message from the president
Almost a year ago, I was looking forward to my upcoming time as president of Sarasota FAWL. And then COVID-19 hit and everything changed seemingly overnight, including how FAWL has successfully operated and evolved for so many years. Suddenly, I found myself in the position of transitioning, like so many of our members, to an entirely virtual law practice, as well as juggling remote learning with my children. But I was also “holding the bag” of being Sarasota FAWL president during a year where there could be no in-person events and everything we wanted to do would have to be done on a virtual platform. Luckily, I have been blessed to serve on the board with many new and long-time members who are enthusiastic, forward-thinking, creative and tech-savvy!

Already, Sarasota FAWL has hosted or co-hosted two virtual CLEs, Today’s Law Office: Virtual, Mobile, Secure & Efficient with Adriana Linares of LawTech Partners, and October’s Hot Topics in Florida Election Law co-hosted with Pinellas FAWL. In November and December, we joined the Gulfcoast Chapter of the UN Women USA in their Virtual Walk Fundraiser, helping to raise over $18,000 to help stop violence against women around the world and here in our community. Looking into 2021, Sarasota FAWL, along with the Manatee Chapter, is hosting a virtual CLE with Laura A. Rosenbury, the Dean and Levin, Mabie & Levin Professor of Law at University of Florida Levin College of Law, who will give an interactive, virtual presentation on gender and leadership in February, and we have several other projects in the works.

Although things look a little different these days, I am confident and excited that despite all the challenges that the pandemic has brought, through innovation and creativity, Sarasota FAWL is continuing its tradition of actively promoting gender equality, upholding the highest standards of integrity, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession, promoting reform in the law, and facilitating the administration of justice. I hope you enjoyed a very happy and safe holiday season, and I am looking forward to joining all of you, whether in person or online, as we begin a fresh new year filled with infinite possibilities. 
 
Happy New Year!
Stephanie Murphy
President, Sarasota FAWL
FACING CHALLENGES - EMBRACING CHANGE
When our new board of directors meets every summer to plan the upcoming year, one of our main tasks is to select a theme. During the summer of 2020, we faced the difficulty of coming up with a theme that fit these unprecedented times. How could we pick a “catch phrase” that encompasses our goals and hopes for the coming year when faced with all the difficulties going on in the world, from rampant social injustice, to political turmoil, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that has touched all our lives in one way or another?

After much discussion, the board agreed that our theme should recognize both the good and the bad of 2020, as well as hope and optimism for 2021. After all, even though 2020 was a difficult year for many of us, and things are not likely to change significantly in the immediate future, those difficulties have led to great progress and advancement, bringing about a revolution in how we live our lives, educate our children, maintain much-needed connectivity with our family and friends, and of course, how we practice law. We hope you will join Sarasota FAWL in the coming year as we are FACING CHALLENGES & EMBRACING CHANGE.
Facing Challenges - Embracing Change
Member Spotlight
Michele Stephan, Esq.
Long-time board member, Michele Stephan, is a member of Maglio, Christopher & Toale, where she litigates medical products liability cases in Florida and around the U.S. In keeping with her passion for the people, she represents consumers against large corporations, wearing the “white hat” as she fights for the rights of underdogs. Michele has dedicated her career to advocating on behalf of the injured or oppressed, putting consumers first and ensuring that profits do not come before safety. She is also certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a mediator in civil and family law cases. 
In addition to her work on behalf of consumers and individuals, Michele has consistently made public service a priority in her life and career. She has volunteered countless hours as a pro bono attorney at the Resurrection House, a day resource center for the homeless of Sarasota County. Her work has ranged from protecting people’s basic human rights to social security law, guardianship, and a myriad of matters in between. She also volunteers with Sarasota Teen Court and Legal Aid of Manasota, and serves on the board of directors and Access to Justice task force of the Sarasota County Bar Association, in addition to her longstanding service on the FAWL Board of Directors. She was awarded the 2017 Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, the 2017 Florida Association for Women Lawyers “Leaders in the Law” award, and has been featured by News Channel 9 as an “Everyday Hero,” and Sarasota News Network’s “People You Should Know.” Michele was awarded the 2015 Distinguished Community Service Award from the Sarasota County Bar Association, the 2015, 2014 and 2011 Service to the Community Award by Legal Aid of Manasota, the 2008 Member of the Year award for our chapter, and the Supreme Court of Florida in 2007 for outstanding pro-bono service.
 
Michele balances her busy career and pro bono work with a robust love of cooking, gardening, antiquing, and traveling. She enjoys her hydroponic and herb gardens, as well as her citrus trees, and often incorporates the fresh foods she grows into her love of cooking. She shares these passions with many close friends and family members, as well as her beloved English Setter, Clementine, who she adopted in March 2020 from Nate’s Honor Rescue.
 
Sarasota FAWL is lucky to have the support, commitment and creativity that Michele brings to our organization, and we look forward to many more years working with her!
save the date
The Sarasota Chapter of FAWL is delighted to announce its collaboration with Manatee FAWL to present: 

"Women and Leadership During the Pandemic and Beyond"
February 10, 2021
An interactive, virtual presentation by
Dean and Levin, Mabie & Levin Professor of Law
University of Florida Levin College of Law

Dean Rosenbury’s many areas of expertise include employment law; women, gender and the law; and exploring legal strategies for gender equality that focus on the ways gender is constructed in and out of law at home, work, and beyond.
 
SAVE THE DATE to participate in Dean Rosenbury’s interesting and empowering virtual presentation!
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