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News - July 8, 2019

Grasford W. Smith Installed as 2019 President of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter NBA

Litigation & Dispute Resolution Shareholder, Grasford Smith, was sworn in as the 2019 President of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association (VHFCNBA). He has been actively involved in the organization for the past 2 years, initially serving as Vice President.

The VHFCNBA has been a driving force in advocating for important issues such as ensuring equal access to the justice system and increasing economic parity for marginalized members of our community.

Grasford Smith President Virgil Hawkins Crop

Today, the VHFCNBA consists of a network of more than 1,000 attorneys statewide. The organization has been the catalyst for the establishment of local, affiliate Black Bar Associations throughout Florida, and serves as the umbrella by which the local chapters exist.

An important aspect of Grasford’s role as President will be to serve as an ex officio member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors. “My goals for this year are multi-faceted. I will work to increase the presence and influence of this organization throughout the State of Florida”, says Grasford. “Simply put, my ABCD for this administration will be Advocacy, Bar relations, Communication, and Diversity.”

Advocacy

“The Virgil Hawkins Bar has a strong legacy as an advocacy group here in Florida, and my goal as President is to keep the legacy alive and flourishing. I plan to rally our local membership and affiliates to harness the strength of the VHFCNBA to tackle current social problems in the State of Florida. Our lobbying efforts will include issues such as voting rights and suppression.”

Bar relations

“A primary goal is the improvement of member services by adding value for our chapter members, as well as our affiliate members. One of the ways we will do this is to offer CLEs that are relevant and useful to our membership, topics that address modern-day concerns, and provide tools with which members can utilize to become future leaders in the State.

Four quarterly meetings are planned to take place; one in Tallahassee, one in West Palm Beach, and two in Orlando. Each of these meetings will include a CLE component, with topics ranging from voting rights, improving diversity in legal and judicial leadership roles, to increasing business opportunities with government-related entities, and practice management.”

Communications

“I plan to immediately address our communications strategy. My intention is to facilitate efficient communication and cooperation among the Virgil Hawkins Bar’s affiliates statewide. Through ongoing and meaningful collaboration with our affiliates, we can identify areas where each can support the other’s mission. In addition, VHFCNBA must have a greater presence in all mediums so that our messaging reaches a broader audience. Our communication platform also presents an opportunity to provide value to our affiliate membership through the promotion of members and events, as well as outreach to law students who are entering the profession.”

Diversity

“My vision is to create an unobstructed pathway for our members to serve in significant leadership roles in The Florida Bar, on Judicial Nominating Commissions, and in Judicial Appointments at the State and Federal levels. I plan to collaborate with Florida Bar leadership to address the lack of diversity in these key roles and to create long-term strategies to ensure a pipeline of leaders and volunteers for years to come. That means supporting our current members and also aiding and mentoring our law student membership.”

About The Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association

The organization, formerly known as the Florida Chapter National Bar Association, began in the 1950s with a group of African-American lawyers who were members of the Chi Epsilon Legal Fraternity that mercilessly fought against injustice in Florida. They proclaimed their mission as “ensuring access to the justice system; increasing economic parity for the less fortunate, underprivileged and disadvantage of our society; and educating the community (particularly, the Black Community) on the need for empowerment and self-determination.”


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