The Top 5 Pitfalls of Both Law Students and Lawyers

Law students in Tampa Bay learned some important tips and information from area attorneys during a panel discussion called, “A Guide to Avoiding Issues with The Board of Bar Examiners and The Florida Bar: The Top 5 Pitfalls of Both Law Students and Lawyers.” 

(Left to right) Jeffrey Martlew, WMU-Cooley associate dean; Jazmin Shorter, president of WMU-Cooley BLSA; WMU-Cooley Professor Renalia DuBose; Donald Smith, partner with Smith, Tozian, Daniel & Davis, P.A.; Keshara Cowans, Florida Bar Counsel; and Amy Bandow, assistant director of WMU-Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism

(Left to right) Jeffrey Martlew, WMU-Cooley associate dean; Jazmin Shorter, president of WMU-Cooley BLSA; WMU-Cooley Professor Renalia DuBose; Donald Smith, partner with Smith, Tozian, Daniel & Davis, P.A.; Keshara Cowans, Florida Bar Counsel; and Amy Bandow, assistant director of WMU-Cooley’s Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism

It was a unique opportunity to talk with a prosecutor from The Florida Bar and an attorney who represents applicants seeking bar admission. Guest speakers were Keshara Cowans, bar counsel for the Florida Bar, and Donald A. Smith, partner of Smith, Tozian, Daniel and Davis. They are involved in a case as opposing counsels, but together presented advice on how to avoid issues with The Board of Bar Examiners and The Florida Bar, and on how to achieve success as an attorney.

Ms. Cowans’ top five wrong answers are:

  1. Trust Account- Don’t pay attention to it!
  2. Professionalism- Who needs it?
  3. Clients- If they can walk in the door, they qualify!
  4. Communication- Not my job!
  5. Social Media- Say whatever you want!

Mr. Smith’s  top five pitfalls for Florida Bar Applicants:

  1. Lack of Candor
  2. Academic and Student Misconduct/Discipline
  3. Unlawful Conduct
  4. Financial Irresponsibility
  5. Drug/Alcohol Dependency

Donald A. Smith, Jr. is a partner with the firm of Smith, Tozian, Daniel & Davis, P.A., in Tampa, Florida. He received his law degree from Stetson in 1978. He formerly worked as Assistant Staff Counsel with The Florida Bar and as an Assistant State Attorney. Since 1983, he has primarily represented attorneys in Bar grievance proceedings and law firm disputes; has represented judges in Judicial Qualifications Commission proceedings; has represented applicants for admission to the Bar; and has been qualified as an expert in matters involving legal ethics and fee disputes. Mr. Smith is rated AV Preeminent, and is a former chair of the Hillsborough County Family Law Ethics Committee and the Family Law Judicial Liaison Committee. In addition, he is a member of the Hillsborough County Bar Association and Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and is admitted to the Middle District Court of Florida, County Bar Association and Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers. He has spoken on numerous occasions at legal and ethics seminars throughout the state, including various sections of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, Tampa Bay Trial Lawyers Association and Stetson University College of Law.

Keshara Cowans received both her undergraduate degree (B.S. Criminology 2004) and her law degree (J.D. 2007) from Florida State University.  She currently works as Bar Counsel for The Florida Bar in Orlando, Florida.  As bar counsel, she is responsible for the investigation of complaints against attorneys accused of violating the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. She handles all phases of the disciplinary trial including filing appellate briefs with the Florida Supreme Court. Ms. Cowans currently serves on the board of directors for the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers and the Young Lawyers Section of the Orange County Bar Association. She is a Justice Teaching volunteer at Carver Middle School, serves as a judge for the annual high school statewide Mock Trial, as well as We the People competitions.  In 2011, Ms. Cowans was recognized by the National Bar Association and Impact as one of the Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40. In 2013, she was recognized by the Florida State University Alumni Association as one of the university’s “Thirty Under 30” for her significant contributions to her profession and community.

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