Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? My parents began telling me at a young age that I would be a good attorney. Sometimes they told me that I could be very persuasive. I wanted to be an attorney to help working people who were typically intimidated by attorneys.
One person (other than your spouse or partner) who inspires me: My 81-year-old best friend Drew.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I have a B.S. in journalism from the University of Florida. In addition to being taught the proper use of the English language, including grammar and form, we were taught about the importance of accuracy in reporting. I was a news editorial journalism student. If we incorrectly spelled a proper name, we failed our assignment, no matter what else we got right.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? Employment law chose me. I had started a general practice, working in an office with friends from law school. They practiced criminal defense, family law, personal injury and some business law, and we all did a bit of each type of law. One day, a woman walked in with a very significant employment discrimination issue at work in 1985 or 1986. It turned into a big case in the field of employment discrimination law. Archie Thomas was the only other attorney in Jacksonville who was regularly practicing employment law at that time. He and I had somewhat of a lock on that field of law in Jacksonville, and in much of Florida, for at least a decade.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? I used to work six or seven days a week, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. I did that for about 20 years. Now I don’t typically work past 6 p.m. and I try to work only four days a week. But I still often end up coming in on Friday, at least for a few hours.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Make it affordable. I could not afford my services. That is not hyperbole. It is very expensive to operate a law firm and we have to charge accordingly to stay in business. But it would be great if there were a viable way to make legal fees more affordable for the average person.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I spend some of my free time with folks who have been institutionalized, either in jails, prisons or in psychiatric hospitals. I have friends with family members who suffer from serious mental illnesses, for example, who have ended up in jail or in prison.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Join the Jacksonville Bar Association. Go to meetings and reach out your hand. Introduce yourself and ask what you can do to be of help. Then follow through. And remember that you cannot change the world, but you can change your attitude. We can change the way we think and the way we feel, with our actions, but we cannot “think” our way into happiness or contentment.