In the law ... Holland & Knight partner Donny MacKenzie

"I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a very small child."

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Holland & Knight partner Donny MacKenzie is a litigator who specializes in medical and professional malpractice defense, health care litigation, product liability and personal injury.

He also had gained a reputation for his advocacy of pro bono service, including receiving The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award for the 4th Judicial Circuit in 1998, being named Holland & Knight’s Most Valuable Partner performing pro bono service in 2006 and in 2016, receiving the Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award from Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

MacKenzie was president of The Florida Bar Foundation in 2015-16 and is a member of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, which is reshaping how the state legal system serves people with low or moderate incomes who have limited or no access to representation by an attorney.

Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a very small child. Although I was unable to articulate the reasons then, I saw law (and still do) as an honorable profession, steeped in history and vital to a safe and stable society.

Who (other than your spouse or partner) inspires you? Amazing teachers have inspired me throughout my life. Some include Harold Stansel, George McLatchey from elementary school; Dr. John Carey and Bernie Dooly in college; state Supreme Court Chief Justice Raymond Ehrlich and trial attorney Robert J. Beckham in practice. 

How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I majored in communications with a minor in journalism figuring communicating and writing are key tools to this profession. 

How did you decide your practice area? I always wanted to be an advocate and therefore looked for trial firms in law school. I was fortunate to be offered a job at the firm in Fort Lauderdale that I clerked for between my second and third year in law school. That firm provided me great trial and appellate experience for six years. Thereafter, we moved back home to Jacksonville.

 What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? There has been an effort to commoditize the practice of law on both sides of the equation, which contributes to increased litigation, slower resolutions and more congestion. Along with historically low judicial funding, this widens the justice gap, which has to be confronted.

What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? Technology, artificial intelligence and knowledge management systems. 

If I could change anything in the legal system, I would ... Facilitate more funding for the judiciary in order to increase and ensure its independence from politics. 

What community service have you pursued and why that? Access to justice for everyone is vital to our system of justice and our way of life. Assisting in this cause not only helps individuals, but it contributes to the Rule of Law, helps with overburdened court dockets and is good for the economy. I spend a good amount of time each week trying to do my part. 

One piece of advice for new lawyers? Take your work seriously, find a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask her or him questions.