"I derive tremendous satisfaction from being the voice of a woman-owned business in the corporate world and through my civic work."
Francine Palmeri is the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association chapter representative to the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. She was selected as one of FAWL’s 2019 “Leaders in the Law.”
What inspired you to become a lawyer? As cliché as it may sound, I was determined early on to pursue a career that would afford me the ability and resources to provide a voice for the voiceless. While I didn’t land in public service, I derive tremendous satisfaction from being the voice of a woman-owned business in the corporate world and through my civic work.
Someone other than my spouse who inspires me: My parents always led by example; They were active at home, in our community, and in the church. As a family, we would make time to care for our elders, those in need and the less fortunate. I grew up in a home where we were encouraged to love boldly, serve generously and never stop pursuing your dreams. I am especially inspired by my father, who for many years directed music programs and was called to lead groups of inner-city students, otherwise voiceless kids, to success against all odds in band competitions across Canada and the U.S. I also draw inspiration from Nick Vujicic. Born with a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs, he maintains the positivity and strength of mind to inspire people across the globe to live life without limits.
How does your undergraduate degree relate to your practice of law? My education in psychology has helped me better understand human behavior. Psychology and the law make assumptions about what causes people to act the way they do. I believe the study of psychology can better prepare attorneys for the interpersonal aspects of practicing law. It forces you to think more holistically. It has certainly broadened my ability to manage risk beyond the contract.
How did you decide your practice area? I fell into corporate law early and immediately fell in love with it. Working in an in-house legal department gives me the opportunity to work closely with a company’s executives across various business units and specializations. My role allows me to focus on my sole client (the company), to develop an intimate understanding of the business and appreciate the various roles of the people that make the magic happen. The result of my efforts is tangible and I often see how my work directly impacts the short- and long-term success of the business.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? Today, in-house attorneys do more than provide legal or strategic advice. We are driving innovation, business development and even recruiting initiatives. Corporate legal departments are becoming more sophisticated consumers by outsourcing, automating and systemizing more than before.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Provide more educational opportunities to the public to promote a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the legal system. Knowledge is power.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I became involved in the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association when I became an attorney and have proudly served on the board for many years. I enjoy representing the Jacksonville chapter at the state level and furthering the organization’s mission of promoting gender equality and leadership opportunities for women lawyers.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Don’t strive to just survive, thrive. If you’re unhappy, make a change. It may not be easy but the alternative is harder. Also, search for a position that fits your needs professionally and personally so you can enjoy greater fulfillment, meaning and satisfaction in your work, in your career and in life. Third, carve out time to get involved in a nonprofit organization with a mission that aligns with your core values. “For it is in giving that we receive,” said St. Francis of Assisi.