are working toward establishing relationships and hopefully partnerships with more community and business leaders thereby creating more grassroots support and lessening the burden on the legal profession in tackling the “justice gap.”

Finally, I’d like to remember Lou Ann Powell for being a true partner in the mission of the Foundation. Lou Ann passed away in November. She was invaluable as our CFO, committed to the mission by giving financially to support the Foundation and recruiting her friends to do so as well.

Florida Bar Foundation President Suzanne Vak Wyk began her term July 1, 2022. Van Wyk is an administrative law judge with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee. A graduate of Florida State University College of Law, she also has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. Previously, Van Wyk was a shareholder with Bryant Miller Olive, served as assistant general counsel to the Florida Department of Community Affairs, as assistant county attorney with the Leon County Attorney’s Office, and as a staff attorney for the Florida Building Commission and the Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs. She is board certified in City, County, and Local Government Law. Van Wyk, a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow and Gold Society donor, is currently serving as chair-elect of The Florida Bar’s Administrative Law Section, and previously served on the Committee on Professionalism and chaired the Voluntary Bar Liaison Committee. She is also a past president of the board of the Florida State University College of Law Alumni Association.