DAYTONA BEACH - Katherine Hurst Miller of Cobb Cole law firm in Daytona Beach was recently sworn in as president of the Florida Bar's Young Lawyers Division.
And she has the really big gavel to prove it: a piece of polished lumber large enough to take down a wall - or a recalcitrant lawyer.
Miller is the first attorney ever to serve as president of the Florida Bar's young lawyer's division from the 7th Circuit, spanning Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties. An attorney who is 36 or under or has practice law in Florida less than five years can qualify as a young lawyer.
But with the big ceremonial gavel came big responsibilities for the 35-year-old Miller who has practiced law at Cobb Cole for the past 10 years. She joined the firm after graduating from Stetson University College of Law, where she met her future husband, Chris Miller, a prosecutor with at the 7th Circuit State Attorney's Office. Miller, a Daytona Beach resident, specializes in insurance work, defending insurance companies or insurance agents when they are sued. She also represents homeowners and condominium associations.
She recently spoke with The News-Journal.
What are your goals as president?
"I have three overarching goals. First to focus on education and training of young lawyers through continuing education and other courses and webinars that we put on through out the year. Two would be to advocate on behalf of young lawyers on issues like women and diversity in the profession, issues of pay and loan forgiveness for government attorneys and young lawyers having a role in cases and the courtroom. Part three is service, which is community service for young lawyers to do, but most importantly pro bono legal service and offering legal services for those who can't afford it or for that big middle class, which includes most lawyers actually, who probably just couldn't afford the billable rate that a lot of lawyers charge."
What are your thoughts on women in the legal profession based on responses to a survey by the Florida Bar?
"Forty-three percent of the survey respondents had experienced overt discrimination or implicit bias from opposing counsel, clients, judges, even in the workplace. So I think the takeaway is there's work to be done. A lot of work has been done and law firms and attorneys' offices are much more family friendly or interested in promoting women. I think there is more work to be done in terms of pay and compensation, getting the big case and the big clients and just being treated fairly and professionally.
What advice would you give young people interested in becoming lawyers?
"Make sure that they know what being a lawyer involves. It's not just simply being good at arguing. It takes a long time to train to become a lawyer. Once you are a lawyer there's still a lot of learning to do. Many people incur enormous student debt and so whatever you can do to have less student loans in law school is really important. And be a broad person that loves learning because it's really a profession full of people skills and learning skills and those are the things that lawyers will always be able to provide their clients that a form on the internet is never going to be able to provide.
By Frank Fernandez, email@example.com