"I would make all legal service, not just those of the public defender, available to all people regardless of income."
Heather Maltby is president of the St. Johns County Bar Association and a graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law.
Who inspired you to become a lawyer? Attorney Tania Schmidt Alpers. In the late 1990s I saw Tania in court representing victims of domestic violence and thought she was the most brave woman I had ever seen. She was the lone female in the courtroom and I was in awe of her strength and confidence. It made me realize that I could be anything, and in that moment I knew that I wanted to be an attorney.
Someone who inspires me: My boss, Robin Conner. He is the most genuine, honest, happy, easygoing and knowledgeable person I have ever met. He lives by a set of principles that I will always aspire to.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? Estate planning, probate and guardianship are practice areas that came very naturally to me. My mom passed away before I began law school, so I became familiar with the probate process. Having been through a significant loss has enabled me to relate on a personal level with my clients in the face of tragedy. Additionally, I grew up with a huge extended family and I was close to all of my grandparents, so protecting the elderly is extremely important to me. Guardianships allow me to make sure the most vulnerable elderly are properly cared for, and estate planning and probate are naturally intertwined.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? The biggest change I’ve observed is how attorneys advertise effectively. Websites and social media are becoming a lot more important than an ad in the Yellow Pages.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? I think there will be a lot of statutory changes to guardianship as the elderly population of Florida continues to grow. I think the guardianship system will become more restrictive and will do more to protect the elderly, with or without money.
If I could change anything in the legal system ... I would make all legal service, not just those of the public defender, available to all people regardless of income.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I do pro bono guardianships for residents at St. Augustine Center for Living, a group home for disabled adults. Additionally, I am president of the St. Johns County Bar Association and have been co-director of the St. Johns County Young Lawyers Section since 2014. In that time we have established and hosted events that have raised more than $15,000 for various nonprofits such as Jacksonville Area Legal Aid – St. Johns County, Kids Bridge and United Way of St. Johns County.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Find a mentor. Meet more established attorneys practicing in your field and ask them questions. Take them to lunch to pick their brains and never think that you know more than they do. Established attorneys are a wealth of knowledge and most are willing to do what they can to help you along the way, even if they are on the other side of the case from you. Always remember your clients are going to come and go, but the attorneys in your field are going to be there a long time after your client, so don’t burn a bridge over an “enthusiastic” client.