A Historic Recognition
This year’s Founders’ Awards mark the first time the Florida Justice Association® (FJA) has given the recognition to an all-female slate of recipients. This year’s candidates were submitted by the FJA Women’s Caucus, and the final recipients were voted on by the FJA Board at the annual meeting at Convention in June. The all-female roster of award recipients has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the legal community.
“The Women’s Caucus is a beacon of light within the FJA,” said FJA member Nick Johnson, who is of counsel at Cohen Milstein. “The practice of plaintiff personal injury has been dominated by men for decades, and the Women’s Caucus has succeeded in creating a growing group of female practitioners, who serve as an inspiration to not only other women within the organization, but to anyone who can appreciate the tremendous value of increasing diversity within the FJA, and how this diversity inures to the benefits of our clients, an d society as a whole.”
Molli McGuire, chair of the FJA Women’s Caucus, believes this year’s slate of recipients represents decades of membership and leadership in the FJA that is now appropriately being recognized.
“Each and every one of the award winners are absolutely fearless leaders. They serve as an example that vigorous advocacy can and must be combined with unwavering professionalism. They are constant providers of support and guidance to young women in our organization interested in leadership,” McGuire said. She anticipates more female members receiving these awards in the future.
“It is only fitting that the recipients of the awards this year were nominated by the Women’s Caucus and were resoundingly approved by the FJA Board of Directors,” Johnson added.
B.J. and Tom Masterson Award for Professionalism
The criteria for the B.J. and Tom Masterson Award for Professionalism include excellence in advocacy, a distinguished and ethical career, and contributions that have advanced the cause of professionalism in the practice of law. This year’s recipient, Leslie Mitchell Kroeger of the Cohen Milstein law firm, has gone above and beyond in demonstrating why she is deserving of the award.
Kroeger’s career began as an assistant public defender for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida. She served as an assistant state attorney in Miami-Dade County before moving into private practice and is now a partner at Cohen Milstein and becoming co-chair of the firm’s Complex Tort Litigation practice group. Her practice areas include Catastrophic Injury and Wrongful Death, complex tort litigation, Environmental Toxic Torts, Managed Care Abuse Litigation, PFAS Litigation and Unsafe and Defective Products.
As a trial lawyer, Kroeger has worked to promote FJA priority legislation, including legislation on improved tire safety and a 2014 bill that became law which increased booster seat requirements for children in Florida. In October of 2015, Kroeger was honored with the FJA’s Champion of Consumer Safety award for her work with the 2014 legislation.
“As Leslie has devoted years of work to the Florida Justice Association, she has been an advocate for safety for all Floridians. Her work with providing car seats for infants and children is a perfect example of that,” said Laurie Briggs, a personal injury lawyer at Searcy Denney. From 2019 through 2020, Kroeger served as only the second female president of the FJA. Her work as FJA president is one of the many reasons she appeared on this year’s slate of Founders Awards’ recipients.
“The truest test of professionalism is the ability to demonstrate grace under fire. As president of FJA, Leslie faced unprecedented challenges, but she never wavered in her commitment to do what is best for the global good,” said Natasha Diemer, chief strategy officer of Dominick Cunningham & Whalen. “She is a woman who has always led with courage and conviction and the superhuman power to face opponents head on with grace, grit, and a warm Southern smile.”
Kroeger has been praised by her colleagues as a dedicated attorney defined by her poise and professionalism, and an inspiration to all aspiring leaders in the law profession. “The B.J. and Tom Masterson Award recognizes an individual who, in his or her lifetime of practicing law, epitomizes ethical professionalism and who is a model to which all lawyers should aspire. Leslie fits this description to a ‘T,’” said Johnson. “In my over 14-year career, Leslie stands out as one of the most passionate, diligent, and ethical lawyers I have ever encountered.”
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