Professionalism and kindness define staff attorney
Posted on 08/19/2020
Group of Young Lawyers show off books donated to book drive

As the 2020 Orange County Bar Association’s Lawrence G. Mathews Jr. Young Lawyer Professionalism Award recipient, staff attorney Keshara Cowans embodies the “dedicated and high quality team” and “positive climate and safe environment” objectives in the OCPS 2025 strategic vision.

In an unprecedented joint nomination, four different local bar associations stated, “Keshara is the epitome of professionalism and grace and the finest example of what it means to be a lawyer in the Central Florida community.” 

Upon learning about the nomination Cowans felt it was an honor in itself and was pleasantly surprised by the recognition.

Keshara Cowans headshot“It’s incredibly humbling to receive this award, especially because of all of the prior recipients whom I hold in high regard. To know that your peers think of you in that group is an honor,” Cowans said. 

Cowans currently serves as the OCPS Equal Employment Opportunity, Equity and Title IX Officer. She believes every person should be treated with respect and dignity. This belief, coupled with her passion for serving others, extends beyond her role with the district.

As president of the Orange County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, she led a team of young lawyers in creating a book fair that provided Washington Shores Elementary students the opportunity to “shop for their books.”

“As a  Title 1 school, with a large homeless population, we recognized the average cost of a book isn’t something many families can afford. We wanted to create an opportunity for the students to go into a traditional book fair and not worry about money,” Cowans said.

The first year the team distributed three books per student (pre-kindergarten to fifth grade), the second year each student received four books, and the third year was cancelled due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The book fair benefits were two-fold: students had a sense of pride about owning their own books, plus it encouraged students to read throughout the summer, thus lessening the summer learning slide.

Through her membership with the Orange County Bar Association, Cowans exhibited her passion for working with at-risk youth through the volunteer opportunities offered by the organization. In the past, she assisted with Teen Court, a voluntary diversion program for youth offenders, and the Teen Parent Education Program at Oak Ridge High School. 

“I believe ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ I’m always looking for ways to serve my community and I want to make sure I’m uplifting kids,” Cowans said.

Prior to joining the OCPS legal team, she worked as an assistant public defender for the Ninth Judicial Circuit and then as bar counsel with The Florida Bar. In the latter role, she worked to be “a friendly face for the bar while regulating the profession.” The nomination packet confirms she achieved her goal and is well regarded throughout the law profession. 

Watch the video announcement to learn more.