"I view being a lawyer as a way to serve."
Kasey Wagner is an associate attorney at The Lawrence Law Group and chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Mental Health
& Wellness Committee.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an attorney. I loved reading and writing, but most of all, talking and arguing. I knew that being a lawyer would suit me well while giving me a way to help people.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I double majored in politics and sociology. As a litigator, the sociology degree has helped me more deeply understand how people relate to one another and how they act differently in groups, both of which are invaluable for jury trials.
How did you decide your practice area? I view being a lawyer as a way to serve. Representing injured people and homeowners with insurance claims that are wrongfully denied or underpaid allows me to do just that. Every day, I work on righting wrongs.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? The presentation of evidence has changed drastically over the past 15 years, and not just from a technology standpoint. As millennials have begun serving on juries, we have had to adapt to more modern styles of storytelling. We use more visual aids than before and move more efficiently through the evidence. Research shows that millennials have a greater respect for rules and norms than previous generations, so emphasizing a breach of a law or regulation can go a long way with younger jurors.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? The 2018 election resulted in a massive shift in the composition of Florida’s Supreme Court. It is fair to say that rulings over the next few years will be more favorable to insurance companies in both the injury and the homeowners’ insurance settings. The power of the insurance industry’s lobby also likely will lead to legislation that could see the end of PIP no-fault medical coverage as we know it. We could see the passage of a loser-pays system, where individuals could face paying the insurance company’s attorneys’ fees and costs, which would make it much more difficult to bring claims at all.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would ... The lack of access to justice is the most troubling problem facing our legal system. Our justice system is simply too expensive for many people. We need systemic reforms that make getting to the courthouse simpler and more efficient. Additionally, more attorneys need to step up and perform pro bono work.
What community service have you pursued and why that? My primary focus for many years has been on providing legal services to those who cannot afford them, as I believe that is the best use of my skills to fill an area of need. I am an active member of the JBA’s Pro Bono Committee, and I serve on the board of directors for Three Rivers Legal Services, an organization that provides free civil legal services in 17 counties in North Florida. I also take pro bono cases and volunteer at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s Ask-A-Lawyer events. I also am involved with the Open Doors Outreach Network at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, which provides services to young victims of sex trafficking.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Jump in. Sitting on the sidelines gets you nowhere, and is a waste of your legal skills. Get involved with your local Bar association and other groups you are interested in, and find ways to serve. In addition to being fulfilling, it is the best way to find mentors and sponsors who can help you find your way in this tough industry, which is my other biggest piece of advice: Even if your firm provides you with a formal mentor, look beyond that and find a few other people you can talk to privately when you have questions.