As we pulled into the winding driveway entrance of the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, we knew we were in for a special event. This venue is highlighted by a pristine, oceanfront location and provided an ideal venue for the 2015 Florida Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates 18th Annual Conference. The hotel provided FLABOTA members and conference guests an opportunity to enjoy an idyllic private beach with 16 waterfront acres. A 22,000-square-foot spa offering a variety of relaxing treatments, a private spa pool and fitness center with ocean views. Three restaurants spanned the resort and when we had downtime from the conference, we were able to dive into the tropical lagoon pool, sip a cocktail under swaying palm trees, and make memories with a variety of water sports and activities on the beach. With over 100,000 total square feet of event space for spectacular meetings, the FLABOTA leadership team and its group of outstanding sponsors were poised to launch a very exciting conference for its members and attendees.

The conference kicked off with an educational program called Masters in Trial. This mock trial featured nationally recognized trial lawyers, a federal judge, and a panel of jurors. The attendees had the pleasure of watching some of the top litigators in the country demonstrate their command and control of an opening statement, plaintiff's examination, direct/cross examination of the plaintiff's engineering expert, defendant's examination, direct/cross examination of the defendant's engineering expert, and closing argument. Their strong oral arguments were supported by evidence and visual aids displayed on 10 foot screen by Trilogy Trial Consultants' on-site Trial Technician. Our team worked closely with each trial lawyer on both sides to effectively present the exhibits in the case to the jury and the audience by deploying the most advanced technology available. With each segment of our mock trial came a valuable learning experience that the attendees could take back with them in their trial practice. To say the least, everyone enjoyed watching elite trial lawyers in action. Working closely with the best in the business was truly an honor and a privilege for our team. 

Additionally, the 18th Annual Conference hosted an Awards Banquet honoring 4 distinguished legal professionals as pictured below from left to right. The Fran Peacock Coker FLABOTA Community Service Award was earned by Steve Rossman. Mr. Rossman has demonstrated the highest standard of ethics and his professionalism has made him one of Florida's most prominent attorneys. Mr. Rossman's single largest commitment has been to Easter Seals, an international non-profit charitable organization that assists more than 1 million children and adults with autism and other disabilities and special needs annually through a network of service sites in the US, Canada, Australia, and Puerto Rico.  

The Joseph P. Milton Professionalism and Civility Award went to Chris Knopik. Mr. Knopik's commitment to this area has been demonstrated by his leadership with the Tampa Bay Chapter by growing the group's Professionalism and Civility Seminar from a small operation to a full day of lectures and presentations by Supreme Court Justices, Scholars, Judges, and Lawyers along with more than 275 attendees a year. Mr. Knopik embodies the character and commitment to the profession. Additionally, to the administration of justice that this award requires. 

The Trial Lawyer of the Year award was earned by Tom Gamba. Mr. Gamba embodies the essential qualities that epitomize ABOTA and FLABOTA's commitment to the preservation of the 7th Amendment and the art of trying a case. Many would say his most important attributes are his superb and impeccable reputation for ethics and fairness in and out of the courtroom. 

Jurist of the Year was earned by the Honorable Jennifer Bailey. Judge Bailey's fairness and knowledge of the law is highly regarded by both the plaintiff and defense bars. She is always prepared and unafraid to make rulings. There is no question that Judge Bailey is passionate about and completely committed to the public's access to the civil justice system. 

To say that the event went well is a massive understatement. It is clear that FLABOTA's work for the preservation of the jury system and to educate the public of its vital importance is second to none. In each member's heart, I felt a desire to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession. Their mission to aid in the further education and training of trial lawyers in unparalleled. And last but not least, among every member, our takeaway was an intentional spirit of loyalty, fellowship, and professionalism unlike any I've seen before. 


Author: Dan Reyes is the President and CEO of Trilogy Trial Consultants, Inc. Mr. Reyes' relentless devotion to jury research, graphic design and legal technology has positioned him to effectively lead his team on every level. Trilogy is routinely retained by law firms and corporate counsel for cases in nearly every area of practice. 

For a complimentary case review, please call our main office in Tampa 813.991.6555 or Miami 786.708.1776. You can email your requests to and a member of our staff will respond ASAP.