10 Questions With….

Florida Bar President Bill Schifino, Jr.

What is your name?    
Bill Schifino, Jr.

What is your current job?       
Managing Partner of the Tampa office of Burr & Forman, LLP,
Part-time practicing lawyer
Full-time Florida Bar President

What was your first job?     
Camp counselor – Camp Keystone in Odessa, FL

How do you do your best work? 
I do my best work when I am focused on the task at hand. There are times when it seems as if there are so many balls in the air and hard to prioritize. But, once I prioritize a particular task, I am at my best.

Any family? 
My wife, Paola, who I met while in law school and who I am proud to say, is the President of her own marketing and advertising firm.
I have three children: Amanda, who is a senior at Vanderbilt; Julia, a sophomore at Florida State; and Will, a sophomore at Jesuit High School.

Any tips for balancing work and family? 
I prioritize my family and health. I never assume work is more important than either.

Any funny stories or teachable moments from when you were a brand-new lawyer?
The first story that comes to mind is when as a very young lawyer, my senior partner, Rob Williams, who by the way is still my law partner, ask me to prepare him to argue a motion to dismiss in a very important case. I did all of the research and prepared a memo and provided it to him the day of the hearing. Right before the scheduled hearing he asked if I wanted to walk with him to the courthouse and listen. I certainly was excited to do so. As we were walking into the courtroom he handed me the file and said, “you’re up, go argue it”.

Pet peeve or unprofessional behavior you have seen in the legal profession?
Unfortunately, in 31 years of practice I have more than one war story I could tell on this. One that comes to mind was as a young lawyer I was the second chair on a significant commercial dispute. We represented the plaintiffs and the defendants were represented by a well-known, very seasoned attorney in Tampa. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and I was defending the motion. I had done all of the research I thought necessary and was loaded for bear and when the defendant began to argue their motion opposing counsel had a case which he stated was dispositive and entitled the defendants to summary judgment. My heart sank and I was at a complete loss as to how I could miss that case. After he had gone on for a while and there was a break in the action I politely asked for a copy of the case. Opposing counsel said he hadn’t brought one and I should’ve found it myself. The judge sternly looked at him and instructed him to give me his one copy of the case. So I sat in silence and quickly read the case hoping beyond hope that just maybe I could distinguish it. I read it once and after reading it for a second time I realized that it simply did not stand for the proposition for which counsel had just cited. My next step was to look at the judge and simply hand him the case and say. “Sir, I would appreciate it greatly if you could read this short case because I just read it twice and it simply does not stand for the proposition that counsel has just argued”. Fortunately, the judge did take the time to read it and realized that in fact it did not support the defendant’s case and chastised counsel.

Favorite way for a young lawyer to get involved?
I am a product of the voluntary bar organizations. I started as a young lawyer at the age of 26 chairing People’s Law School here in Tampa. It was a great way to start my career and get to know the lawyers and judges in Tampa. It is ironic, some thirty years later, I am in this position.

Best advice for young lawyers?
It takes an entire career to slowly and methodically build a reputation that you can be proud of. One that will result in your colleagues respecting you; judges admiring you; and clients relying on you. But, that reputation can crumble in a momentary lapse of judgment. Never take a shortcut. When in doubt, always seek the counsel of others and simply put, always do the right thing. There are times when any young lawyer maybe challenged by a desire or directive from a client. Remember you have a higher calling.