Sia Baker-Barnes: Florida Bar’s First Black Female President

West Palm Beach, Florida – Sia Baker-Barnes, an accomplished attorney, recently experienced a pivotal moment in her career. As she recalls weekends spent watching the NFL Draft with her father, she often wondered what it would feel like to hear her name called. Last weekend, that moment finally arrived. Baker-Barnes learned that she had been elected as the president-elect designate of the Florida Bar, the third-largest mandatory bar in the United States. It was an unforgettable moment for her and a historic one for the Florida Bar, as she will become its first-ever Black female president.

Reflecting on her achievement, Baker-Barnes expressed her gratitude and called it “a great honor.” The Florida Bar, established in 1950 but with origins dating back to 1889, plays a vital role in regulating the practice of law in the state. It also provides crucial training and continuing legal education to ensure the delivery of exceptional services to clients and citizens.

Under the staggered election process, Baker-Barnes will assume the role of president-elect in June 2024 and become the president in 2025. Her appointment follows a long line of esteemed Palm Beach County attorneys who have represented the Florida Bar at the highest level. Notably, Gary Lesser held this position in 2022, and Michelle Suskauer became the first woman from Palm Beach County to serve as the Florida Bar president in 2018.

Having spent her entire professional career at the same law firm, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, Baker-Barnes brings a wealth of experience to her new role. She is a board-certified civil trial lawyer and chairs the firm’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. Born in Tampa but a resident of Palm Beach County since the age of three, Baker-Barnes has deep roots in the local legal community.

Her father, Moses Baker Jr., a retired Palm Beach County Circuit Judge, and her mother, who served as the head of the Florida Department of Corrections in Palm Beach County, instilled values of education and giving back in Baker-Barnes and her siblings. She attributes her passion for community involvement and her dedication to creating opportunities for others to her parents’ exemplary leadership.

Baker-Barnes holds dual degrees from Florida State University, where she studied communications as an undergraduate before pursuing her law degree. Apart from her professional achievements, she has made significant contributions to various organizations, including the Palm Beach County Bar Association and the Florida Justice Association Young Lawyers Section. Her election as the first Black woman president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association in 2017 and her service on the Florida Bar board since 2018 highlight her commitment to advancing the legal profession.

While Baker-Barnes acknowledges the pressure and responsibility that come with her new role, she also sees it as a privilege. Drawing inspiration from former tennis star Billie Jean King’s famous quote, “Pressure’s a privilege,” Baker-Barnes embraces the opportunity to continue opening doors for future generations. Her colleague and friend, Michelle Suskauer, the previous female president of the Florida Bar, has complete faith in Baker-Barnes’ abilities, describing her as a highly skilled advocate and an inspirational leader.

In her journey to success, Baker-Barnes acknowledges the support of her family, law firm, and community. As a mother of three, a trial lawyer, and a dedicated wife, she understands the challenges faced by women in the legal profession. She hopes to serve as an inspiration for other women, assuring them that with determination and a strong support system, they can achieve their goals without sacrificing their personal lives.

Sia Baker-Barnes’ appointment as the president-elect designate of the Florida Bar marks a significant milestone in the organization’s history. Her remarkable journey, coupled with her exceptional legal expertise and commitment to community service, positions her as an influential figure in the legal community. As she embarks on this new chapter, Baker-Barnes is poised to make a lasting impact and pave the way for future generations of female leaders in the legal profession.

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