President of The Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section board of governors.
The Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section board of governors. The group set a record last week with 49 competing teams in the Ninth Annual Young Lawyers Section Chili Cook-Off. The event raised more than $10,000 that will be donated to local nonprofit social service agency Rethreaded.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer?
I am not sure what first inspired me. It was just something I always wanted to do. Well, except a brief period of time in kindergarten when I was going be a nun.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law?
In high school, I wanted to be a big shot merger and acquisition attorney on Wall Street. Naturally, I chose finance as my undergraduate degree. However, I fell in love and moved to Jacksonville instead. During the first part of my career in private practice, I rarely used my degree. Now as general counsel for an emerging company, I use my degree to review daily sales reports, labor reports and pro formas for new locations.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that?
My practice area and career path chose me. My first job was with a small firm where I had the opportunity to practice several different areas of law. It was at this time that I had the privilege of meeting Scott Moore, founder and CEO of Maple Street Biscuit Co. Despite having zero experience, a fact I remind Scott of daily, he asked me to represent him and his company. I started representing Maple Street two months after Scott opened his first restaurant in San Marco. Shortly thereafter, I moved firms and began working for GrayRobinson, my prized client in tow. About a year ago, Scott sat me down and showed me a five-year business plan for Maple Street. Out came that finance degree I had not used for years. As I was reviewing the numbers, I noticed an organizational chart with several boxes, one labeled “General Counsel.” My initial thought was that Scott had wised up, realized I had no clue what I was doing and decided to hire someone with more experience. When he said he had chosen me for that box, I was astonished. Needless to say, I gladly accepted the position.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law?
As general counsel, I have been watching President Trump’s policies closely. I have already seen the impact of such policies on the restaurant industry over the past year. I suspect we will continue to see more regulation from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and fewer regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Labor.
What community service have you pursued and why that?
While there are many worthy causes, I have chosen to focus my time and talents on helping young people in our community, working with Girls Inc. of Jacksonville and serving as a mentor for students at Ribault High School. I was fortunate to have a mother and father who, despite their own problems, always made sure that I saw a world beyond my surroundings. Unfortunately, so many young people in our community do not have someone to guide them. Without guidance, the cycles of poverty and abuse will perpetuate. Someone once told me, you cannot be what you cannot see. I am continually shocked to learn that there are young people in our community who have never been Downtown, who have never seen the beach and who believe the jobs in “those fancy Downtown buildings” are unreachable. No child in our community should feel this way.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would ...
Take politics out of it. I have seen firsthand, on two occasions, where the legal system failed or nearly failed people. Rather than being about the law, the system was driven by politics and a “who you know” mantra. In one of these instances, I saw politics create poor judgment and a clear disregard for the law, resulting in the destruction of one man’s life. The other instance is still pending, but I remain hopeful it will turn out better than the first.
What is your advice for new lawyers?
Get involved and network. The best decision I made in my career was during my first year when I volunteered with the Young Lawyers Section. Not only was it a good break from the office, I met wonderful people who to this day serve as some of my most trusted mentors and advisors and closest friends. Also, hang on. The learning curve is steep. Ask questions and you will find your stride.