Catching Up With the New President of the Florida Bar

Attorney Gary Lesser has been waiting to fill these big legal shoes

“I’m the guy—Lord help us all,” cracks Gary Lesser, about his new role as president of the Florida Bar; he was sworn in just weeks ago. But don’t let his self-mockery fool you. Lesser has been preparing to take his place on this particular stage for a while now. “The way our system works is that we have a very robust president-elect system,” he says, “and the person who had the role—Michael Tanner—is a very good friend of mine. He’s had me at the table and involved all year.”

Lesser was elected in March 2021, and was sworn in as president-elect in June 2021. (He was elected to the board of governors in 2011.) In other words, it’s a long runway, and now Lesser—a graduate of George Washington University and the University of Miami Law School—is finally taking off.

“To be able to lead the legal profession is the greatest honor of my professional life,” says the West Palm Beach native. “We work directly with and for the court, and we serve the public, and we regulate lawyers. I’m just happy be able to do the job—it’s very important work.”

Decades after Lesser’s grandfather Joseph Lesser founded a personal injury firm in 1927, Lesser’s father followed suit, and even as a child of nine or 10, Lesser envisioned himself working with his grandfather, who he considers a role model for both himself and his father. “When you’re a child, you don’t compute your grandfather’s mortality,” he says, “I thought he and I would work together, doing good, forever. He was 68 when I was born, so I really didn’t do the math there.”

It was that admiration and the tutelage he experienced that helped inspired Lesser to use his new role to create a mentorship program, focusing on lawyers with three or fewer years of experience and firms of three or fewer lawyers. “We, as the Florida Bar, owe it to them to help them succeed to be their best selves and best lawyers,” Lesser says. “There are other state bars that have a mentoring program, but I think we the ability to create one of the best ones in the country, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Today Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith is composed of 10 attorneys distributed among three offices in Palm Beach County and one in Martin County. Why so many offices for less than a dozen lawyers? Client service, Lesser is quick to explain. “We opened those offices very organically,” he says. “We go where our lawyers are and where we can be impactful to the community. The firm has been handling cases in Boca Raton and in Martin County since I joined the firm almost 30 years ago, and we got busier and busier, and I could only be in one place at a time. I was lucky to bring on some very good lawyers to help man those offices and serve our clients who live in those areas. I wanted local people who wanted to make a difference.”

And he has the good fortune of relying on partners who are ready to step and lead: As Lesser assumes his new responsibilities, he is stepping back from overseeing the day-to-day operations of the firm as managing partner. When he contemplates the minutiae of administrative tasks sliding off his plate, Lesser exhales “Baruch Hashem”—Yiddish for “Thank God”—and laughs. But he is quick to point out that he’ll still be handling an active case load. The highest dollar judgment Lesser won was for $6.3 million, in a case in which his clients lost their 23-year-old motorcyclist son in a traffic accident.N

“That was a good day for justice,” he recalls. “The clients have become extremely close to me and our partners. We’ve invited them to every bar mitzvah and every special event we’ve ever done. You go to war for a family for a couple years or more, and you become very attached and close.”

Drew Limsky
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