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Florida Lawyers In Limbo Over Bar Exam, Broward And Palm Beach’s Youngest School Board Members, And Different Approaches To Dealing With Grief

Florida Supreme Court

More than 1,000 Florida lawyers are waiting in limbo to take the Florida Bar exam. Plus, we talk to two new school board members in Palm Beach and Broward counties, and talk with a grief counselor about grieving the loss of a loved one.

On this Wednesday, Aug. 26 episode of Sundial.

Florida Lawyers’ Frustration Over Bar Exam

More than a thousand lawyers in Florida are in limbo right now waiting to complete their Bar exam after numerous issues with the test.

The test determines who is qualified to practice law in Florida. Normally, it’s held twice a year in Tampa.

This year, the July test was moved online because of COVID-19 concerns. It was first postponed to Aug. 18, but that coincided with the election. So it was moved to the next day — and then canceled again over cybersecurity concerns, just days before applicants were set to take the test.

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The state’s supreme court announced a temporary program to allow graduates, who haven’t been able to take the test, to practice law “under supervision.” But some say this program doesn’t go far enough.

“The toughest one I think is finding a lawyer in the state of Florida with more than five years of experience who agrees to be responsible for any of the [graduate’s] mistakes,” said Alan Gassman, a Forbes contributor and partner at the Gassman, Crotty & Denicolo law firm.

He is hiring some law graduates who haven’t been able to take the Bar exam, but he won’t have them under the “supervised-practice program” because of the liability.

We spoke with Gassman and Michael Ellis, a recent FIU graduate hoping to take the Bar exam in October.

Broward And Palm Beach’s Youngest School Board Members

Broward County Schools began classes last week and Palm Beach County is set to begin next Monday.

Both school districts are starting the school year virtually but will be re-evaluating their plans every two weeks.

Sarah Leonardi is 30 years old and is the School Board Member-Elect District 3 in Broward County. Alexandria Ayala is 27 years old and is School Board Member-Elect District 2 in Palm Beach County. They will, respectively, become the youngest members of their school boards.

“Bringing a fresh teacher perspective to our board that focuses on prioritizing the people that most impact our students every day is going to be really important,” said Leonardi, who worked as a teacher for 8 years in Broward County.

We spoke with them about the changes they would like to make after they’re sworn into office in November.

Grieving In Different Ways

Loss is something no one wants to experience, but we’re all likely to at some point in our lives.

In some ways, it's now become a part of our collective consciousness, as many are grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19, loss of a business or loss of a way of life.

For the August Sundial Book Club, we’ve been reading "Black Widow" by Leslie Gray Streeter. The memoir details the grief she experienced after suddenly losing her husband and how she's used humor to cope.

“At one point she says, ‘Did I even eat? Is it ok that I eat? Is it ok that I weigh my self? I don’t even know.’ And when you’re in that stage it’s hard to know what is the correct thing to do,” Katalin Hanana, a licensed mental health counselor. She added that reaching out to friends, family, a counselor — or even a therapy animal — can help.

We spoke with Hanana about dealing with grief after a loss.

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Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.