Attorneys share how military service has helped shape their legal careers

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  • | 12:00 p.m. November 9, 2015
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In 1957, James C. “Jim” Rinaman Jr. was at a crossroad.

Should the young U.S. Army Armor Branch first lieutenant continue his promising military career in the regular Army or pursue his dream of becoming an attorney?

Rinaman ultimately went with his father’s advice, which he said sounds like something Yogi Berra might have said: If you can’t decide what to do, pick the alternative that leaves the most alternatives open.

For Rinaman, that meant attending the University of Florida’s law school and serving in Florida Army National Guard in Gainesville.

Two lengthy, storied careers followed. Rinaman has practiced law for 55 years for Jacksonville’s Marks Gray firm and he retired from military service in 1992 as a brigadier general.

He only expected to stay in the National Guard for six years.

“But as time went by, I kept getting interesting assignments and ended up with the best of both worlds — law and military,” he said.

Much later, at the peak of his legal career and faced with mounting family responsibilities, Rinaman was planning to retire from the National Guard.

Then, he was presented the opportunity to be promoted from colonel to brigadier general.

He took the promotion and served four more years, including a stint in Germany when the Berlin Wall was razed.

“It turned out to be a very interesting time,” he said.

As an attorney, Rinaman has distinguished himself as a community leader, trial advocate and servant of the profession. He has been president of The Florida Bar, Florida Defense Lawyers Association, Association of Defense Trial Lawyers and The Jacksonville Bar Association.

He also was a founding member and chair of Lawyers for Civil Justice and the Florida Volunteer Lawyers Resource Center and was a co-founder of Jacksonville’s consolidated government.

For Rinaman, Veterans Day brings back memories of his father often being called upon to give speeches at community gatherings in his hometown of St. Cloud. Two of Rinaman’s four children, James III and Mark, also have served as military officers.

While Rinaman said he doesn’t know whether former soldiers necessarily make great lawyers, he said the two careers are complementary and worthy.

“It certainly helps — and you do learn a lot of things in the military that are helpful, like discipline and responsibility,” he said.

As it turns out, Marks Gray is deep-rooted in military service. Many of its shareholders served their country, including some who were high-ranking officers.

The firm has a history of supporting military service organizations and providing pro bono legal service to veterans.

“They were very lenient about allowing me to take the time to serve or else I wouldn’t have been able to stay,” he said. “In my case, they encouraged me to continue serving.”

Dan Bean: Veterans Day ‘happy reminder’ of service

Retired Navy Capt. Daniel Bean, executive partner of Holland & Knight’s Jacksonville office, relishes Veterans Day.

“It is a happy reminder to me of all the folks I served with over my 25-year Navy career and how grateful I am to have walked beside them,” he said.

Another aide-memoire of Bean’s service to his country is humbly displayed on his law office wall. Bean’s colleagues gave him a piece of the wooden San Diego pier that Bean damaged upon deciding to port a vessel without a tug or pilot.

The script under the split wooden plank reads, “Pier 3, Lt. D.K. Bean, 14 June 1991, San Diego Naval Station, Unassisted Approach.”

“It’s a reminder to myself that I am not as good as I think I am,” he said, with a laugh.

As a surface warfare officer and instructor, Bean served on board three ships — the USS Charles F. Adams, Vogue and Fanning — deploying to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf.

He was selected for the Navy Law Education Program Scholarship and graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law before working as a Navy lawyer and eventually joining the Reserves and practicing civilian law.

He was the American Bar Association Navy Young Lawyer of the Year for his initiative to allow military lawyers to represent active duty members in Florida courts.

Bean said serving in the military turned out to be an ideal precursor to working as a lawyer.

“My military career has been invaluable to my current career,” he said. “My level of preparation, analytical thinking, contingency planning, managing and motivating personnel, are all due to my military training and experience.”

A past Jacksonville Bar Association president serving his fifth year as the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association president, Bean is helping spearhead the efforts to have the Adams return to Jacksonville as a floating museum.

Ron Sholes: Military service made him a better lawyer

The son of a union steel worker, Ron Sholes said his family’s struggles to make ends meet played a key role in his decision to drop out of high school as a sophomore and work full time until enlisting in the Navy at age 17.

Over the next 10 years, he traveled to five continents. His tours of duty overseas included the first Gulf War, Bosnian conflict and Operation Southern Watch in support of the Iraq no-fly zone in the mid-1990s.

“Participating in Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait was probably the most rewarding part of my service,” he said.

An operations specialist trained in air warfare, Sholes earned a GED diploma and associate’s and bachelor’s degrees while on active duty. He then received his law degree from the University of Florida.

He said he’s a much better lawyer as a result of his military service, which helped him develop a keen sense of teamwork, commitment and duty.

“A client’s case or claim is probably the single-most important thing they have going on in their life and the results will probably have a long-lasting effect,” he said. “If you’re not committed and if you don’t have a sense of duty owed to them, then the representation and outcome is probably not going to be what it should be.”

Sholes said he deems Veterans Day as a sacred reflection on “how we became the great nation that we are.”

Nearly all of the attorneys in Sholes’ firm are military veterans; the firm is a perennial sponsor of Jacksonville’s Veterans Day parade.

“The military is such an important part of Jacksonville’s history that the Veterans Day Parade needs to continue in a bigger way each and every year,” he said.

Joseph Scone: Law is another way to care for troops

Joseph Scone said when he left the military after 24 years of combined service with the Marine Corps, Army and National Guard, it turned out his toughest fight was yet to come.

“When I retired, the first thing that happened was that I was denied me access to (Veterans Administration) benefits and the programs that I needed,” he said. “So, my first argument ended up with them paying for me to go to law school.”

His firm’s service is largely centered on helping veterans with their legal needs

“As attorneys, we solve problems,” said the Florida Coastal School of Law graduate. “I served 24 years in the military taking care of troops and now that I’ve gotten out, I still take care of troops. I just have another set of tools — legal tools — to do it with.”

Scone, whose final tour of duty was as a sergeant in Iraq, said the legal seed was planted him in him when he encountered injustices while in the military.

“You learn to realize that the fight does not stop just because you put down the gun,” he said. “You learn that all the injustice that happens can be prevented by effective rule of law.”

The Jacksonville Bar Association’s Military Law Committee chair, Scone said he’d like for more attorneys to donate their time to assisting participants in the Duval County Veterans Treatment Court diversion program and Five Star, the nonprofit transitional housing program for veterans.

“The person on the inside of the problem — the veteran — frequently can’t see their problems,” he said. “As attorneys, we are specially equipped to help guide them through their problems.”