What is your name?
What is your current job?
Shareholder at PersanteZuroweste in Clearwater
What was your first job?
I worked for a great group of trial lawyers as a runner at a small law firm in Franklin, Tennessee. I ran errands, made copies, Bates stamped thousands of medical records (with a real Bates stamp, not electronically) and sorted through the old, closed out files in the basement. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see what real lawyers do every day; the good, the bad, and the boring.
How do you do your best work?
Early and caffeinated.
I have a wife who serves as an assistant state attorney, a two-year old son, and a newborn son.
Any tips for balancing work and family?
With a two-lawyer household, parenting is a challenge. We constantly compare our calendars, shuffle pickups and drop-offs, and gladly accept help from friends and family. It’s not always pretty, but we make it work. My wife works for the government and I have a small firm, so my job is more flexible than hers. Because I have more flexibility, I do a lot of the pick-ups, drop-offs, and doctor visits, which I think is a good thing.
As far as advice goes, my advice is to ditch the things that clutter up your calendar and your home. Just get rid of them. The nights and weekends go by quickly, so if you’re going to miss out on family time for a group or commitment, make it really worthwhile and not just another event to check off on your to-do list. And, donate the unused kid clutter around the house. Life is more manageable when your home runs smoothly. Did I tell you my wife thinks I’m OCD?
Any funny stories or teachable moments from when you were a brand-new lawyer?
Funny stories? Yes. Funny stories I’m willing to memorialize in writing for the world to see? No.
How about a teachable moment?
Early in my practice, I defended a company in a, let’s say, substantively and procedurally interesting matter. The young lawyer who drafted the complaint made a basic pleading error that was fatal to her cause of action and needed to be corrected. It was obvious and straightforward. I made a friendly call to let her know about the issue, so she could amend the complaint and we could move forward. This lawyer, however, could not fathom the idea of resolving the issue amicably, and demanded that I draft my motion to dismiss, and set it for hearing. I did. When we finally got to the hearing months later, the Judge asked the lawyer why she didn’t fix an obvious error to avoid the hearing, save time, and move the case forward more quickly. The lawyer didn’t have an answer. The Judge was angry and used memorable language about preserving the court’s time for substantive issues. To me, that moment solidified that although we practice in an adversarial profession, we need to pick our battles carefully. Somethings can – and should be – resolved amongst counsel without the need for Court intervention. It’s not weakness. It’s smart lawyering. Who wants to walk into a hearing knowing they will lose anyway?
Pet peeve or unprofessional behavior you have seen in the legal profession?
If you feel the need to start a sentence by saying, “with all due respect,” you should not finish that sentence because it will not be received as respectful.
Favorite way for a young lawyer to get involved?
Get involved with your local affiliate. Start going to meetings and volunteer to assist with a project. Before you know it, you’ll have a new network of friends and will be more engaged in your legal community.
When I graduated law school and began working in Clearwater – where I didn’t really know anyone – I began attending Clearwater Bar Association Young Lawyer Division meetings and events. The people I met my first few years of practice at those events are some of my best friends, and they have helped me personally and professionally in more ways than I can count. You can have the same experience with your local affiliate.
Best advice for young lawyers?
Find a mentor! The world is not going to hand you a mentor; you need to go out and search for one. It takes work, but it will pay off in dividends throughout your career. Every young lawyer needs to have a reliable, trustworthy, experienced practitioner who can give them advice and serve as a role model. What are you waiting for? Go find one!