A native of West Palm Beach and longtime head of the Florida Bar, Gary Lesser is the new President-elect of the Florida Bar.
Lesser will be sworn in as President-elect at the annual Florida Lawyers Conference on June 11, when current President-elect Michael Tanner of Jacksonville becomes president. Lesser will serve as president for the 2022-23 legal year.
“For me, it’s the best opportunity to help lawyers in Florida and then people living in Florida,” Lesser said. “The President sets the agenda. The board of governors, elected from across Florida, votes on decisions. “
Less defeated Steven Davis, a member of the Miami Board of Governors, after receiving 11,817 votes to Davis’ 6,922 votes.
Lesser, managing partner of Lesser, Lesser Landy & Smith, an 11-person personal injury law firm based in West Palm Beach, will follow four other Palm Beach County attorneys who have served as attorneys for the past several years. They were Michelle Suskauer, 2018; Gregory Coleman, 2014; Scott Hawkins, 2011 and John “Jay” White, 2007.
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Lesser’s company, which celebrated its 94th anniversary that year, was founded in West Palm Beach in 1927 by his grandfather, the late Joe Lesser, and then his father, the late Shep Lesser, ran the company.
Lesser, 53, from Palm Beach Gardens and his wife Jennifer have three daughters, Lillian, Josie and Rebecca. His oldest daughter Lillian is in her freshman year of law school.
“When I was little I decided to work with Grandpa forever. I had great role models with my grandfather and my father. I wanted to do that. My grandfather and father loved being a lawyer and helping the community. That’s all I ever wanted to do, ”Lesser said. “I didn’t want to be a cop or an astronaut.”
The firm is the oldest law firm of the same name in Palm Beach County, Lesser said. The company handles personal injury cases ranging from motorcycle accidents, truck and golf cart accidents, to unlawful motor vehicle deaths, to pedestrian deaths and sexual abuse of minors.
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Lesser received his bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University in 1989 and his law degree from the University of Miami in 1992, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Law School newspaper.
He is completing his tenth year on the Board of Governors of the Bar, where he chaired the Legislative Committee three times and served on the Executive Committee for four years. Among other things, he was chairman of the professional ethics committee.
“Ethics and professionalism are really important. They define what lawyers are and what they should be. We don’t do anything and we don’t sell anything. What we provide is our knowledge, wisdom and ethics. We help our customers through the process, regardless of the process, ”said Lesser.
Any attorney wishing to practice law in Florida must be a member of The Florida Bar, which was founded in 1949. The bar is one of the largest law firms in the country. Membership in the Bar includes 90,564 practicable lawyers and 3,608 impractical members such as judges and military personnel.
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Florida Bar is an agency of the Florida Supreme Court regarding regulation of its members, including legal discipline, ethics rules, and more. The bar has a process for consumer complaints that can come from customers, counterparties, or someone who feels they are wrong, Lesser said.
The president-elect is working with the president to help, as being president can be a full-time job, said Lesser, who is already attending working meetings. Usually the president’s job involves a lot of travel.
“At the moment it’s a virtual world anyway. I am not sure when we will be returning to large personal gatherings of any kind. I’m a politician, ”said Lesser.
One of Lesser’s goals is to get the bar to launch a campaign to educate the public about the benefits of hiring an attorney to prepare wills, conduct real estate transactions, and protect them during these and other life events.
A few years ago he found out about a survey in which around 80 percent of Floridians surveyed said they would not hire a lawyer because they felt they could not afford it. The fear of a high fee is a public concern.
“This distrust or separation from the legal profession is a very serious problem,” Lesser said. “People don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t know the risk and hazard they are exposing themselves to. Frankly, it is up to the legal profession to explain this to the public. “
Those who end up trying to make a will themselves using a form bought at an office supply store or online run the risk of missing out on something like the required certification and signature and getting an invalid will.
“You’re dying and the family needs to clean up a mess,” Lesser said.
“My dad used to say, ‘You can probably do it on your own, but if you did decide to pull your own tooth, you would probably have the dentist do it. He knows how to do it right. ‘”
Lesser said he believes in volunteering and helping the underserved and disadvantaged people. Florida is a leader in civil legal assistance. He served in Palm Beach County’s Legal Aid Society since becoming “a brand new baby attorney,” Lesser said.
If you’re hiring a lawyer, do your research, Lesser advises.
“Find out who they are. Receive recommendations. Don’t hire a lawyer based on the first result you get on Google, ”he said.
Diversity and inclusion are areas where the legal profession has made headway but still has a lot to do, Lesser said.
“In Florida we’re now 60 percent men and 40 percent women. It used to be disproportionate. We have been stuck between 60 and 40 for a number of years because women disproportionately leave the law. Companies don’t necessarily give them the support when they have a birth and have other problems. That’s changing now, ”Lesser said as the companies realize they don’t want to lose a good lawyer.
“We’re seeing more female lawyers and more female lawyers in color. It is extremely important that we have an equal opportunity for engagement and leadership, ”he said. “For me, diversity and inclusion mean that everyone has a seat at the table.”