Mary Bland Love recently was awarded the 2016 Raymond Ehrlich Award.
She is the 13th recipient of the award, which is given annually to a lawyer whose career has embodied qualities to which litigators aspire.
These traits, which made Ehrlich, a former Florida Supreme Court chief justice, a role model to many, include professionalism, discernment, thoroughness and preparedness, mentorship and a willingness to help those in need.
Mary is with the Marks Gray law firm. She has been practicing law for almost 40 years in Jacksonville.
She is a former president of the Jacksonville chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and is the first woman trial lawyer to win the Ehrlich award.
In nominating her, her partners wrote: “Mary Bland Love’s legal career and life embody all of the qualities that the Raymond Ehrlich Trial Advocacy Award seeks to exemplify. Our legal community needs more lawyers like Mary Bland Love.”
I thought Mary’s insight about the practice of law would be interesting to share.
We had lunch and then I peppered her with my questions.
When did you start practicing law?
September 1978; sworn in at Florida Supreme Court, Nov. 16, 1978; Georgia license 1979, now inactive.
With what firm did you begin your practice?
Matthews, Osborne, Ehrlich, McNatt, Gobelman and Cobb
You practiced with Justice Ehrlich. What did you learn from him?
Meticulous preparation after development of the theory of the case.
The relaxed use of a sense of humor when older lawyers try to relate to the young woman lawyer at work and social settings.
What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome in the practice of law and how did you tackle it?
Transitioning from theoretical law to practical law.
Long hours of study of the law applicable to the facts and even more attention to the facts and the ways to gather them and present them persuasively to clients, opposing attorneys, judges and juries.
You are a trial lawyer. How did you grow your trial practice?
MOE was a firm with many clients.
My task was to serve them as directed, then gain their trust so they would ask that their cases be assigned to me, then be worthy of that trust, then become noticed by colleagues and prospective clients for referrals and new assignments.
Repeat consistently and constantly.
What advice do you have for lawyers seeking trial experience?
Become employed with the firms, in-house corporate trial offices or government agencies that have busy trial practices and offer mentorship with light control.
The busy ones that take cases to trial frequently will offer responsibility early. The less experienced lawyer should be assigned cases with good chances of success.
This builds confidence between the firm, clients and the young lawyer. The new lawyer should never decline offered work.
Then, hard work with empathetic judgment of the opposing case and strong preparation so success at trial has the best chance.
What do you believe are common traits of successful trial lawyers?
Intellect, integrity, work ethic, empathy, common sense.
In preparing a case for trial, do you have any formula or practice that you routinely employ?
It is a process of identifying the theory of the case and integrating the facts, law and human factors into a persuasive presentation.
You have also owned and run a successful law firm. What advice do you have for lawyers who are doing or want to do the same?
Choose to associate with lawyers who share your values, start well-capitalized, hire excellent staff and high-quality suppliers and support services, eliminate debt as soon as possible and pay as you go, not indefinitely on a line of credit, keep costs low, minimize the number on non-revenue producing staff.
You are the first female recipient of the Justice Raymond Ehrlich Award. What advice would you give women starting out in the law who want to make a mark on the legal profession and their community?
This applies to everyone. Shakespeare had good advice: to thine own self be true.
Have a sense of humor. Work hard. Be self-confident, not overbearing. Serve in the community. Serve in the Bar. Serve Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
The words on the award are good advice.
What lawyer has inspired you or had the greatest influence on your career?
My law and life partner, husband, Bob Gobelman. He, too, was an Ehrlich mentee.
What traits or characteristics do you try to cultivate in young lawyers?
Do what you love and love what you do. Then you will want to do the hard work.
Embrace professionalism and ethics. Find a mentor and ask for help. Become a mentor.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
I try to live by the spirit, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23. This is much easier said than done.