Foster-Morales in line to lead The Florida Bar

first_imgDori Foster-Morales never wanted to be a lawyer. A dentist, maybe.Her family insisted she go to law school, which she did not enjoy, and she was unhappy when her mother gave her a briefcase.But then Foster-Morales, who has just become president-elect designate of The Florida Bar, graduated from law school and began practicing. The world changed.“I love being a lawyer, it’s the greatest profession in the world,” she said of a career that includes nearly 10 years in government work and 20 years as managing partner in a small firm.The Miami family law attorney, a veteran Board of Governors member who leads the high-profile Committee on Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers, was certified as the Bar’s next president-elect when filing ended on December 17 and she was the only candidate.She will be sworn in as president-elect at the June Annual Convention when current President-elect John Stewart takes the oath as president. Foster-Morales will begin her one-year term as president at the June 2020 Annual Convention.“It was sort of a slow burn for me,” she said of her decision to seek the Bar’s top post. “I didn’t come to the Board of Governors to be president. I evolved. I think I have something to add.”She said her varied background and personal history help her understand the demands and stresses that lawyers face. When her daughter was diagnosed as autistic, Foster-Morales left her government career for private practice because of the extra economic demands the family faced.Her mother-in-law just went into supervised care, an elderly aunt lives with them, and her son is graduating from high school, with the resulting planning for college.Foster-Morales said like her, other lawyers deal with issues like these in addition to running their practices.“I feel passionately and strongly about the health of our members, mental, physical, and financial. I think they’re interrelated,” she said. “My top priority is really to bolster and create a better system to communicate with people with mental health problems or who are in crisis. I think we could provide a better system in terms of supplementing what Florida Lawyers Assistance, Inc., does.”Many lawyers still don’t know about the range of services available through FLA, Inc., or that its services are confidential, she said.“People are so afraid to talk about not doing well. It’s really hard to get the message out,” Foster-Morales said. “I would love to find a way to provide at least some sessions with private counselors. We really need to provide more services.”She said she is generally cautious about advocating new programs for the Bar, but is enthusiastic about the ongoing overhaul and enhancement of the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service, spearheaded by Stewart.“I really want to facilitate, encourage, and enhance that program,” she said. “It’s going to roll out, but there will be glitches and things to deal with. It won’t be seamless.”It’s also important to watch out for the majority of lawyers who make up the Bar.“It’s the small and solo firms that need the most support from us,” Foster-Morales said. “What I don’t want to do is adopt new programs when there are existing programs that still need our support. I think it’s important to have continuity in those areas.”She was gratified to win without opposition, noting the last two women presidents, including current President Michelle Suskauer, had contested elections.“I hope lawyers felt like I would be a good leader, but I also think they felt I was a strong candidate,” she said. “You can be a strong candidate as a woman and be from a small firm.”Foster-Morales received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Florida in 1987, and her law degree from UF in 1989. She worked as an enforcement attorney for the federal Environmental Protection Agency first in Washington, D.C., and then in New York City from 1990 through the middle of 1993, when she joined the 11th Circuit State Attorney’s Office.In 1998, she left that job and opened Foster-Morales Sockel-Stone, LLC, where she is the managing partner of the six-attorney operation.She has been active in local and state Bar work throughout her career, and is a member of the American Bar Association, the Cuban American Bar Association, the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, the Dade County Bar Association, the Broward County Bar Association, the Palm Beach County Bar Association, and is a fellow of The Florida Bar Foundation.She is Bar certified in marital and family law, a fellow of the American Academy of matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is certified in family law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.Foster-Morales is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell and has been designated a top lawyer by numerous organizations and publications.She has spoken extensively on family law matters and more recently about stresses facing lawyers and balancing a legal career and a family life. She was guest editor for the Bar special January 2018 issue on the mental health and wellness of Florida lawyers.Elected to the Board of Governors in 2008, Foster-Morales has served on numerous committees, including chairing the Certification Plan Appeals Committee and the mental health committee. She has also headed the Annual Convention Committee and currently serves on the Communications and Legislation committees.She and husband Jimmy Morales, the city manager of Miami Beach, met at Miami Beach Senior High School and are approaching their 30th anniversary. They have two children: Nora, 25, is a senior at Florida International University, and Peter, 17, is a senior at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. Dec 15, 2018 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Top Stories Foster-Morales in line to lead The Florida Barlast_img read more