Why did you want to be a lawyer?
F. Susannah Collins: I always thought I would be a lawyer. My grandfather was an attorney in South Carolina who had come from very little and who worked his way through Harvard law. He believed in a legal education for the plain purpose of helping people and I loved that idea as a child.
Every day I remember that I got my law degree just to help people and that is what I always strive to do, although to be honest I love the battles in this job and I love the camaraderie of the profession.
Tell me about your law firm and practice area?
Collins: My law partner, Kristopher D. Robinson, and I formed Robinson Collins, P.L.. in January. Kris is a transactional attorney, double board certified in both tax law and also in wills, trusts and estates. He has his L.L.M. from the University of Florida, so all in all, he makes me look good.
I practice family law exclusively, focusing on divorces, domestic violence, relocations, modifications and basically all other post-dissolution matters. Our firm is very cohesive and we rely on each other to give our clients the best possible service at all times.
How did you first get involved with Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association (JWLA)?
Collins: I first joined JWLA 12 years ago, right out of law school. I joined the board four years ago, working on the organization’s opening reception for members and then increasing membership through networking events.
I was the president-elect, the secretary and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) chapter representative last year for JWLA, so basically taking over the helm is going to be a little bit of a relief.
In both 2013 and 2014, I was recognized as a FAWL statewide Leader in the Law for my promotion of women’s rights, my work in the Jacksonville community, my pro-bono services and for being a role model to other female attorneys.
I was incredibly honored to have been nominated and more honored to have received the award two years in a row.
What are your vision and goals for JWLA for 2014-15?
Collins: I want JWLA to be more involved with the legal community and with the Jacksonville community as a whole. I have increased the number of women serving on the board to 26 this year.
In the past, the board members have been so inundated with tasks that it was difficult to keep continuity on the board. This year, each board member is taking on a different aspect of leadership or involvement in the local and legal community through specific and dedicated positions on the board.
JWLA will be increasing its service to the community by serving meals at the Sulzbacher Center, mentoring and forming relationships with at-risk girls in Judge Gooding’s Girls Court initiative, and hosting clothing drives to support the Downtown Ecumenical Services Coalition (DESC) in their dedication to our community’s homeless and disadvantaged.
JWLA’s monthly luncheons will all be Continuing Legal Education (CLE) luncheons focusing on women’s rights and equality — not just in our community but throughout the world, addressing issues that are current and vital to all people, not just to women, such as the battle against human trafficking and the ongoing war for gender and racial equality.
JWLA will also host networking events every month as well as after-work CLE’s to increase knowledge for our members and their guests. My goal is to reach more lawyers in Jacksonville and encourage their participation in an organization that is essential to our community.
How can Jacksonville lawyers and law students get involved with JWLA this year?
Collins: Attend our opening reception Sept. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Fionn MacCool’s at The Landing Downtown and join JWLA. Our first luncheon is at 11:45 a.m. Oct. 9 at The River Club. Everyone is welcome at JWLA’s monthly networking happy hours sponsored by local Jacksonville businesses, which are listed on our website (JWLA.org) and on our Facebook page.
Volunteer as a mentor to a young girl facing tough legal battles or to a law student who needs direction and advice. Sign up to be a speaker through JWLA for the Informed Voters Project. There are many opportunities to get involved — for men and for women.
Tell me something fun about yourself.
Collins: I spend any free time that I have painting and I was fortunate enough to have my first book, “Identity,” published under the pen name Chapman Collins.